Who’s who on day two of the SABC board interviews

2013-08-21 08:52

Today the next eight candidates for the SABC board will face a tough – and at times divided – parliamentary portfolio committee on communications.

At one point during yesterday’s proceedings, non-ANC members of the committee complained that they needed “protection from their voices being suppressed” during question time. Protection was agreed upon and the interviews continued.

There are 36 potential board members left standing – after former board member Claire O’Neil withdrew – and they will be whittled down to 12 to form the fourth SABC board in five years.

Several candidates floundered yesterday.

PR specialist Hope Zinde referred frequently to her notes, clearly annoying the committee who felt she was taking too long to answer.

“I sell lubricants!” declared another communications expert, Amanda Madikiza, when outlining her dealings in the oil industry.

The joke backfired and she was criticised for not having served on enough boards and not knowing enough about the broadcasting sector.

Music boss Lazarus Serobe seemed unclear of recent policy trends. He pushed for a more commercial broadcaster, in contrast to others who called for more public funding.

In contrast, civil society activist and founder of the SOS Coalition Kate Skinner (note: City Press and the SOS Coalition have partnered for covering the interviews) drew praise from the committee for being engaging and “informative”.

Zola Majavu was the first candidate interviewed, calling for a board that would “speak truth to power” and talking frankly about the “gravy train” at SABC.

The interviews ended deep into the night with Serobe being the last candidate interviewed on day one.

City Press and SOS Coalition are covering each day of the hearings.

Today’s candidates are profiled below.

John Matisonn

Working for transformation in South African broadcasting since the 1990s, John Matisonn continues to publish and provide assistance to develop broadcasting at home, in other SADC countries and to the UN in Afghanistan.

He began his career as a political journalist on the Rand Daily Mail.

Blacklisted by SABC throughout the apartheid era, he received a jail sentence for refusing to provide the police with his source of information for articles about the Muldergate scandal.

He trained in broadcasting at National Public Radio in the US, studying in Chicago, Canada and Hong Kong. He branched into TV documentaries and won several awards.

Matisonn chaired the founding meeting Free, Fair and Open, South Africa in the Transition to Democracy (1992) whose resolutions were adopted by Codesa.

He was a co-founder of Public Broadcasting Initiative, a South African think-tank and training centre for public broadcasting and was executive editor for the 1994 elections at SABC.

After the elections he served as a councillor at the Independent Broadcasting Authority, driving the process of licensing new radio and TV stations.

Matisonn has been widely published in international newspapers and is currently writing a book, Night Before the Miracle, about the history of the SABC and other local media.

Merle O’Brien

Mahari Merle Constance O’Brien is one of the more enigmatic candidates for a position on the board.

Born and raised in Cape Town, she studied at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and has featured in a book of pioneering South African businesswomen.

She was president of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa and MD of once-successful marketing and PR firm BlackRock.

O’Brien is currently a lecturer in branding and marketing at Vega School and a doctoral candidate at UCT studying the creative economy.

She was deputy president of the World Future Society South Africa.

Her online profile is colourful, describing herself as a “transmedia storyteller, Odissi danseuse and futurist”.

It says she “serves as curator for World Design Capital Cape Town 2014” and adds that “being the first African to be professionally trained in Odissi, India’s oldest dance form, Merle is recognised as a pioneer in South Africa’s performing and creative arts sector”.

Lumko Mtimde

As the previous board pitched into crisis, Lumko Mtimde became the “opposition spokesman” explaining in professional tones why the board could not see eye-to-eye with the chair and deputy chair, who had reinstated Hlaudi Motsoeneng as acting COO after the board removed him.

A spate of resignations followed, including Mtimde’s. Now he is back on the list.

He comes armed with knowledge about how much can go wrong when in-fighting is coupled with executive and ministerial interference at the broadcaster.

He is the CEO of the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) and holds degrees in physiology and biochemistry as well as telecommunications and information policy.

He has served as a councillor on the Independent Broadcasting Authority as well as the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa.

The vastly experienced, ANC-backed Mtimde has worked as the chief director of broadcasting policy in the department of communications and has been founding CEO of the National Community Radio Forum.

He has served on a series of boards including the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism. He has been vice chair of the Telecommunications Regulatory Association of Southern Africa. Mtimde has also served as African president of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasting.

Mahmood Mia

Deputy president of the South African Chamber of Business, Mahmood Mia is a former banker who spent 19 years with Natal Building Society before becoming MD of New Republic Bank until 1996.

He has been a director on the board of Mutual & Federal Insurance since 2009 and is a nonexecutive director at Tongaat Hulett. He is a founding member and the deputy chair of Fasic Investment Corporation and chair of Zenith Investments.

Mia today works as an expert on mergers and acquisitions, running his own financial consultancy.

All of this means he comes equipped with financial management and all-important corporate governance skills.

The portfolio committee will, however, no doubt be wanting to find out whether he has any knowledge of the broadcasting environment and the SABC.

Mia serves on numerous non-commercial boards and councils, including at the Association for Persons with Disabilities, the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

Martin Mhlanga

Martin Mafan Mhlanga is a telecommunications buff who works as a researcher and project manager at the CSIR.

He is a specialist in wireless networks, designing cognitive radio and wireless mesh network models and algorithms.

He has recently published a book, An Energy-Aware Path Selection Algorithm Paperback. “It is everyone’s dream to have network connectivity all the time. This dream can only be realised provided there are feasible solutions that are put in place for the next generation of wireless works,” reads the blurb.

There can be no doubt about his brain power, the question will be how well Mhlanga can translate theory into a vision for future public broadcasting systems.

Mhlanga received his degree in computer science from the University of Zululand in 2002 and his Masters in 2011. He is currently working on his PhD in electrical engineering through the University of Cape Town.

Paul Serote

A money man and auditor, Paul Serote is the CEO of Motheo Chartered Accountants.

After completing his training at Deloitte, he held senior finance roles within the private sector, including at Budget Car Rental.

He was then appointed as a corporate executive with the Auditor General of South Africa (Agsa). He was in charge of numerous audits of local governments and also spread his wings abroad. Working on Agsa’s international audit portfolio, Serote was based at the UN’s head office in New York.

He has a strong interest in economic development and, says his bio, he has gained insight into the workings of public bodies. On Twitter he describes himself as a “family man/patriot/entrepreneur”.

Ronny Lubisi

Mashangu Ronny Lubisi serves on the current interim board of the SABC. After the resignation of the Cope-nominated candidate, economist Iraj Abedian, five interim board members remained, all of them ANC-nominated. Lubisi is one of four of them put forward to serve on the permanent board.

He is another financial management candidate, a chartered accountant and the owner of Mashangu Ronny Lubisi Incorporated (MRL). Lubisi previously worked for the Eskom pension and provident fund as well as the Johannesburg Metropolitan Bus Service.

William Gumede

Academic and author Professor William Mervyn Gumede is best known for his contentious, influential and bestselling 2008 biography Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC. He is a senior associate professor of public and development management at Wits university and a programme director at the University of London.

The author of several books on the ANC, including Restless Nation (2012), Gumede is an Oppenheimer fellow. He was deputy editor of The Sowetan newspaper and created the Financial Mail’s Little Black Book. He contributes to several international publications including The Guardian, London.

He is a rare independent political thinker on the shortlist.

» This story was updated after first published to add William Gumede's profile after the committee announced a change in the programme.

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