SOS comments on SABC board resignations


South Africa’s SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition has issued the following statement noting the deepening crises at public broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). The statement reads: According to news reports both the chair and deputy chair have resigned. This creates a serious problem for the SABC. According to the Broadcasting Act, 1999, a quorate Board consists of nine board members including the chairperson or deputy chairperson. There only nine members left and no chairperson or deputy, therefore the board is no longer quorate.

Latest news reports indicate that both the chair and deputy chair of the board have resigned following the quarrel over the position of the COO at the SABC. This places both governance and management of the corporation in crisis. The board is no longer quorate in terms of the Broadcasting Act of 1999, which clearly requires a quorate board to have a minimum of nine board members including the chairperson or their deputy. The simultaneous resignation of both chair and deputy chair means that the board can no longer meet to take decisions.

The SOS Coalition is in agreement that, as stop-gap measure, the President must appoint a new acting chair and deputy chair from among the remaining board members. This would create a measure of immediate stability and enable the board to act which it cannot at this stage. Further, Coalition members are in agreement that an emergency parliamentary hearing is essential. SOS has written to parliament to hold this special emergency hearing to discuss this and other issues on two occasions prior to this crisis.

The parliamentary hearing needs to investigate the following five issues:

  • The SABC board. Parliament must investigate why the board is unable to act effectively and if particular board members have deliberately frustrated board decision making. This must include an investigation into the reasons for the resignations of board members, some of which were made public via the SOS Coalition’s recent access to information applications.
  • inisterial Interference. Previous SABC board members have, in their resignation letters, referred to interference by the Minister of Communications in board activities which directly contributed to their resignations. Parliament must investigate whether and to what extent ongoing interference by Ministers of Communications in board appointments of executive management has contributed to the gridlock at the SABC.
  • The Special Investigations Unit report. The Special Investigations Unit report is alleged to implicate both board members and senior management of the SABC in corruption and other irregularities. The SOS Coalition calls upon parliament to order the immediate public release of the Report and to deal with its findings. Where board members have been fingered, parliament must conduct an investigation into whether they should be removed for misconduct.
  • The SABC Management. The SOS Coalition calls upon parliament to investigate why the SABC has no permanent management apart from the CEO. People who have been appointed are on suspension and acting appointments are the norm. Rumours swirl about executive interference in these decisions. This is organisationally unsustainable and has a critical impact on the SABC’s ability to deliver on its mandate of providing quality public service content – a key building block of modern citizenship – and may well have contributed to the failure to launch the SABC 24 hour news channel.
  • The lacuna in the Broadcasting Act. In 2008 SOS repeatedly warned parliament that the lacuna in the Broadcast Act as to who is responsible for appointing the three executive positions on the board, namely CEO, CFO and COO, would render a return to stability impossible. This has been proven correct over and over again. Parliament must deal with this lacuna.

It remains the view of the SOS Coalition that it is the non-executive members of the board who, being accountable for management performance, must be solely responsible for their appointment, and that the Minister must not be involved.

Parliament must hold open, frank discussions on these issues and must chart a clear way forward with the board as a collective.

SOS will be contacting the chair of the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications again to ask for an urgent meeting to put forward its very serious concerns.


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