SABC board left tooth­less as more di­rec­tors re­sign

Business Day - - Front Page - Bekezela Phakathi Par­lia­men­tary Writer [email protected]­

The SABC sunk into a deeper cri­sis on Thurs­day fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of a fourth di­rec­tor, which has left the broad­caster’s board with­out the quo­rum re­quired to make de­ci­sions.

The res­ig­na­tions leave the board on the brink of col­lapse at a time when it is try­ing to res­cue the SABC from fi­nan­cial col­lapse. The broad­caster, which has been un­able to pay all its cred­i­tors, warned in Novem­ber that it would not be able to pay some salaries by Fe­bru­ary, un­less a R3bn guar­an­tee was se­cured from the gov­ern­ment.

The res­ig­na­tion of the four di­rec­tors — vet­eran jour­nal­ists Mathatha Tsedu and John Mati­sonn, busi­ness leader Khany­isile Kweyama and at­tor­ney Kr­ish Naidoo — comes as the SABC is plan­ning to cut about 2,200 per­ma­nent and free­lance staff, nearly 40% of its to­tal staff, in an at­tempt to sal­vage its fi­nances.

Their res­ig­na­tions came in the wake of a scathing let­ter by com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Stella Nd­abeni-Abra­hams to the board in which she ac­cused the nonex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors of not act­ing in the best in­ter­est of the pub­lic broad­caster as they pressed on with re­trench­ments.

She said she would there­fore “de­sist from all en­gage­ments with the SABC board in­clud­ing Na­tional Trea­sury and the turn­around task team, as we re­alised that the board was no longer act­ing in the in­ter­ests of the com­pany”.

In his res­ig­na­tion on Thurs­day, Tsedu cited a lack of sup­port for the board in its drive to turn around the loss-mak­ing broad­caster as one of the rea­sons for his de­par­ture.

The SABC, which re­mains the only source of news and com­men­tary for mil­lions of South Africans, re­ported a to­tal com­pre­hen­sive loss — which in­cludes the ac­tu­ar­ial losses on its pen­sion fund and postem­ploy­ment med­i­cal aid com­mit­ments — of R1.19bn in 2018 and R603m in 2017.

Pres­i­dency spokesper­son Khusela Diko con­firmed that Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa had re­ceived and ac­cepted the res­ig­na­tions of the four board mem­bers. She said the pres­i­dent was wor­ried about the de­vel­op­ments at the SABC and had en­gaged with Nd­abeni-Abra­hams. The talks in­cluded the gov­ern­ment guar­an­tee of R3bn for the broad­caster, which could avert re­trench­ments.

Diko said the pres­i­dency did not have a spe­cific view on the planned job cuts, “but ob­vi­ously the pres­i­dent does not want to see jobs be­ing lost any­where”.

Pre­vi­ous SABC boards have col­lapsed due to po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence. Cur­rent board mem­bers are said to also be un­happy with the gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­fer­ence at the pub­lic broad­caster, and be­lieve that their best ef­forts to turn around the or­gan­i­sa­tion will fall flat un­der the cur­rent cir­cum­stances.

The board al­ready has four va­can­cies fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tions ear­lier in 2018 of Rachel Kal­i­dass, Febe Pot­gi­eterGqubule and Vic­tor Ram­bau. Nomvuy­iso Batyi was nom­i­nated by the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on com­mu­ni­ca­tions but with­drew her ap­pli­ca­tion.

The board is meant to have 12 mem­bers and needs nine, in­clud­ing the CEO, CFO and COO, to form a quo­rum.

It is also un­der­stood that some mem­bers who served on the pre­vi­ous in­terim board were irked by a Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit (SIU) probe into its award­ing of a se­cu­rity ten­der.

The five in­terim board mem­bers, Kweyama, Tsedu, Potgieter-Gqubule, Mati­sonn and Naidoo said in a state­ment that they had pro­vided the rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion to the SIU.

R1.19bn the SABC’s to­tal com­pre­hen­sive loss for 2018

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