SABC acting group CEO now more powerful than Hlaudi

2017-10-15 06:00
Minister of Communications Ayanda Dlodlo. (Photo: GCIS)

Minister of Communications Ayanda Dlodlo. (Photo: GCIS)

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The SABC’s acting group chief executive officer (GCEO), Nomsa Philiso, this week became more powerful than even controversial former boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

Not only did Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo extend Philiso’s term as acting GCEO, she also delegated the accounting authority of the SABC board to her.

The broadcaster has been without a board since last month, when the publicly praised interim board’s six-month term came to an end.

“Some people laugh that board meetings at the SABC are now Nomsa and herself,” said one of five impeccably placed sources, currently or formerly working at the broadcaster, whom City Press spoke to this week.

None of them wished to be named, given the tensions at the broadcaster.

They confirmed that Dlodlo had given Philiso the power of the board, even though the matter was unclear after the minister and the acting GCEO appeared before the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications on Tuesday to discuss the SABC’s monumental R977m loss, after tax, in the financial year ending March 2017.

Kaizer Kganyago, the SABC’s head of communications, said no MPs asked Philiso the question directly and that “you will note that the minister of communications ... clearly stated that she had delegated the powers of accounting authority to Ms Philiso”.

However, City Press was unable to find Dlodlo’s clear statement to this effect in the audio recording of the parliamentary session.

At best, when asked, she does not deny granting these powers to the SABC’s acting executives.

DA spokesperson Phumzile van Damme, a member of the parliamentary committee, said: “It is absolutely untrue that the minister informed Parliament that she had delegated board authority to the acting CEO.

I double-checked this with other people who were at the meeting.

The first issue discussed was the fact that the SABC did not have a board, which was the correct body, as its accounting authority, to be briefing Parliament about its annual report.

This would have been the time that the minister informed Parliament of the delegation of authority. She did not.”

Dlodlo’s spokesperson, Mava Scott, clarified on Friday that Philiso had, in fact, been granted board powers.

Philiso was in Zambia later this week to sign an agreement with the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, her trip a part of the SABC’s news coverage of President Jacob Zuma’s visit to the country.

Power vacuum

Zuma continues to delay the announcement of the new board and its chair and deputy, apparently stalling to find ways to retain control of the public broadcaster.

This is despite Dlodlo stating on Tuesday that the board matter would probably be resolved this week.

She also said that new SABC executives would be appointed by the end of January, with critics sounding a warning that the SABC will be run by acting executives, some tainted by being close to Motsoeneng, a Zuma ally, during the ANC’s all-important December elective conference.

Scott dismissed concerns, saying: “This is just over 90 days and the process to recruit suitable candidates for these positions requires diligence and thorough scrutiny to ensure that the entity gets the best candidates, who will eventually turn the institution around.

"Operations of the SABC are continuing in the normal course under the stewardship of the acting executives, and the ANC’s December conference will not be an exception in this regard.”

Insiders are also concerned about acting executives liaising with the Special Investigating Unit as they may be implicated in the investigations currently under way at the SABC.

On Friday, civil society groups Media Monitoring Africa and the SOS Coalition filed an urgent legal application to compel Zuma to announce the board without further delay.

The big bucks

The SABC’s annual report revealed that Philiso had earned, with commission and benefits, R3.37m in a year, the highest paid of the SABC’s senior management – but well below Motsoeneng, who earned R15.69m, including his controversial R11.5m bonus for brokering the SABC’s deal with MultiChoice, which is currently under investigation.

Kganyago denied that an R877 000 commission paid to Philiso was unusual, saying it reflected “commission earnings for her role as group executive of commercial enterprises, before she was group executive: television ... The commission comes with the role.”

Philiso’s former appointment as head of SABC TV is also the subject of a Public Service Commission probe into several of Motsoeneng’s apparently unilateral appointments.

In response, the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers’ Union (Bemawu) declared a dispute with the SABC, saying it was irregular as posts were not advertised.

In her yearlong tenure as the SABC’s head of TV, Philiso was criticised for taking trips to the US to attend a party for soapie The Bold and the Beautiful and for the BET Awards while the SABC’s latest financial crisis hit and independent producers went unpaid.

Kganyago stressed that Philiso was invited and that “these costs were not carried by the SABC”.

Worthy of the role?

Both Mava and Kganyago said Philiso was one of the three names recommended by the interim board for the permanent GCEO position at the SABC.

But, said Kganyago, she “has no interest in the job”.

Not all SABC sources agree. While some described Philiso as “hard working” and “a good person”, others called her “viciously ambitious” and “focused on the CEO position”.

Philiso has worked at the SABC since 1994 and, says Kganyago, was “already a general manager within the corporation before Mr Motsoeneng became a group executive”.

The financial manager was championed, say two sources, by her apparent friend, SABC executive and Motsoeneng ally Sully Motsweni, rising through the technology and commercial sales divisions.

Motsweni, cited with Motsoeneng in a damning Public Protector report in 2014, is currently on suspension and under investigation, say the sources, for nondisclosure of interests.

Kganyago confirmed this but would not elaborate on the reasons for her suspension.

Philiso has also been criticised by insiders for signing off on the implementation of the initially disastrous Landmark advertising system for calculating SABC radio sales.

Earlier this year, City Press estimated that the decision cost the SABC R300m, but Kganyago disputes the amount.

“The minister has no reason to doubt the integrity and professional competence of Ms Nomsa Philiso as acting GCEO of the SABC,” said Mava.

Looming strike

Meanwhile, Bemawu and the Communications Workers’ Union, representing the bulk of the SABC’s staff, sent Dlodlo a letter on Friday, threatening strike action within seven days if their concerns about the delayed appointment of the board and the continued grip on power by Motsoeneng “enforcers” were not addressed.

Read more on:    sabc  |  ayanda dlodlo  |  nomsa philiso

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