A Step in the Right Direction, but is it Enough?

Yesterday, 4 October 2016, the SABC Board appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Communications in what ended up being an embarrassing display of the inability or reluctance of  the SABC board to answer questions, clarify issues and address points of concern before the Members of Parliament. Media Monitoring Africa welcomes the actions, decisions and recommendations of the Portfolio Committee. Recommendations included dissolving the current SABC board. For the first time in a very long time, we have seen real questions being asked across the political spectrum and real issues being addressed. We saw the SABC board being exposed for their inadequate answers and inability to perform the duties of a functional board. 

MMA also welcomes the bold decision of Krish Naidoo and Vusi Mavuso, the two SABC board members who resigned in parliament today, saying “but what are we doing here? Some of us have come through some serious struggle to bring this country to the point where we would like to give a better life for everyone. I have come to the conclusion that this board is dysfunctional, it should be scrapped. Personally I will be resigning to day as a board member.”

The manner in which Naidoo and Mavuso resigned is a clear indication that the two board members decided to leave the SABC with their dignity intact and a clear display that there was division within the board. The question must be asked as to while the actions of the Portfolio Committee have shown us that where there is a will there can be legitimacy in parliamentary processes, we are concerned that there did not seem to be enough interrogation into the appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng and what needs to be done in order to rectify the situation. Beyond his position as COO we cannot forget the fascist approach to editorial policies and the hugely discredited edict to ban showing public protests. In addition he was also responsible for the illegal removal of 8 SABC journalists, 7 of whom have been reinstated. The board allowed these actions to take place. So as much as those responsible need to be removed it is also essential that they are held accountable for their actions.

We have made significant steps in the right direction, but unfortunately we have been here before. This is not the first SABC board to be placed under inquiry, or potentially dissolved. If we simply appoint an interim board and eventually replace it with a new board we will not be addressing the underlying issues of why this is a perpetuating cycle of SABC. There needs to be an urgent inquiry, not only into the institution as a whole, but also the powers that the Minister of Communications has over the appointments of the senior executives. It should be the board alone that appoints the senior executive committees and they should be accountable to the board alone. Unless we address ministerial interference we will merely be starting a new cycle of crisis. If these structural issues are not adequately addressed, we will continue to see clear mismanagement and the abuse of power by not just SABC executive and board but the Minister as well.

 

For more information contact:

William Bird (MMA Director)

+2711 788 1278 / williamb@mma.org.za

 

Thandi Smith (MMA Head of Policy)

+2711 788 1278 / thandis@mma.org.za