SABC, MDDA dominate Communications budget vote

2018-05-10 22:10
Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane as she briefs the media on Wednesday's cabinet meeting. (Jan Gerber, News24)

Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane as she briefs the media on Wednesday's cabinet meeting. (Jan Gerber, News24)

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The debate on the Department of Communications covered familiar terrain as the SABC dominated MPs' speeches, much as it has in recent years.

But this year, the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) also received much attention.

Delivering her first budget speech as communications minister, Nomvula Mokonyane said: "As acknowledged by the president during the SONA (State of the Nation Address), there are a lot of challenges in the SOEs (state-owned enterprises) environment. Our portfolio is no different, particularly acknowledging the events at the South African Broadcasting Corporation and the Media Development and Diversity Agency."

She said, while the SABC is making a gradual recovery following the appointment of the new board, a lot of work still needs to be done.

"We will work with the boards of these two entities to expedite the appointment of key personnel so as to provide for leadership certainty, improve accountability and internal controls."

"In respect of the SABC in particular, we are determined to restore the SABC to financial stability, editorial credibility and to being a public broadcaster of integrity that supports our objectives of social cohesion and nation-building. We want to really engage in intense conversation with South Africans on building the SABC to reflect the above objectives."

She said television remains the medium of choice for most South Africans and a significant number of South Africans still depend solely on radio as a source of information.  

"The SABC is at the centre of our broadcasting industry and its challenges do not augur well for our nation-building project. "

She said her department would "beef up" their monitoring and oversight unit and ensure that there was adequate capacity to carry our stringent oversight.

Most of the opposition MPs who participated in the debate also raised matters of concern at the SABC and MDDA.

DA MP Phumzile van Damme and EFF MP Fana Mokoena expressed their concerns with the SABC's dealings with MultiChoice.

ACDP MP Steve Swart said the former board members of the SABC should be declared delinquent directors.

IFP MP Liezel van der Merwe expressed her concern about the well-being of journalists at the SABC.

"The MDDA is so dysfunctional that we believe it reached a point where it should be put under administration," Mokoena said.

Van Damme said the past three years has been an "exercise of utter frustration", as the portfolio had four ministers during this time.

"The constant shuffling of ministers led to constant policy uncertainty," she said.

She said it is quite clear another year would go by with South Africa failing to migrate to digital television.

"The lack of innovation and forward thinking in this department is embarrassing," she said.

For Mokoena, nothing has changed since Faith Muthambi was replaced as minister.

Mokonyane's previous post as Minister of Water Affairs and sanitation also boiled to the surface.

Mokoena said Mokonyane left that department bankrupt.

Van der Merwe said: "It would be remiss of me if I didn't mention your track record at water and sanitation."

She said Mokonyane left that department in chaos and she hopes she achieves the opposite at communications.

Van Damme said: "We wish Minister Mokonyane well for the time she is with us. In the ANC, you never know when a reshuffle is coming."

The department also didn't escape the budget cuts that characterises this year's budget votes.

The department's total budget for 2018-'19 is R1.5bn, which represents a R36m cut from the previous financial year.

ANC MP and chairperson of Portfolio Committee on Communications, Humphrey Maxegwana, said the department consistently performed well despite being underfunded.

"There needs to be an open and frank conversation about the anomaly about an underfunded department," he said.

Read more on:    mdda  |  sabc  |  nomvula mokonyane

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