Parliament approves SABC board candidates, under spectre of interference fears

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The SABC building in Auckland Park in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The SABC building in Auckland Park in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Veli Nhlapo
  • Parliament had approved a list of 12 candidates to fill vacancies on the SABC's board.
  • However, concerns have been raised about some selected candidates due to their political party affiliations and work as advisors to the communications department.
  • The candidate list will be referred to President Cyril Ramaphosa for final appointment. 
  • For more financial news, go to the News24 Business front page

The National Assembly resolved to recommend the 12 shortlisted candidates to serve on the SABC board to President Cyril Ramaphosa for final appointment.

This resolution made on Tuesday afternoon in Parliament brings the list of 12 shortlisted candidates one step closer to becoming a fully fledged board of the troubled public service broadcaster.

However, concerns remained that the new board's mandate to save the broadcaster would be undermined by candidates seen as political appointees due to their party affiliations or their work history with the government.

Knowing that the term of the last SABC board expired in the middle of October, the communications subcommittee started the process of interviews for candidates in September. The interviews took place virtually and 12 of the 24 interviewed candidates were shortlisted, namely:

  • Former SABC head of news Phathiswa Magopeni
  • Veteran journalist, Renee Horn
  • Veteran journalist, Professor Frantz Kruger
  • Veteran journalist and broadcaster, Mpho Tsedu
  • Constitutional and corporate governance lawyer, Advocate Tseliso Thipanyane
  • Former Icasa councillor, Nomvuyiso Batyi
  • SABC board member, David Maimela
  • Former EFF MP, Magdalene Moonsamy
  • Former National Youth Development Agency CEO, Khathutshelo Ramukumba
  • Cultural and creative industries researcher, Aifheli Makhwanya
  • Rearabetsoe Motaung
  • Corporate communications specialist, Dinkwanyane Mohuba

In late November, the committee recommended names to the portfolio committee, which resolved that the shortlisted names be considered by the National Assembly. Committee chair and ANC MP Boyce Maneli presented the committee report for consideration in the National Assembly on Tuesday afternoon.

READ | Conflict of interest concerns arise as ministry advisor makes SABC board shortlist

While she supported the board's appointment, DA MP Diane Kohler-Barnard said continued cadre deployment at SOEs like the SABC showed that loyalty to the ANC trumped any other priorities in the government.

She said the committee knew for five years that the SABC board's term would expire in October and security vetting was little excuse for the delays in installing a new board.

"The SABC has been left without the board for nearly two months with no oversight over the CEO (Madoda Mxakwe), who apparently headed off to Qatar to watch the football. This was the same CEO who just weeks ago bragged to this committee how he brought the losses down to R201 million.

"But while he was focusing on his favourite football team, he scored an own goal as the losses projection suddenly trebled to a massive R608 million. Perhaps in this case he should have kept his eyes off of the football and kept it on the job he is paid such a ransom to do," said Kohler-Barnard.

Kohler-Barnard said Magopeni's return to the SABC as a board member means "a great wrong has been righted". She raised concern that Mpho Tsedu's status as an advisor at the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies showed "potential for a huge conflict of interest".

She also mentioned Maimela and Moonsamy as politically connected and "compromised", but she welcomed Horn's return, saying it would be good for continuity. She lamented allegations against Mahuba regarding his doctoral degree at the University of Limpopo, which are before the courts.

READ | Ousted SABC news head on the cusp of a comeback as a board member

Also supporting the report, EFF MP Vuyani Pambo said the collapse of the SABC remained one of the most unfortunate repercussions of the ANC's failed governance, as political interference at the broadcaster undermined freedom of expression and the right to access impartial and vital news.

"The collapse of the SABC undermined the huge potential for industrial opportunity in the telecommunications space and will only benefit the establishment and their companies. We have seen boards come and go with very little change because they get appointed with misguided political agendas. We hope that this board will be different," said Pambo.

IFP MP Zandile Majozi said her party was in full agreement with the 12 names included in the shortlist. She said the incoming board if appointed, should not be subjected to any political interference.

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