Faith on a mission to protect Hlaudi

Johannesburg - Communications Minister Faith Muthambi has intensified her campaign to get rid of SABC board members who did not support the controversial appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as group chief operating officer.

Muthambi has written more letters to the six SABC board members who were against her endorsement of Motsoeneng, accusing them of sowing disunity and breaching their fiduciary duties.

She has asked them to give reasons why they should not be suspended.

The first casualty of the purge was Professor Bongani Khumalo, who resigned last week. He jumped ship after receiving a letter from Muthambi giving him an ultimatum to either explain himself or face the music.

But the other board members who have been targeted have vowed to fight efforts to get rid of them.

Board members who voted in favour of Motsoeneg’s appointment were former chair Ellen Tshabalala, her deputy, Professor Mbulaheni Obert Maghuve, Nomvuyo Mhlakaza, Ndivhoniswani Tshidzumba and Leah Khumalo.

Four board members - Bongani Khumalo, Ronnie Lubisi, Krish Naidoo and Rachel Kalidass - voted against the appointment. It was reported at the time that Hope Zinde voted in favour, but it has since emerged that she was not asked to vote.

A board member who spoke to City Press said the campaign to get rid of them was being orchestrated from behind the scenes by Tshabalala and Motsoeneng.

In August last year, Tshabalala wrote to board members informing them that she was instituting an inquiry into allegations of conflict of interest and unauthorised disclosure of confidential information.

“In the event that all or some of the allegations are found to be correct, this will amount to a breach of fiduciary duties imposed on such board members in terms of the Broadcasting Act and articles of association of the SABC,” the disgraced former chairperson wrote.

Muthambi’s purge of board members is, however, setting her on a collision course with Parliament. The Broadcasting Act gives the president the power to appointment board members, on the recommendation of the portfolio committee on communications.

Muthambi’s spokesperson, Ayanda Holo, referred City Press to a statement issued by the department last week defending the minister’s right to intervene in the board.

'Minister acting on behalf of government'

“In terms of the signed memorandum of incorporation, the minister is the sole shareholder in the corporation acting on behalf of the South African government. The minister therefore has the responsibility to ensure effective and efficient functioning of the board and, ultimately, the corporation as a whole in her capacity as executive authority,” said Holo in the statement.

He said the minister had the responsibility to ensure the implementation of good corporate governance at all times. She had delegated this responsibility to the board, from whom she expected regular reports.

Tshabalala could not be reached for comment.

The DA has, however, accused Muthambi of overstepping her boundaries by sending the letters to board members.

“The minister has no lawful role in the appointment or removal of board members and therefore has no right to threaten board members with suspension,” said DA communications spokesperson Gavin Davis.

Meanwhile, the SABC has been accused of banning independent political analysts from commenting or giving informed analysis on the ANC’s birthday celebrations.

Two sources inside its news division said an instruction had been issued to producers of news and current affairs shows for both TV and radio to stop using analysts. It is not clear who exactly issued the instruction.

“They said analysts are too critical of the ANC. We have also been instructed not to use analysts for the state of the nation broadcasts because we have to ‘protect’ President Zuma,” said one of the insiders.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago denied that there had been a blanket ban on analysts.

“It’s not true, we will use people as and when it fits our schedule. We always plan accordingly and nobody can force us to use them. We will never ban analysts,” he said.

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