SABC board's independence entrenched after court decision

2018-06-19 20:35
(Supplied)

(Supplied)

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The SABC board's independence has been entrenched thanks to the decision of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to dismiss the Minister of Communication's application for leave to appeal a ruling made last year.

The decision has been welcomed by Media Monitoring Africa's (MMA's) Thandi Smith on behalf of the MMA, the SOS Coalition and Freedom of Expression Institute. These organisations brought the initial application to declare invalid certain sections of the SABC's memorandum of incorporation dealing with the minister's ability to appoint or remove the SABC's top executives.

On October 17 last year, the same day that former president Jacob Zuma finally appointed the SABC board and shuffled Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane to the communications portfolio, Judge Elias Matojane ruled in the organisations' favour.

Matojane ruled that the board did not require the minister's approval to appoint executives.

In November, Kubayi-Ngubane indicated that she would ask the court for leave to appeal.

ALSO READ: SABC board seeks new members again

In February, musical chairs continued in the communications portfolio when President Cyril Ramaphosa moved Nomvula Mokonyane into the position. When they brought the application in 2015, Faith Muthambi was Communications Minister.

On Monday, Matojane dismissed the application for leave to appeal with costs after counsel for the Minister of Communications failed to appear in the High Court hearing in Pretoria, Smith said in her statement.

"This is a strong reinforcement of the victory for public interest broadcasting that was given last year by Judge Matojane," Smith said.

"For the SABC board, this judgment entrenches their independence and powers, free from ministerial interference.  It also means that they can now move boldly and swiftly in carrying out their fiduciary duties.  It is a positive step for entrenching independence of our public broadcaster and our democracy," Smith added.

"Moreover, for the SABC board this judgment comes also with a warning – the buck now stops with them. The success or failure of the SABC rests now largely on their shoulders and history will judge them cruelly if they fail to seize the moment and rebuild the SABC.

Alternatively, if they use the best of their skills and others still to come they may show not only the value of the public broadcaster but also fulfil a crucial role in informing, educating and entreating the public."

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