On a day of the announcement of the seventh Minister of Communications in as many years, it would truly take a lot to not only lift our spirits but indeed make us jubilant. Such is the nature of our country that this is indeed the case.
The SOS Coalition and Media Monitoring Africa not only welcomes the eventual appointment of the SABC Board but also the judgement limiting ministerial powers at the SABC. After weeks of mounting pressure on the presidency, as a last resort, MMA and SOS were given no option but to launch a legal application to force the President to appoint the SABC Board.
It is a tragedy that it took the threat of legal action to force the president to do the right thing and to appoint the SABC Board. Prior to filing for our court action, SOS and MMA not only made public statements regarding the delay in the appoints but we also wrote to the Presidency twice, demanding that the board be appointed.
The excitement at the board being appointed should not cloud the fact that the SABC has been without a Board for the last three weeks. As such, the Presidents delayed action must be condemned.
SABC Board Leadership
While we would like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, we also cautious about the fact that the incoming Chairperson, Mr Bongumusa Makhathini, the former Chairperson of the Bongi Ngema-Foundation. Mr Makhathini had said during his interviews in Parliament that he would resign from that organization if appointed to the SABC. We have yet to see his resignation letter, and we call on the Chairperson to make a statement in response to this with utmost urgency.
Furthermore, the Deputy Chairperson of the new board is Ms Febe Potgieter, who also stated in her interviews in Parliament that she would leave the SABC Board if she were appointed to the NEC in December. This means that the new SABC board could potentially be left with yet another leadership vacuum in the coming months. This is an eventuality that doesn’t encourage our confidence in the stability of the incoming board.
We are shocked by this morning’s sudden cabinet re-shuffle. This re-shuffle brings the number of Ministers of Communications to seven under President Zuma’s rule.
- Simphiwe Nyanda, from May 2009 to October 2010
- Roy Padayachie, from November 2010 to October 2011
- Dina Pule, from October 2011 to July 2013
- Yunus Carrim, from July 2013 – May 2014
- Faith Muthambi, from May 2014 to March 2017
- Ayanda Dlodlo, from April 2017 to October 2017
- Mmamaloko Kubayi, from October 2017
This game of musical chairs has caused upheaval and instability that begins in the Ministry of Communications, runs right through the SABC and can be felt by the millions of SABC dependent households who bear the burdening impact of fluctuating policies and the lack of commitment to public interest, citizen orientated policy making and broadcasting services.
Despite this, today, 17 October must go down as a victory for independence and media freedom in South Africa. In a case brought by SOS, MMA and FXI against the Minister and the SABC, with R2K as amicus, the High Court has ruled on a number of critical matters relating to the independence of the SABC (full judgment available here) but specifically the order focuses on the powers of the Board and Minister in relation to the appointments of the senior executives of the SABC. Specifically, the board now has the exclusive power to appoint the non-executive members of the Board without any requirement or approval of the minister. In other words, the SABC Board has the exclusive prerogative to appoint, through a transparent process, the GCEO, CFO and COO and any other non-executive members of the Board. Not only is the SABC Board able to exclusively appoint the non-executive members, but they are also able to discipline and/or remove any such members. This makes the current Board the most independent Board since the birth of our Democracy! The burden on the Board is a sizeable one and we wish them well in taking on their new roles. We will continue to support, monitor, interrogate and where necessary hold accountable and take action as part of ensuring the continued independence of the SABC, our public broadcaster!
For any further information please contact:
Duduetsang Makuse (National Coordinator, SOS)
William Bird (Director, MMA)
Thandi Smith (Head of Policy, MMA)