The wrecking ball that the SABC has become
Eight journalists have reportedly been fired by the SABC. This is a further sign of the deradation at the state-owned broadcaster, which is more and more looking like a State broadcaster along the lines of that of Zimbabwe or North Korea. The Institute of Race Relations looks at what is going on behind the scenes at the SABC board, which lies at the centre of this mess, according to BizNews.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng looms so large in the SABC crisis that we pay little attention to the SABC’s board to which he is accountable.
The Broadcasting Act 4 of 1999 (Act) requires there to be 12 non-executive members of the board plus the Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Group Chief Operating Officer (COO) and the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). This requirement is absolute.
The Act requires that nine board members present at a board meeting to achieve a quorum. Further, a quorum requires the Chair or Deputy-Chair to be present.
Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications selects the SABC board, does an investigation, and sends its recommendation to the general assembly (GA). The GA then sends it to the president for approval. The responsible Minister (of Communications), Faith Muthambi, has no legal right to appoint or remove members of the board.
The portfolio committee has an ANC political party majority, so ANC approved candidates end up on the SABC board through a majority voting block.
Muthambi has argued that the removals made at her behest were in line with the Companies Act. This is untrue. Earlier this year Muthambi tabled a Broadcasting Amendment Bill that seeks to give her the powers of appointment and removal.
According to the SABC’s 2015 annual report the 13 non-executive board members were Mbulaheni Maguvhe, Thabasile Khumalo, King Thembinkosi Bonakele, Frans Matlala, Vusumuzi Mavuso, Nomvuyo Mhlakaza, Krish Naidoo, Bongani Khumalo, Ndivhoniswani Tshidzumba, Ellen Tshabalala, Mashangu Lubisi, Rachel Kalidass, and Hope Zinde.
The executive board members were Motsoeneng (COO), James Aguma (CFO) and Tian Olivier (Acting CEO) who was replaced in 2014 by Anton Heunis, who was removed in 2014 and eventually replaced (in 2015) by Frans Matlala.
Prof Mbulaheni Maguvhe (Chair) has a PhD in education. The Democratic Alliance and the Inkatha Freedom Party opposed his appointment on the basis that Maguvhe was being rewarded for removing independent-minded board members and protecting Motsoeneng. The IFP also accused Maguvhe and deputy Thabasile Khumalo of being”loyalists” of Minister Muthambi and Motsoeneng.
Thabisile Khumalo was formerly acting chairperson of parastatal broadcasting signal distributor, Sentech. The Public Protector’s report on Motsoeneng, “When Governance and Ethics Fail”, iincludes Khumalo as a person who received “irregular salary increments” from the SABC.
The Public Protector recommended that “any fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred as the result of irregular salary increments to Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Leah Khumalo and freelancers be recovered from the appropriate persons”.
Khumalo is a director of of Mngoma –Mlaba and Khumalo Inc attorneys in Durban. She has been involved in a range provincial government projects in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Vusi Mavuso (non-executive) is a former chairperson of the board of Transparency International (South Africa). He also served on the ethics committee of the Public Service Commission.
Nomvuyo Mhlakaza (non-executive) is a senior manager at the National Youth Development Agency, with experience in human resource management, industrial relations, skills development and training.
Mhlakaza’s husband is Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning Monitoring and Evaluation, Youth Development and the Administration of the Presidency. Manamela is a member of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party, a former leader of the ANC Youth League and National Secretary of the Young Communist League.
Krish Naidoo (non-executive) is an attorney and a legal adviser to the ANC’s national disciplinary committee. He worked as Senior Manager of Corporate Communications at Armscor. Naidoo’s experience is in human rights, administrative law, mining and commercial law. Naidoo was a founding member of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers and the National Sports Congress. He chaired the soccer unity talks to form the SA Football Association.
Dr. Ndivhoniswani Tshidzumba (non-executive) is the only board member with broadcasting and related experience. He received his doctorate in arts communications from North West University after studying television production.
He lectures in broadcast journalism at the Tshwane University of Technology and has managed the multi-media centre, in charge of research, sound and video productions. Tshidzumba lectured in the Department of Communication at North West University (NWU) where he taught broadcasting for radio and television, computer literacy and media ethics.
Tshidzumba is a facilitator at the Business School of the NWU in graphic design, public relations management and visual programming.
He has taught media studies, graphic design and computer literacy at the Hurlingham and Chelsea College in London. Tshidzumba’s has experience as a camera man, studio co-ordinator, video editor, script writer, floor manager, in video transfers and logging, video productions and training camera interns.
James Aguma is CFO and, as of July 2016, Acting CEO. Originally a Ugandans, he qualified as a chartered accountant at Uganda’s Makerere University and UCT. He worked as Senior Manager for the Auditor-General SA and at PwC. He is a registered assessor with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and holds a certificate in Rough Diamond Grading and Assessments.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng was permanently appointed COO in July 2014 and it is worth quoting his insert verbatim:
“National Certificate in Generic Management NQF Level 5 (Prodigy); the Thompson Foundation Certificate in Radio Journalism; the SABC Leadership Development Programme (GIBS); Analysis of Contemporary Social Issues (University of Witwatersrand).
Mr Motsoeneng first joined the SABC in the early 1990’s as a freelance journalist with commitment and passion for quality news and for broadcasting. He was appointed as a full-time trainee journalist early in 1995. He has made a positive contribution to the SABC as a journalist, as a producer of news and current affairs and as Executive Manager. He is focused and deliverables-driven and has worked through the ranks to achieve his present position of Chief Operations Officer.
His exceptional abilities in stakeholder management were identified by the Free State Provincial Government where he worked as a Media Liaison Officer of the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. In this role, he served as a critical link between the Department and its Stakeholders, playing a pivotal role as an advisor to the MEC.
He has received the certificate of positive role models awarded (Free State Youth Commission); and the Special Recognition Certificate (Qwa Qwa Campus of the University of the North and Qwa Qwa Community).”
Jimi Matthews’ predecessor, Frans Matlala, was suspended in November 2015, five months after his appointment; Ellen Tshabalala resigned in December 2015; King Bonakele was removed in August 2014; Rachel Kalidass was removed in March 2015; Prof AB Khumalo resigned in January 2015; Hope Zinde was removed in March 2015 and was recently murdered; Mashangu Lubisisi was removed in March 2015; Tian Olivier, Acting Group CEO was employed from March to September 2014, and Anton Heunis replaced him from September to November 2014.
So, now there are only 6 non-executive members. Not only does the numerical make-up of the board contravene the Act’s obligation to have 12 non-executive members, but with only a total of 8 members, the board cannot achieve a quorum of 9.
Since the SABC fell below the obligations of the Act none of the board’s decisions are valid. And there is nothing that Muthambi, Maguvhe or Motsoeneng can do to make those decisions valid.
Was the 90% local music content a board decision and, if it wasn’t, did Motsoeneng have the authority to make it on his own?
Sara Gon is a Policy Fellow at the IRR, a think tank that promotes economic and political liberty.