President’s conduct was “grossly unlawful” in delaying the appointment of SABC Board

Issued by Dianne Kohler Barnard MP – DA Shadow Minister of Communications
06 Apr 2023 in News

“the letter by the President… is not only unprecedented, it is grossly unlawful”.

This was the opinion of Senior Legal Counsel who briefed the Sub Committee on Communications in the National Assembly (“the Committee”) in which he confirmed that the President had acted unlawfully in not appointing the board of the SABC.

It is clear that, as the former chairman of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee, Ramaphosa has become used to illegally interfering in appointment processes.

The Committee had to take the extraordinary step of asking for yet another opinion – despite checking with a Parliamentary legal advisor on the legality of every move it made during the SABC Board interviews, shortlisting, and final ranking.  President Ramaphosa firstly delayed the board appointments weeks after the National Assembly unanimously approved the Board as constituted by the Portfolio Committee.  He then continued to delay the appointment of the SABC board by querying the legality of the process. It became apparent that there was a last minute drive within the ANC to force the committee to change the list.  We believe that the delay was caused by the ANC deployment committee, who objected to the appointment of Phatiswa Magopeni, the former head of news, who stood up against political interference at the SABC.

The legal opinion presented this morning fully supports the process of appointing the 12 member board without reservation, and went further to confirm that if a vacancy arose from those 12 members (which there now is), that the President must pick the next name on the list from the ranked “reserve pool”.  Accordingly, the President and ANC have no other form of scorched earth tactic to use to further delay the appointment of the SABC board.

Senior Counsel further confirmed that the President had no legal basis whatsoever to prescribe to the National Assembly on how it must conduct its business. This goes directly against the doctrine of separation of powers, and he is constitutionally bound to appoint the board and cannot attempt to take the law into his own hands.

The DA has once again been vindicated on its views that the selection of the board was fair and lawfully sound.

The SABC has been without a board for 5 months – continuing to operate, whilst losing money –  without any checks and balances from a board. Additionally, the contract positions of the CEO, CFO and COO come to an end in a month, and these positions can only be filled by the board.  With the rampant looting we have seen of state-owned enterprises over the last two decades, we can no longer allow the SABC to operate without a controlling body ensuring good governance.

Anticipating the lawful and binding confirmation of the nominations of the 12 member SABC board, during this afternoon’s full Communications Portfolio committee meeting, we call on the President to immediately appoint the board. Should he fail to do so, the Democratic Alliance will consider taking the President to court for failing to uphold his Constitutional and legislative duties.