The Democratic Alliance (DA) can reveal that Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams deliberately withheld from Parliament that Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, in a letter, had declined to provide a guarantee to the SABC.
The letter also reveals a Finance Minister who does not understand the constitutional role of the SABC.
The letter which the DA has seen dated 25 June 2019 from Minister Mboweni states that: “I therefore do not concur to the issuance of the R3.2 billion guarantee.”
Communications and Digital Technologies Minister, Ndabeni-Abrahams appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Communications on 3 July 2019 and made no mention of the letter, which contained crucial information that not only the public, but Parliament the body to which she is accountable to, ought to have been appraised of.
The contents of the letter itself are quite problematic and reveal a Finance Minister who does not understand the mandate of the Communications Department vis-à-vie the SABC.
Mboweni states: “I want to emphasise the very important role and responsibility that the Department of Communications has to play in the turnaround of the SABC. The SABC is ultimately only an implementing agent for the Department of Communications…”
The Broadcasting Act and as confirmed in High Court in the SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition judgment makes the SABC’s independence clear:
“The Minister, as the representative of the sole shareholder and not a member of the Board, does not have the right to act on behalf of SABC or to manage its business or affairs… The ultimate decision-making power is that of the Board and not the Minister as a sole shareholder…”
The SABC is NOT an implementing agent for Department of Communications as stated by Mboweni. It is flabbergasting that he does not know this.
We call on Minister Mboweni to properly appraise himself on the role and mandate of the SABC, and once having done so, continue negotiations regarding funding for the SABC with this knowledge in mind.
Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams made it patently clear that she also has no understanding of her role over the public broadcaster in Parliament last week.
The DA encourages the SABC board and its management to continue negotiations with National Treasury.
We have already requested that the Minister of Communications work with the SABC in good faith and putting aside her personal feelings about the SABC which has firmly established its independence, including fearlessly reporting on her attempts to block SABC journalists from covering protests at an ANC manifesto launch. Her reported bad-mouthing of the SABC would no doubt also have happened at National Treasury.
The DA fully appreciates the role that the SABC plays in our hard-won democracy. It educates, entertains and keeps millions of South Africans informed especially the impoverished and those in rural areas who do not have money for streaming, DSTV and in some cases only have SABC radio stations as their link to the world.
The current SABC management and board cannot be blamed for the financial crisis the SABC finds itself it. They are working hard in the most trying circumstances. Negotiations must continue in good faith with the law, the public interest and the thousands of SABC staff in mind.