SOS to picket SABC


The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition has agreed to protest action against the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and will hold a picket outside SABC’s Johannesburg headquarters on Henley Road, Auckland Park on 24 November from 1pm to 2pm.

SOS invites all industry stakeholders who care about the future of South Africa’s public broadcasting sector to join the picket, to wear red and black and to bring placards protesting the protracted managerial / board / financial crisis at the SABC.

SOS has released the following statement: The SOS Coalition has sent a series of letters including to the Chair of the SABC Board (25 October 2011) and to members of the SABC board (8 November 2011). To date we have not had any formal written replies – either from the Chair of the Board or from SABC Board members.

SOS Coalition members have therefore decided to picket outside the SABC on 24 November 2011 from 1pm to 2pm to express our unhappiness at the Board’s lack of response. SOS members believe that this lack of response is indicative of the deep leadership crisis that exists at the SABC as well as of a public broadcaster that is out of touch and silent on its concerns.

South African citizens demand a public broadcaster that has the resources and strategic leadership to meet the information needs of all South Africans. We demand a SABC that holds government and corporate power to account, and provides the information and platforms for discussions vital to the functioning of our democracy.

However, instead of leading the vision of a quality public broadcaster that the public can confidently invest resources in, our SABC Board Chairperson, Dr Ben Ngubane, has provided little or no leadership. Further, he has in fact been directly involved in corporate governance breaches.

Collectively and individually SOS members have thus called for the Chair of the SABC to resign. However, he has not resigned. SOS members are now calling for the Chair to be removed by Parliament. SOS expresses deep regret that we as a Coalition nominated Dr. Ngubane. He has not lived up to our expectations of good corporate governance or visionary leadership that is so desperately needed at the SABC.

In our letters to the Chair and Board the Coalition has asked for the following information:

  1. What was the process followed and the reasons for the delays in the appointment of the new CEO, COO and CFO?
  2. Why did the SABC employ Mr Justice Ndaba to run its critical turnaround strategy despite the fact that his qualifications could not be verified, he had a credit default judgement against him and had business interests that conflicted with his SABC employment? Further, in light of recent media reports, SOS would like full disclosure as regards the role of the Chair in this appointment. 
  3. How will the plans the SABC puts in place ensure the turnaround strategy be effectively managed in future? SOS members have raised their unhappiness around SABC’s proposals to employ Mr. Sipho Sithole given his previous record at the SABC and allegations of conflict of interest. Also, there are allegations that no contract exists between the SABC and Deloitt Consulting leading the turnaround. We would like this issue clarified.
  4. Why the company secretary was suspended without a Board resolution and what the allegations are against her? The Coalition fears a situation where there may be further fruitless and wasteful expenditure if it is found that the Board has not followed correct labour law procedures. Also, how is the SABC complying with the various corporate governance and management requirements in the absence of a company secretary?
  5. Explanations as regards the R20m car scandal, including reasons why inappropriate luxury vehicles were secured, not utilised and not insured. In particular why the Board, when it came into office, did not deal with the outstanding tender as regards this issue as a matter of priority?
  6. Finally and most importantly why the SABC has not adequately utilised 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. While the SABC has released its latest RFP book, this book again is very limited. Also there are no guarantees that all these briefs will in fact be commissioned. Since September 2008 only a fraction of the local content commissioned previous to 2008 has been commissioned. But 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.

Although Parliament is investigating instances of fraud and mismanagement, SOS wants to make sure that the forensic reports are released and the people implicated in these scandals are actually brought to book. SOS believes that the general public needs to be given constant updates and feedback on what the Board is doing to resolve these issues and how they intend to bring the culprits to book. We need a new era of transparent financial accountability and good corporate governance.

Since its inception SOS has been calling for a new funding model for the SABC including important public funding. SOS however can not in good conscience call for this if the problems of corruption and fruitless and wasteful expenditure are not being dealt with.

Finally in terms of local content and public programming, the SOS Coalition would like to see excellent public service programming on our screens and fair and transparent commissioning processes to ensure this. SOS demands that the SABC comply with the Regulator’s local content regulations and that the Regulator is strengthened to ensure compliance. We need more quality South African stories told by South Africans.

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.

For more information about the picket contact SOS coordinator Kate Skinner on (082) 926-6404.


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