New SABC board warned not to go down same path as former structure

2018-03-20 21:50
SABC CEO Chris Maroleng. (Supplied)

SABC CEO Chris Maroleng. (Supplied)

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Cape Town – The SABC board has been warned not to follow the same route as the previous board when it appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Communications on Tuesday.

"We can't allow the SABC to go back to that nonsense," said ANC MP Lerumo Kalako.

He said there were allegations that some board members were irregularly involved in the awarding of a security tender.

Board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini said the board was aware of the allegations and had taken action. The matter was being investigated with the help of the Special Investigations Unit.

ANC MP Moses Tseli referred to payments without contracts amounting to R18m.

"These are the sort of issues that led to us dissolving a board," Tseli said.

The SABC board and executive were also questioned on a range of issues at the public broadcaster.

Vetting of staff:

Makhathini said the broadcaster was in the process of obtaining legal opinion on the vetting of staff, as the SABC was a national key point.

DA MP Phumzile van Damme said she was "entirely uncomfortable" with the vetting of staff as it harked back to a time when the country, and the SABC, were under apartheid.

Makhathini said the board didn't want to be non-compliant, but it also didn't want to infringe on people's rights.

Political interference:

In a recent petition signed by some SABC staff members, allegations of political interference are made. It is alleged that SABC politics editor Sophie Mokoena instructed journalists not to ask the ANC's secretary general about former president Jacob Zuma's resignation.

"As a committee we will not accept anything of that anymore," said committee chairperson Humphrey Maxegwana.

Acting CEO Nomsa Philiso said the broadcaster was investigating the issue and would meet with representatives of staff members who signed the petition on Thursday.

"I would like to assure the committee it is being taken very seriously," she said.

Restructuring of SAfm:

SABC chief operations officer Chris Maroleng said it was not unusual for the SABC to reorient. He said he wanted to "move away from speculation of personalities".

The SABC is said to be overhauling SAfm, dropping the current format of current affairs shows that are produced by the news department.

Maroleng said SAfm, which is the only national English radio station under the public broadcaster's stable, struck a particularly low point in January 2017 when it only had 143 000 listeners, which is very low for a national station.

"The operating costs for SAfm are particularly onerous for the SABC," he said.

He said the low audience numbers were related to the talent pool, but did not want to speak about specific individuals.

"A decision was made to change its format from a simple news radio platform to talk radio with news," Maroleng said.

He said this was in compliance with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa's regulations which require public service stations to a carry certain number of current affairs programmes on their platforms.

He said talk show host Stephen Grootes was recruited in a search for compelling content to attract audiences. He is said to be replacing Sakina Kamwendo, who currently presents the station's flagship show AM Live between 06:00 and 09:00.

READ: Stephen Grootes to join SAfm - sources

Maroleng said he did not like to emphasise race in terms of recruitment, but Grootes was the only white person the broadcaster had brought in. The EFF has criticised the new additions on social media.

"This negates the notion that there has been an influx of white talent," Maroleng said.

He said the SABC didn't serve only black people, but a diverse audience.

Van Damme commended the broadcaster for headhunting talent from across media houses and said it shouldn't be intimidated by people who are basically saying it shouldn't hire white people.

Bailout from Treasury:

Last year the SABC asked Treasury for a guarantee of R3bn. Van Damme wanted to know what the progress with that was.

Deputy Minister of Communications Pinky Kekana said one of the commitments Communication Minister Nomvula Mokonyane had given the SABC was that the department would work with the SABC to secure a meeting with Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. This meeting was supposed to take place this week, but an unforeseen matter caused a delay.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng's legal costs of R22m:

SABC board member Michael Markovitz said the matter predated the current board, and it was approved by the previous board.

"The current board made sure that type of thing can never be done," said Markovitz.

READ: Hlaudi Motsoeneng's legal fees cost the SABC R22m - ministry

He said the previous board's controls were "not what we would have liked".

Van Damme said in terms of the SABC memorandum of incorporation it is "legally bound to recover those fees".

Read more on:    sabc

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