8 November 2017

South Africa: SABC Board Committed to Its Independence

The SABC board is committed to ensuring its independence, SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini said on Wednesday.

This, after Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said on Tuesday that she will appeal a high court judgement that gave the SABC board, and not the minister of communications, the right to appoint the broadcaster's top executives.

"The SABC is currently seeking senior counsel legal advice on the judgement and the grounds for appeal detailed in the papers filed by the Minister of Communications, in particular, those that relate to the appointment of the top three executives of the SABC," reads a statement from SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini.

He was on Tuesday prevented by the ANC members, who said they support Kubayi-Ngubane's appeal, in the Portfolio Committee on Communications to answer a question posed by the DA in this regard.

Makhathini said given that the broadcaster's top three executives are serving in an acting capacity, an urgent priority is the appointment of a new Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO), Chief Operations Officer (COO) and the Chief Financial Officer.

"While no board decisions have been taken yet, we are involved in an intense and detailed process to find and scrutinise the right executive candidates to lead the SABC into the next era. We will also take into account legal advice from senior counsel on the lawful process to be followed in making these appointments."

"The board is totally committed to ensuring the SABC's continued independence in compliance with the Constitution and the Broadcasting Act and other laws."

DA MP Phumzile van Damme on Wednesday welcomed Makhathini's announcement after she expressed her concern during Tuesday's meeting that the SABC might be "recaptured".

"The SABC board's decision to seek its own legal advice on these important matters comes at a time when the public broadcaster's independence once again hangs in the balance, under serious threat of political capture by the ANC," said Van Damme in a statement.

"We are reassured that the board is demonstrating an intention to side with the law regarding the governance of the public broadcaster, and not the ANC or government."

"We hope that our faith is not misplaced."

Van Damme said it became very apparent at Tuesday's meeting that Kubayi-Ngubane "was eager to follow in [former Communications Minister, who was found "incompetent" by Parliament] Faith Muthambi's footsteps and re-capture the SABC, and that she was reshuffled to the portfolio for this purpose".

The judgment Kubayi-Ngubane is appealing, delivered by Judge Elias Matojane, ruled in the organisations' favour in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, on the same day Zuma finally appointed the SABC board and shuffled Kubayi-Ngubane from the energy portfolio to communications, October 17.

Media Monitoring Africa, the SOS Coalition and the Freedom of Expression Institute brought an application against the SABC, the minister of communications and others.

The organisations asked the court to declare invalid certain sections of the SABC's memorandum of incorporation dealing with the minister's ability to appoint or remove the SABC's top executives.

Matojane ruled that the board did not require the minister's approval to appoint executives.


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