Battle over SABC top job continues

2018-01-21 05:46
Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane

Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane

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As the SABC ship sails on with the three top positions filled by acting executives, the public broadcaster’s board and Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane cannot agree who has the final say in making the permanent appointments.

The board is waving a judgment the Pretoria High Court handed down in October last year.

It says the SABC needs to consult her only regarding the appointment of the group chief executive officer (CEO), chief operating officer (COO) and chief financial officer (CFO).

The judgment overturned former minister Faith Muthambi’s decision to arrogate to herself the power to appoint these executives. The court ruled:

“The executive members of the board [CEO, COO and CFO] are to be appointed solely by the non-executive members of the board and without requirement of approval by the minister.”

The standoff has been brought to a head by Kubayi-Ngubane’s refusal to accept the appointment of former journalist and MTN corporate affairs executive Chris Maroleng to the COO position.

Kubayi-Ngubane said she was not necessarily opposed to Maroleng’s selection, but said a conditional offer should have been granted to him once the vetting had been concluded, to avoid embarrassment if he failed.

State Security Agency insiders told City Press they had picked up, during the vetting, that Maroleng’s surname is Maroleni and that he is Zimbabwean.

The SABC board wants the vetting done by the end of the week, so Maroleng can start his new job in February.

Highly placed sources in the SABC said Maroleng had been transparent to the interview panel about his citizenship status.

He is a South African born in exile in Zimbabwe and later naturalised, said a person close to the appointment procedure.

Kubayi-Ngubane is expected to appear before the ANC top six officials tomorrow to explain developments at the SABC.

It has become convention for the ANC’s leaders to be the first to know about key appointments in the SABC. This time it did not happen.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said an appointment would only announced when everything had been done.

“The process is underway as we speak,” he said.

In November, Kubayi-Ngubane filed papers to appeal the judgment.

However, the application has been suspended pending another application to correct “material facts” in the SABC’s memorandum of incorporation (MOI), which the court relied on to arrive at its judgment.

In a December 6 affidavit, Kubayi-Ngubane sought to withdraw a controversial MOI that Muthambi had prepared, on the grounds it was not registered with companies and registration body Cipro, and therefore incorrectly placed before and used in court.

Muthambi had conferred on herself the power to accept or reject the board’s preferred candidates for group CEO, CFO and COO.

Kubuyi-Ngubane says in her papers: “The correct MOI confers no power upon the minister to approve a deviation from an open and transparent process.”

She said that as a result of the “incorrect” MOI, the court arrived at the conclusion that “the minister is permitted to manipulate the board’s interview and short listing process [and] effectively waive the requirement for the board to advertise and shortlist candidates…”

The power struggle between the SABC board and Kubayi-Ngubane is for the control of the public broadcaster’s editorial policy, which has proved to carry substantial political currency for President Jacob Zuma and axed COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

Luthuli House was concerned that some of those who made it onto the new SABC board were aligned with organisations seen to be opposed to the ANC.

The growing influence of the Economic Freedom Fighters and civil society organisations in the communications space is being closely watched.

Government insiders told City Press that a Cabinet decision to appeal the judgment had been passed and preparations for legal proceedings were underway.

Government was concerned that the ruling had implications not only for the SABC, but for all state entities, they said.

Communications department spokesperson Ireen Magwai said the minister had no knowledge of any official appointment of an SABC COO and that all executive appointments at state-owned entities (SOE) followed a Cabinet process, and that Cabinet announced them.

“It is the minister’s responsibility to present any appointment of executives of the SOEs under the department of communications through Cabinet processes,” she said.

Read more on:    sabc  |  faith muthambi  |  mmamoloko kubayi-ngubane

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