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SOS Coalition, MMA Demand Urgent Appointment Of SABC Board

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The SOS Coalition and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) have called for urgent appointment of the Board of Directors for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in the interest of the public.

This is coming at the heels of growing concerns over SABC, South Africa’s public broadcaster, which continues to operate with a Board.

In a statement made available to the media over the weekend, SOS Coalition and MMA said it is unacceptable to have the SABC be without a Board for more than 16 weeks.

The vacuum created by the absence of a Board, according to the statement, is causing further damage and deepening an entirely preventable crisis.

The two organisations noted that they are appalled and deeply concerned to learn that the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of SABC has been designated as “the Board”.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT), Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, announced, after the State of the Nation Address (SONA) (9 February) that, “In terms of the law, the GCEO of the SABC has been designated by the Minister of DCDT with the concurrence of the Minister of Finance as the Board of the SABC”.

“SOS and MMA believe the decision is unlawful and that the two Ministers exceeded their powers. On a simple basis of good governance, it cannot surely be legitimate for one individual to be given Board powers and make decisions that otherwise require 15 members of which 12 are non-executive members”, the statement said.  

Notably, the Broadcasting Act requires non-executive members to have a variety of expertise and experience ranging from media law, business practice, journalism, entertainment. These skills are essential to ensure that decisions are considered and debated and that all pertinent aspects for the running of the public broadcaster are taken into consideration.

The Minister’s assertion that the GCEO is the Board is at odds with even the most rudimentary elements of governing the SABC.

The origin of the apparent decision stems from a meeting with Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) on 23 November 2022, where already it was clear that the SABC did not have an accounting authority and the reports indicated that the Ministry was pushing for the appointment of the SABC’s GCEO as the accounting authority pending approval by National Treasury.

“Needless to say that the more obvious and preferable decision should have been to push for the appointment of the Board.  It is the failure by parliament to fulfill its mandate in a timeous manner coupled with the President’s failure to act swiftly to appoint the SABC that has resulted in us being in a scenario where we now must contend with the absurdity of a GCEO being the SABC Board.

“It is equally alarming that the public learns through an ad hoc interview that “the GCEO is the SABC Board. The public was not informed of the decision when it was taken and its basis which raises further questions about the decision”, the statement added.

It further observed that the lack of transparency gives credence to rumoured political interference and orchestrated delay tactics in appointing the Board, adding that the objects of the Broadcasting Act 2(n) aim to “ensure that broadcasting services are effectively controlled by South Africans.

“The SABC is a public broadcaster that belongs to the people of South Africa, whom, in this instance have been deprived crucial information regarding the appointment of an interim accounting authority.

“The Broadcasting Act stipulates in section 14 (1)(2) that “the affairs of the Corporation are administered by an executive committee consisting of the Group Chief Executive Officer, Chief operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer and no more than other 11 members. The executive committee is accountable to the Board”.

“In this instance, we have the executive committee being accountable to one of its members, who is part of the decision-making body at operational level. As such, there is currently no accountability and no oversight at the SABC because the current gimmicks do not amount to adequate governance”, it stressed.

The statement also pointed that the Broadcasting Act has designated the President as the appointing authority of the Board.

“Assuming it was legal, which we dispute, to appoint the GCEO as the accounting authority in the interim it could only be the President who could stipulate that the GCEO could act as interim accounting authority with Board powers

“SOS and MMA repeat their call for the President to appoint the SABC Board. Last month, President Ramaphosa indicated that he was seeking legal opinion on objections that implicate two recommended candidates. Seven (7) weeks have passed since the President received the recommended names on 20 December 2022.

“We ask that the President proceeds to make appointments of the 10 candidates that aren’t implicated as the Board would still quorate. Section 13(10) of the Act states that “nine members of the Board which must include a chairperson or deputy chairperson will constitute a quorum at any meeting of the Board. SOS and MMA are currently taking legal advice and will act on an urgent basis if necessary”, the statement further explained. 

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