The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition has written to Dr Ben Ngubane, chairperson of the Board of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), demanding clarification on the ongoing reported maladministration and corporate governance breaches that are taking place at the broadcaster.
The statement reads: The Coalition played a key role in putting forward names for the 2010 Board. We held high hopes that our publically nominated Board, under your leadership, would usher in a new era of good corporate governance and financial prudence – and that you would place at the centre quality, local public programming reflecting the rich diversity of South African experience and opinion. In fact that was your collective promise to the citizens of South Africa when you were publically interviewed in Parliament.
The Board took office in January 2010, since that date there has been a litany of problems including a complete lack of vision, poor corporate governance, ongoing financial mismanagement, and multiple resignations of board members. Since that date there has been no stable management team at the SABC – including no permanent CEO, COO and CFO. Further, the SABC has failed to commission any significant local programming since 2008.
We want to register our disillusionment and disappointment.
In particular we want to raise a few burning issues that we want written replies to. Please note we would like a response by no later than Tuesday noon, 1 November 2011. The reason why we have included this timeline is due to the fact that our respective affiliates are demanding action. However, we would like to give you an opportunity to respond before we move forward.
Among a number of issues we would like clarity on the following:
- Detailed information as regards the process followed and the reasons for the delays in the appointment of the new CEO, COO and CFO despite the overwhelming urgency of these appointments.
- Detailed reasons why the SABC has employed Mr Justice Ndaba to run its critical turnaround strategy despite the fact that he allegedly has a credit default judgement against him and has business interests that conflict with his SABC employment. Also, clarity as regards the employment status of Mr Ndaba including whether he is a full-time employee or a consultant, and if he is a consultant why he has been sent on expensive international executive training courses paid for by the SABC. As stated, the promise of the turnaround strategy was good corporate governance and financial prudence!
- Detailed information on the termination of the contract of the company secretary and if this followed proper labour law practices and board procedures. The Coalition fears a situation where there may be further fruitless and wasteful expenditure if this was not the case.
- Detailed information on the R20m car scandal, including reasons why inappropriate luxury vehicles were secured, not utilised and not insured!
- Finally, detailed reasons why the SABC has refused to use its “Request for Proposals’ Book to transparently commission new local content. The 2009 interim Board requested that the 2010 Board prioritise this. The 2010 Board then promised the Book would be released in June 2010, however only limited proposals were released. To date no full book of RFPs have been released with no explanations and no apologies. This system was an important marker in the transformation of the SABC, opening the Corporation to pursue its stated strategy of promotion of plurality and diversity of voice.
Further, to these detailed written explanations from the SABC Board the SOS Coalition calls on the new Minster of Communications, Ms Dina Pule to move swiftly ahead with the Ministry’s and Department’s promised broadcasting policy review process including a Green and White Paper on Broadcasting leading to new broadcasting laws for the country. The deep structural and governance problems at the SABC must be decisively dealt with immediately by the Board – and in the medium and long term by the policy review process. We need to see decisive action from our leaders!
The SOS Coalition represents a number of trade unions including COSATU, COSATU affiliates CWU and CWUSA, FEDUSA, BEMAWU and MWASA; independent film and TV production sector organisations including the South African Screen Federation (SASFED); and a host of NGOs and CBOs including the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI), Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-SA); as well as a number of academics and freedom of expression activists.