ANC meddles in SABC board chaos

Issued by Phumzile Van Damme MP – DA Shadow Minister of Communications
04 Dec 2018 in News

Please find attached an English soundbite by Phumzile Van Damme MP.

The DA can confirm that two South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board members, John Mattison and Khanyisile Kweyama have indeed resigned from the public broadcaster. At this stage, it appears no official resignation letters has been sent to the SABC, Parliament or the President. We can also confirm that there has been no third resignation yet, but we have been reliably informed that Krish Naidoo was asked to resign from the board by Luthuli House and has thus far not done so.

Mattison’s resignation from the board is unfortunate, he has decades of experience in the broadcasting sector and institutional knowledge which would have served the board well in its current financial dire straits. Kweyama was simply over-committed, with being Chairperson of the Passenger Rail Association of South African (PRASA), Brand SA as well as serving on other boards.

We trust that Mattison and Kweyama’s resignations do not have to do with the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigation into the awarding of a security tender by the interim board in which they served. The tender was awarded to Mafoko Security by the interim board in 2017 despite it being ranked second in a bidding process. The interim board allegedly overruled its own supply chain processes, ignored National Treasury and its own lawyers’ advice in awarding the tender to Mafoko.

In July this year, the President issued a Proclamation for the SIU to investigate the awarding of the contract valued at over R185 million.

The SIU has found that:

  • the contract was awarded irregularly and;
  • there was financial misconduct and contravention of section 86(3) of the PFMA and contravention of sections 38 and 45 of the PFMA for failing to act in the best interest of the SABC

The SIU confirmed in Parliament last week that it is preparing criminal and disciplinary referrals regarding the awarding of the security tender and had submitted a status update on the investigation to the SABC board Chairperson, Bongumusa Makhathini on 14 September 2018. An interim report was provided to the President on 30 November 2018 and a final report is anticipated for release on 31 March 2019. We await this report for full investigation and findings on the awarding of this tender.

We are also aware that the ANC is allegedly trying to collapse the SABC board by rendering it inquorate and therefore unable to make any legally binding decisions. It is election season, and the ANC does not want an independent board. The SABC is key in communicating the ANC’s “good story,” and an independent board that won’t take instructions (as we saw this weekend with the new Minister) would be most undesirable for the ANC.

The ANC is using the excuse of “saving jobs” by halting retrenchments, but it knows full well that the SABC is commercially insolvent and its staff bloated. The only reason the SABC would want to collapse the board would be to install an interim board that would be at its beck and call. Its concern is not the staff of the SABC, it is its own electoral prospects.

On the other hand, as the DA, while we understand that the SABC’s staff is bloated, we are against retrenchments that are not based on an independently conducted skills and salary audit, otherwise SABC staff may lose their jobs unjustly. We await the SABC’s presentation in January and trust that it will present this information and not give the ANC reason to dissolve the board in terms of s15A of the Broadcasting Act, which states that Parliament can dissolve the SABC board for the inability to perform its duties “efficiently”.

It is highly unfortunate that at a time when the SABC should be focused on steering its ship to calm waters, political interference is once again causing chaos at the SABC. We also await the SIU’s final report on the awarding of the security tender, and if wrongdoing by the members of the interim board is found, they must be held accountable.