Guest Column

It’s time to restore the SABC’s image

2017-02-12 06:06
The SABC’s head office in Johannesburg.

The SABC’s head office in Johannesburg.

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Themba Sepotokele

Driving past a hospital synonymous with administering pain killers to every patient, despite their illness, I was taken aback that my kids would dread going there when sick.

Interestingly, the same healthcare centre has not been in the news for a long time, unlike the public broadcaster.

This shows you how the healthcare centre takes its credibility, image and reputation seriously.

However, the same cannot be said about the SABC. From being labelled Faulty Towers to His Masters’ Voice, the SABC should now work on a turnaround strategy to restore public trust.

With the country now waiting for the release of the final report on the SABC board’s fitness to hold office by Parliament’s ad hoc committee – as well as the Western Cape High Court’s decision to dismiss the public broadcaster’s application for leave to appeal against an order that Hlaudi Motsoeneng shouldn’t occupy any position within its ranks – it’s time to restore the credibility, image and reputation of the institution.

The judgment also stated that the SABC board failed to uphold the Constitution and ignored findings by the Public Protector that Motsoeneng had lied about his qualifications and awarded himself irregular salary hikes.

It is mind-boggling how many times the SABC wants to study the same judgment.

Undoubtedly, Motsoeneng has caused irreparable harm to the broadcaster with some of the sordid details laid bare at the inquiry.

He has pitted colleagues against colleagues, as some unprincipled employees turned against their colleagues in defence of the man who wreaked havoc.

Although the ad hoc committee did a sterling job under the chairpersonship of Vincent Smith, its mandate was limited.

Suffice to say, it was impressive how open and transparent the process was.

The role played by different political parties in their quest to restore the public trust is commendable.

We are proud of your tireless efforts, despite some hiccups towards the end of the process with the walkout by the main opposition.

This was democracy in action. We are indebted to you for laying the foundation to restore public trust in the national broadcaster.

The recommendations will go a long way in ensuring that those who turned the SABC into their own fiefdom pay a heavy price.

With Motsoeneng now out in the cold, those who continue with delaying tactics should remember that the SABC is not theirs to ruin, but to run effectively and efficiently, as they were entrusted to do so by Parliament on behalf of the public.

They should stop with their theatrics of turning the broadcaster into a soap opera or tragicomedy.

Never in the history of the SABC has the image of the public broadcaster been so soiled by one man who’s not even an elected representative.

Sadly, he did it all under the watch of all of us, those with power and influence and those who are mere spectators.

The sooner the interim board is appointed to put processes in place to restore the country’s pride, the better.

The new board and executive should maintain and protect the SABC’s brand. It cannot be that the public broadcaster has a soiled image.

We should jealously guard “Brand SABC” from being eroded like we strive to do with Brand South Africa.

Interested parties such as the Media Monitoring Project Benefit Trust, the SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition and the Freedom of Expression Institute, including all South Africans, should be vigilant that we protect this proudly South African entity and ensure that those who are hellbent on destroying it are kept away.

The sooner the current crop of executives at the SABC admits that running to the courts to defend Motsoeneng is just a waste of time and taxpayers’ money, the better. They must foot his legal bill from their own pockets because the financial status of the broadcaster is unhealthy.

We will always be indebted to the Public Protector’s report, When Governance and Ethics Fail, the courts that the SABC sought refuge from, but which always dismissed its flawed cases, and the Independent Communications Authority of SA for being resolute in their respective mandates.

With the world now hit with the wave of fake news, the public broadcaster cannot be associated with Motsoeneng’s “good news” stories.

South Africa deserves better.

Sepotokele is a journalist, communication strategist and a media trainer

Read more on:    sabc  |  hlaudi motsoeneng
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