Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications kicked off its first day of interviews for South African Broadcasting Corporation board candidates on Tuesday morning with a candidate who, while soft spoken, did not bite her tongue about how bad corruption has been for the broadcaster.
The first candidate for the day, Jasmina Patel, is chief audit officer at University of Limpopo and has experience in auditing at PWC. She spoke at length about her history as an auditor, saying she has withstood interference and intimidation while doing her job before.
Committee member Democratic Alliance Phumzile Van Damme asked Patel what "creative" audit and finance solutions she would come up with for the SABC, other than getting it a government guarantee, if she were to be appointed to the board.
Patel said there should be stringent control over irregular expenditure and meetings with service providers and partners to ensure cost containment to prevent additional loss of income through irregular expenditure.
"The revenue model of the SABC needs another look. We need to go digital, embrace the fourth industrial revolution, [and] market ODT (open digital television) products like Netflix and Showmax at a more competitive rate. SABC must attract the youth," said Patel.
Committee member for the Economic Freedom Fighters Mbuyiseni Ndlozi asked Patel if she watched any programming on SABC television other than the news. Patel answered honestly that she did not, but said she listened to news radio station SAFM daily.
Committee member for the African National Congress Rembuluwani Tseli asked what role Patel believes she can play, if appointed as an SABC board member.
She said the type of challenges the SABC faces include sustainability, loss of viewers, and "a tsunami of fraud and corruption". She said the SABC needs to move into the digital realm urgently.
Van Damme said the SABC needed to be led by tough people and that Patel, to her, did not come across as someone confident or firm enough to stand up to political interference and an environment steeped in corruption.
Patel begged to differ, saying: "Yes, I am definitely in it. I may come across as timid; however, in my career, I have come across a number of contentious issues. These are fraud related issues. I have to put my foot down to get my job done and I always get it right."