The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition has written the following open letter to Minister of Communications Dina Pule regarding its position on executive appointments at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). SOS has also requested clarity on the Mavuso Mbebe legal case.
The letter reads:
Dear Ms Pule – The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition notes your intervention to ensure the integrity of the appointment of the SABC’s Chief Operating Officer (COO). The Coalition welcomes the fact that the appointment process will be re-started to ensure due process is followed including ensuring that applicants have sufficient time to apply and that the post is advertised both internally and externally to ensure a wide pool of applicants are sourced. The Coalition has long campaigned for good corporate governance, sound human resource and labour practices to be implemented and enforced at our public broadcaster.
However, the Coalition is very concerned that you have had to intervene to safeguard the integrity of the process. In terms of international good practice, the SABC Board should oversee appointments without ministerial intervention. The SOS Coalition thus calls on you to ensure that going forward the SABC Board and CEO drive this process.
Also, in terms of the advertising of the COO post, we seek clarity on the resolution of the long standing court case and court order relating to Mr Mavuso Mbebe’s appointment process. Mr Mbebe applied for the post of Chief Operating Officer several years ago but his appointment was allegedly turned down by then Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburi. Mr Mbebe took the Minister to court arguing that she should not have had the authority to overturn the Board’s recommendation to appoint him. Our understanding has been that one of the reasons why this post has not been advertised to date has been because this matter had not been resolved. We thus need clarity as regards the resolution of this case.
First, we need clarity because the Coalition believes the matter’s conclusion might have financial implications for the SABC. SOS notes the worrying human resource trend in the SABC of resolving human resource challenges through golden handshakes. Second, on a principles level the Coalition believes that this is an important case because it speaks to the key issue of the role of the Ministry as regards executive appointments. As stated above, the SOS Coalition believes that appointments should be driven by the Board and that the Minister should ideally not play a role. (The Ministry should only intervene in a crisis and then only to ensure that due process is followed.)
Finally, also on the matter of appointments, the Coalition notes media reports that have stated that you have played a key role in introducing the new CEO to SABC staff. While the Coalition notes the importance of boosting SABC staff’s morale and that your presence no doubt would have assisted, it is important that staff understand that it is the Board that drives appointment processes, not the Ministry. We thus hope that going forward the Board will play the key driving role in all appointments.
In conclusion the Coalition thanks you for your necessary intervention to ensure that the SABC Board follows due process as regards appointments. Further, we request a meeting with you to discuss these and other related issues in further detail. Also, as mentioned in previous letters, we would value the opportunity to discuss our SOS vision document. Please do indicate to us, at your earliest convenience, when you would be available for a meeting.
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.