Hlaudi's shadow looms over SABC board interviews

Former South African Broadcasting Corporation chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng's shadow loomed long during the interviews of two board candidates at Parliament on Wednesday.

The portfolio committee on communications on Wednesday morning interviewed a total of three shortlisted candidates hoping to join the public broadcaster's board, namely former SABC board member Sembie Danana, Matsila Community Development Trust head Livhuwani Matsila, and Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants (Abasa) founding father William Malema Ramoshaba. The three are part of a list of 24 shortlisted candidates.

During his time at the SABC, Motsoeneng was implicated in a report by then-Public Protector Thuli Madonsela regarding mismanagement at the SABC, which found, among other things, that his appointment was irregular and that he had irregularly hiked both his salary and those of certain staff members.

Hlaudi voted out, bounced back

Danana was first up. He spoke of his history in advancing journalism at an academic level and instances when he stood up to errant executives at the broadcaster.

However, Democratic Alliance MP Phumzile van Damme and Economic Freedom Fighters MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi took the opportunity to ask him about his role in a previous board before Motsoeneng became COO at the public service broadcaster.

Ndlozi asked Danana about his previous membership on the SABC board during what he called "the rise of Hlaudi", asking Danana to explain what he did about Motsoeneng's growing influence.

"There was a recommendation, which came from the board chair at the time (Ben Ngubane) about appointing Hlaudi for a month. We said no.

"At a meeting here in Cape Town, 11 of the 12 board members elected to have Hlaudi removed and sent back to Bloemfontein," Danana answered.

Danana said despite the fact that he did not believe Motsoeneng was qualified or competent to serve on the board, Motsoeneng somehow managed to find himself at the helm of the broadcaster after he left the board.

'No is not enough'

Van Damme welcomed Danana and asked him what he did to stop Motsoeneng from taking over the broadcaster.

"She pressed, "What did you do? It's not enough to say you said no in a meeting.

"I am even harder on people who have been on the board before, particularly those who quit. I want to appoint board members that I know have backbone. What did you do about Hlaudi?" said Van Damme.

No friend of the president

Ndlozi asked Matsila about his friendship with President Cyril Ramaphosa and if this could affect the broadcaster's independence. Matsila denied having any friendship with the president.

Ndlozi told Matsila that he took exception to his remarks that SABC news platforms should also tell positive inspiring stories.

"That is wrong! You are starting to sound like Hlaudi. You can't dictate to the newsroom what stories to tell," Ndlozi said.

Ndlozi told the third interviewee for the day, Ramoshaba, that he was uncomfortable with his age. He is 70 years old.

Ramoshaba, however, said the SABC needed integrity from people with a tried and tested track record.

Ramoshaba, despite having little presence online, has served on various boards. His CV includes experience at Bay City Trading, Ebony Accounting & Secretarial Services, Standard Chartered Bank, Standard Bank, and Coopers & Lybrand Auditors (now PWC).

In 1985, he was among the founders of Abasa.

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