SABC board wins head of news battle
Screening of candidates continues
The SABC board has won its battle over the controversial appointment of Phil Molefe as head of news.
An interview panel will continue its assessment of candidates for the position and make recommendations to the board, in terms of an agreement brokered by Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda.
Nyanda stepped in after furious board members overturned Molefe’s appointment soon after it was announced by SABC group CEO Phil Mokoetle – after a unilateral decision by board chairman Ben Ngubane.
Ngubane refused yesterday to discuss the meeting with Nyanda but said: “We agreed with the shareholder (the gover nment, represented by Nyanda) that we will keep proper practices in the board. We won’t discuss board matters with the press.”
Board members had argued that any decision on the appointment rested with them and that last month’s announcement pre-empted a process of screening candidates, which was still under way. This process will now pick up from where it was interrupted.
The stand-off between board members and Ngubane raised fears that the SABC would once again be plunged into the battles that saw the old board ousted and an interim board appointed to crisis-manage the cash-strapped public broadcaster.
Molefe had been acting in the influential position of head of news since the departure of Snuki Zikalala. Also shortlisted for the position were Business Day political editor Karima Brown and for mer head of SABC television news, Jimi Mathews.
It is understood that with the screening process now set to start afresh, it is not a given that Molefe will be recommended and approved for the post.
In the wake of the announcement, members of the board passed a resolution noting a breakdown of trust in their relationship with Ngubane.
Mokoetle’s actions in insisting to SABC staff that Molefe was the new head of news and that his appointment would not be reversed, despite the board nullifying it, also raised eyebrows.
Ngubane and Mokoetle also came under fire from labour federation Cosatu, the Communications Workers’ Union, Numsa and the SOS (Save our SABC) coalition, which includes independent producers and freedom of expression lobby groups.
Nyanda this week would not comment and neither would board members approached by Weekend Argus.
Ngubane this week also declined to comment on a meeting he had with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan last week in which the SABC’s finances were discussed. The National Treasury gave the SABC a R1.4 billion guarantee in September last year.
The broadcaster owed creditors around R1 billion. Strict conditions attached to the guarantee required that a tur naround strategy be drawn up to help in raising funds from financial institutions. It was unclear this week whether the remaining R473 million, which the Treasury had said would be granted pending the broadcaster presenting a plan with clear revenue targets and costcutting measures, had already come through.
Ngubane declined to discuss whether the SABC had met the Treasury’s stringent conditions attached to the guarantee.
“I can’t discuss that matter with you. It’s a serious matter for the board,” said Ngubane.
In February this year, a few days after his appointment, Ngubane told Parliament’s communications portfolio committee that the corporation had racked up losses of R913m in the 2008-09 financial year.
He told MPs he believed the new board would be able to turn around the financial situation before the end of the financial year.