MPs ‘defy Zuma bid to control SABC posts’
ANC source says the days of kowtowing to the president are over
President Jacob Zuma has been accused of stalling the naming of a new full-time SABC board in an attempt to interfere with the appointment of the broadcaster’s next executive management.
ANC MPs with direct knowledge of the matter said Zuma objected to most of the recommended 12 board members but party legislators were defying his opposition to them.
Zuma plunged the SABC into a fresh crisis this week by failing to approve the names of a new board to replace the interim board, whose six-month tenure ended on Tuesday.
This means the SABC, which reported a net loss of just under R1-billion this year — double the previous year’s figure — is now operating without nonexecutive directors and only an acting CEO, acting chief financial officer and acting chief operating officer. It has to regularly consult Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo before taking executive decisions.
MPs and civil society organisations have slammed Zuma for not acting swiftly in approving the names of the 12 board members sent to him by the National Assembly three weeks ago, saying this raised suspicions about his intentions.
‘Applying his mind’
An ANC MP who serves on the portfolio committee on communications, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Zuma was reluctant to sign off on the names recommended by the National Assembly because he did not trust some of the candidates, including the chairwoman of the interim board, Khanyisile Kweyama, and her deputy, Mathatha Tsedu.
Zuma was also said to be unimpressed at the inclusion in the list of recommended board members of Rachel Kalidass, who previously served on the board during the chairmanships of Ben Ngubane and Mbulaheni Maguvhe. Zuma’s spokesman, Bongani Ngqulunga, did not address specific questions on the issue but said the president was still “applying his mind”.
Zuma needed to satisfy himself that the recommended board members were fit and proper people with no criminal convictions, Ngqulunga said — something the communications committee has already done.
“Past experience has taught us that the Presidency should do due diligence despite the process followed by the National Assembly. The Presidency is in contact with the relevant government departments to ensure that the due diligence process is completed as soon as possible,” he said.
Kweyama and Tsedu led the charge in the removal of Hlaudi Motsoeneng and members of his inner circle such as James Aguma, who have been blamed for the financial disaster at Auckland Park.
The ANC MP said legislators would not yield to pressure from Zuma.
“Unfortunately as the ANC study group and subcommittee [on communications] we stood our ground, that these are our best candidates . . . you can’t change parliament,” the MP said.
“The cabinet and the president account to us as parliament, he does not have an overriding power on this matter. It’s not going to happen like that, those times are over.
“There are all these shenanigans they are doing on the side but you can’t hold the whole country to ransom after a very fair public process.
“There’s nothing wrong with what we’ve done, it’s just that they wanted certain names — unfortunately it did not work and we won’t change on that,” said the MP.
Broadcaster in limbo
“All that the law allows him to do is to appoint a chairperson and the deputy.”
The MP said legislators suspected that Zuma wanted to influence the appointment of the new top three executives of the broadcaster. The interim board is said to have protected those in these posts from political interference.
Phumzile Van Damme, DA spokeswoman on communications, said being in limbo left the SABC vulnerable to political interference in the appointment of new executives.
“The chairperson of the interim board was keeping those names under lock and key to try and prevent any political interference,” she said.
“It’s a really untenable situation. Every hour there’s no guardian of the SABC, it’s an opportunity for [it] to be captured and for all the work of the interim board to be undone,” Van Damme said.
Duduetsang Makuse, the national co-ordinator of public broadcasting lobby group the SOS Coalition, said it was problematic for SABC executives to now have to stay in regular contact with a minister, in the absence of nonexecutive directors.
President Jacob Zuma.