Confidence in the SABC?

By Deon de LangeThe battle for control of the SABC took a stunning turn on Wednesday when MPs passed an unprecedented vote of no confidence in the corporation’s entire management board.

The motion was muscled through the National Assembly’s Communications Committee by the ANC despite strong objections from the DA. This followed a relentless verbal onslaught of more than three hours in which ANC MPs slammed SABC board members over a number of issues, but primarily over the fact that a confidential memorandum – which is highly critical of SABC CEO Dali Mpofu – was leaked to the media two weeks ago.

ANC MPs emerged after a 30-minute recess with the following position, as stated by ANC MP Eric Kholwane: “It is clear for us that between the board and the management of the SABC there are serious problems … which have not been resolved. We are also of the view that a corporation like the SABC can not afford any fallout between the board and management – that is totally unacceptable.“Given that, we are convinced … that clearly this board is not in a position to execute their fiduciary duties and responsibilities and we therefore accordingly want to pass a vote of no confidence in this board.”

This finally brought the meeting to an abrupt end.

The visibly shocked board members declined to comment after the meeting, while DA MP Dene Smuts accused the ANC of abusing parliamentary processes to settle political scores.

“There is no basis for what you (ANC) are doing – not in law, not in the rules (of parliament). What you are doing has no effect. It is obviously the opening salvo in an attempt to unseat the entire board.

“We know that you are politically under pressure. We know that there are great battles going on in the ruling party, but you don’t use the procedures of this parliament to try to resolve those battles, and therefore we will now leave,” she said before leading her party out of the meeting.

Trouble started brewing on Wednesday when the ANC sabotaged a scheduled SABC budget briefing by refusing to continue the meeting without the entire SABC board present. Four board members yesterday hastened to Cape Town to join their colleagues.

It was clear the knives were out when committee chairperson Ismail Vadi (ANC) opened the meeting by pointing out that “all is not well at Auckland Park” and that the committee wished to “restore some dignity to the SABC”.

ANC MP and committee whip Khotso Khumalo then listed a range of issues that troubled the ANC.

This included the leaking of the memo. The now infamous memo, drafted by the chairperson, accuses Mpofu of a “dereliction of duty”.

The memo also criticises SABC management for losing a R1,6-billion soccer broadcasting deal to rival SuperSport and warns ominously that problems in the corporation’s technology division may prevent it from feeding the rest of the world with 2010 soccer coverage.

ANC MP Lumka Yengeni twisted the knife by calling on each board member to state publicly whether or not they “owned” the contents of the memo. SABC chairperson Khanyi Mkhonza responded by accepting “full responsibility” for the memo. “I wrote the memo. I own it. I wrote it out of concern,” she said.

Mkhonza added: “We are investigating the leak.”

Mpofu decried the damage this leaked memo was doing to his reputation, pointing out that he himself would not employ the person described in the memo. “The memo contains serious factual inaccuracies. It is unfortunate that it was leaked to the media. It contains … defamatory material,” he said.

Mpofu also suggested the memo was leaked on instruction from the cabinet. “I have received various pieces of information and some of them even point to executive interference because one of the answers is that somebody gave instruction that the CEO must be removed – from high up,” he said.

Tension over the new SABC board has been simmering for some time. It is generally acknowledged that the previous ANC leadership under President Thabo Mbeki “imposed” its preferred candidates on its MPs in parliament.

Ironically, the same ANC MPs who then bowed to alleged executive pressure and appointed the new board, are now trying to have it sacked.

The motion passed on Wednesday is not legally binding. According to the Broadcasting Act, a board member may be removed only by the “appointing authority” (the President) after consultation with the board.

There is no provision for the dismissal of the entire board.

The matter will now be referred to parliament for debate.



article sourced from


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