The second day of the interviews for the SABC board ended on an embarrassing note last night with the last candidate to be interviewed for the day leaving without fielding a single question from MPs.
Michael Bauer’s turn on the hot seat arrived just after 8pm. He introduced himself as a managing director of a national property company, who thought he should be on the public broadcaster’s board because he was very “good in everything he did” and was a taxpayer.
It then emerged that Bauer was not a South African citizen but a permanent resident with a South African identity document.
The Broadcasting Act, which governs the SABC, states that “a person will not qualify to be appointed to the board if such a person is not a citizen of and not a permanent resident in the republic”.
Embarrassed MPs spent about 20 minutes discussing – in Bauer’s presence – whether to proceed and interview him. But they eventually decided on seeking legal advice, which could not be immediately sought as it was already late in the day.
The day’s first candidate Sindile Kama, a former teacher from Mqanduli had no such citizenship issues. In fact, one of his fond memories was having taught at a school in Qunu and having one of the country’s most loved former citizens, Nelson Mandela, wandering into his class to greetings of “good morning tata” by his pupils.
Kama, an IT specialist who runs a shisanyama business in Gugulethu, would like to see the SABC “decentralised” so that there are SABC channels in and for every province. But Kama struggled in answering questions around TV licence revenue streams and on the best funding model for the SABC.
Overall, despite not having a background in media, he was a well-prepared candidate who had obviously read up on the SABC, broadcasting and issues affecting the public broadcaster in the past few years.
Former board member Rachel Kalidass – who was unceremoniously removed from the board by her colleagues, alongside Hope Zinde and Ronnie Lubisi after refusing to support Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s appointment as permanent chief operations officer – was among the best performers in the interviews. Sources close to Kalidass have previously told City Press that the chartered account wants an opportunity to clear her name and not end her board career with a dismissal from the SABC board as had happened in 2015.
MPs’ questions focused on her stint on the previous board, especially her role in that dysfunctional board, but it was a story she had previously told to the ad hoc committee, which conducted an inquiry into the SABC in December.
Another female candidate who excelled in all things SABC, broadcasting, regulation and editorial and had MPs nodding along to her points was Nomvuyiso Batyi, who was an Independent Communications Authority of South Africa councillor until four months ago. It looked like she had bagged her seat; until her ghosts from the past crept out through Congress of the People’s Willie Madisha.
“I put it to you that you believe in corruption, and unless you give me the antithesis, I will remain in that kind of belief.”
Madisha, referring to a media report about how former Communications Minister Faith Muthambi attempted to unduly influence Batyi by offering her Icasa chairmanship, in return for Icasa awarding a TV broadcasting licence to a Gupta-owned TV company.
Madisha asked why Batyi didn’t go to the police with this information, and also why she allegedly threatened Muthambi when the offer of chairmanship did not materialise.
Batyi confirmed receiving a letter from Muthambi offering her chairmanship of Icasa but added that this was later withdrawn. She vehemently denied that there was a condition attached to it and while she initially sought to sue Muthambi, she abandoned the legal process due to high costs of legal representation.
Batyi had earlier revealed that, together with her former colleagues at Icasa, she had previously stood up to Muthambi who introduced a memorandum of incorporation (MOI) to all entities under her department.
“We wrote and engaged the minister and said no, that the MOI is changing the legislative framework and we cannot be signatories to it. At the end, we ended up not signing it,” she said.
Isidingo actor Jack Devnarain’s interview proved a walk in the park for the former police officer.
He had star struck MPs – who constantly referred to him by his stage name, “Rajesh” – eating out of his hand. Even hardened corporate governance lords like Mondli Gungubele were fawning over Devnarain. “Should I call you Rajesh. You make some of us late for work sometimes…” he said.
Devnarain’s interview mainly focused on the rights of artists, especially those who were contracted performers. He urged MPs not to allow the independence of the public broadcaster to be contaminated by political interference especially its editorial policies
Surprisingly, Krish Naidoo, who served in the previous board and in the interim board whose term ends later this month, had a hard time convincing MPs about his association with the ANC and a potential conflict of interest of this association. After toing and froing, Naidoo tried to distance himself from the governing party when he said he said the ANC was just a client like other political parties who used his legal services.
City Press understood that some factions of the ANC were not happy with his inclusion in the interim board when it was appointed earlier this year. They cited his membership of the board which was dissolved by Parliament last year.
Some have claimed that he was too close to the secretary-general of the ANC’s Gwede Mantashe and they felt he was doing his bidding in the SABC board when it came to the party’s internal fights.
The interviews continue this morning.
*City Press’ coverage of the SABC board interviews was done in partnership with SOS coalition, a civil society coalition committed to, and campaigning for, public broadcasting that is in the public interest. Visit the SOS coalition for more.