Nyanda: Dissolve SABC board

2009-06-24 22:15

Cape Town - Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda backed a call from within the fast collapsing SABC board for it to be dissolved, after two more members quit on Wednesday.

The public broadcaster reported that Gloria Serobe and Khanyisile Mkhonza have resigned, leaving Alison Gillwald standing as the last member of the board.

Gillwald told a parliamentary inquiry into the SABC attended by Nyanda: "There is nothing to resign from. The board can't function. What do I achieve by resigning?"

Serobe quit during the same meeting, telling MPs: "From the end of September I will not be in a position to perform any of my duties."

The inquiry into the SABC, which said it needs a R2bn bailout, wrapped up on Wednesday morning.

New permanent board wanted

One of the board's former members, Andile Mbeki, appealed for the portfolio committee on communications to dissolve the board with immediate effect.

"Please dissolve us. Please appoint a permanent board."

The call was later backed by Nyanda.

He told a media briefing: "If indeed the board has said 'dissolve us', if that is going to take us forward, I would welcome that because we need to come to grips with what is happening with the board."

He said South Africa needed to have an SABC that functions properly and delivers results.

"Currently I don't think we have that... We cannot have that in a situation where we have a sense of a dysfunctional board."

Political meddling

Nyanda said it was a pity that there had been political meddling in the appointment of the current board in 2007, and blamed that for much of the chaos plaguing the broadcaster.

"Certainly it is a matter of concern that there should be interference in the running of the public broadcaster. We try to get the best people, we try to get people who will serve the board with integrity.

"I think it was unfortunate, and this is one of the reasons why we had a problem with this board .... that there was a public, open, transparent process in the appointment of the board by the National Assembly in 2007 and at the tail end of this process, the process appears to have been tainted by this political interference."

During the portfolio committee meeting, a department of communications official said SABC executives had often failed to supply reports and information.

He said on one occasion an SABC executive had to be rushed to a meeting with the department to finalise its budget, one day before it was to be handed to the minister of finance.

The SABC's acting chief executive Gab Mampone told the committee the SABC board and executive had to own up to its mistakes. He said the SABC had on several occasions failed to give key strategic information to the department of communications.

"We can't deny that," he said, before adding: "Things are improving quite immensely. But we must co-own all the mishaps at the SABC and take collective responsibility."

Foreign bureaus 'to blame'

Former presidential spokesperson Bheki Khumalo, who also resigned as a board member, said the broadcaster's foreign bureaus had driven up costs.

"There was over-expenditure of R80m in bureaus alone."

Committee member and African National Congress MP Johnny de Lange said it was clear the SABC board and executive had a problem with communication.

"One thing is clear is that [they] don't talk to each other."

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said the board had been "sacrificial lambs".

"We need to thank them for exposing the bad decisions of the SABC executive."

'Lock board up on Robben Island'

Holomisa suggested a skills audit of the entire SABC executive.

The Democratic Alliance's representative on the committee, Niekie van den Bergh, said it seemed the problems at the SABC stemmed from a breakdown of relationships.

He suggested, to much laughter, that the board and executive be locked away on Robben Island until they resolve their differences.

Committee chair Ismail Vadi said that would be difficult as the board of Robben Island had also collapsed.