Parties lament ‘weak’ SABC board candidates

Phumzile van Damme
Phumzile van Damme
Jaco Marais

Members of Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications are disappointed with the calibre of candidates who were interviewed for the SABC board this week.

The committee is in a race against time to come up with eight people to fill vacancies in the board of the troubled public broadcaster.

The vacancies come after the resignation of a number of credible members due to ongoing political interference.

The committee sat for three days this week, interviewing 24 shortlisted candidates.

The DA’s Phumzile van Damme and the EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said that the calibre of the candidates was disappointing.

This was the result of the SABC being tainted, leading to a failure to attract credible candidates.

This was in contradiction to a statement issued by the committee’s chairperson, Hlengiwe Mkhize, who said the candidates demonstrated the “required level of expertise in different fields, including corporate governance, law, finance, accounting and art and culture, as well as journalism.”

Ndlozi said that of the 24 candidates, only four checked all the boxes for him.

“My view is very simple: it is that the ANC prefers a weak walkover board, so the short list was populated in the main by the names they wanted. Somebody, for example, like Advocate Lufuno Nevondwe, who didn’t know what the fourth industrial revolution was.

Mbuyiseni Ndlozi

"There was also Advocate Mathews Mofokeng, from the Free State, who didn’t know what DTT (digital terrestrial transmission) and OTT (over-the-top) was. There were completely clueless people in the entire 200-and-something list.

"The short list of the DA was also disappointing. They brought the old white man (Rowan Nicholls) who doesn’t watch or listen to the SABC. He says M-Net is on SABC,” Ndlozi said.

“For the EFF it is going to be very difficult because our standards are very high. I am happy with my candidate, Marcia Socikwa. I am also happy with Nokuzola Ehrens, Lulama Mokhobo and Itani Tseisi. Those people will hit the ground running. So there are three women and one guy for me, the rest is going to be extremely hard.”

Van Damme said she had not yet decided who her picks would be and also emphasised that the vetting process for criminal records and qualifications still needed to take place.

The MP also lamented the calibre of questions asked by some of the committee members.

“We did thorough research with the resources that we had, whereas the ANC just prepared questions and relied on that without looking into their backgrounds. Of course the things that we found while researching doesn’t disqualify anyone. We want the candidates to have the chance to give clarity on those things and they did,” Van Damme said.

“People are at times more interested in ensuring that they are represented on the board as a political party, instead of choosing the best candidates. That is how boards fall apart. One member, Nhlanhla Xaba, was insisting on asking political questions and he had to be called to order. We had to make it clear that this was not a political campaign.”

Over the three days, Xaba had consistently asked candidates how they would ensure that the SABC told the “good story”’ of government over the past 25 years.

He also asked candidates their views on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Thuma Mina campaign as well as the role of the SABC.

Mkhize defended this line of questioning, telling City Press that she did not interpret the questioning as being politically motivated.

“I don’t think it was because the members don’t know the mandate of the SABC.

“I thought they were determining whether it is the role of the entity to inform citizens not only about bad things, but also about whatever is good. I think it is a given. When you give information you don’t screen it and say ‘I will only pull out the negative’. It is part of creating an informed citizenry,” Mkhize said.

The chairperson said that she was also “taken aback” by Van Damme’s request to only begin deliberations in two weeks’ time, given the rush to have a board in the run-up to the May 8 elections.

Van Damme had told the committee she first wanted to meet with her party’s caucus this Thursday.

Mkhize said she was confident that the vacancies could be filled by quality candidates.

“Depending on how we put everything together and how we combine strength and experience, we can come up with a board that brings different strengths.

"Some candidates have direct experience, and of course there were questions in terms of personalities (about why they had not succeeded in other places), but I still saw strength there that might be a disruptor for a good cause but not tear the whole thing apart.”

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