SABC interviews continue: A 'Hlaudi fan', two election campaigners and a second take

Experience may not have been the best teacher for South African Broadcasting Corporation board hopefuls Advocate Lekalakala and Nkosana Mbokane.

The two were being interviewed by the portfolio committee for communications in Parliament on Tuesday for vacant positions on the SABC’s board. It was soon established that it was the second time each candidate was vying for an SABC board position.

However, both were grilled by committee member for the Democratic Alliance Phumzile van Damme and committee member for the Economic Freedom Fighters Mbuyiseni Ndlozi on various issues.

Lekalakala was asked about his alleged role in previous instances of mismanagement while Mbokane was asked about an opinion piece he wrote about former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

'Competence as well as character'

Lekalakala served as secretary of council in the City of Johannesburg - one of his main motivations for his board appointment.

Ndlozi and Van Damme, however, quizzed him about his role in millions lost in the procurement of computers.

Lekalakala cited related documents in the matter, insisting that he hid nothing.

Van Damme told Lekalakala that she was not satisfied with the answer. She said the SABC board positions required individuals with competence as well as character.

"Character is essential to saving the SABC.

"When corruption pervades an organisation, people will ask 'what did you do?' It will not be enough for you to say 'I was a good bureaucrat'," said Van Damme.

Hlaudi, Molefe 'excellent leaders'

Mbokane has also been interviewed by Parliament about an SABC board position before.

The Katlehong-born candidate has an MBA in corporate strategy, among other qualifications, and currently serves on the Agricultural Produce Agents Council, which falls under the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Van Damme asked Mbokane about an opinion piece he wrote about former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, in which he called them "excellent black leaders who [were] under siege". Mbokane denied immediately that he was a Hlaudi fan.

"SABC is currently at ground zero because of Hlaudi Motsoeneng and you wrote in 2016 that he was being targeted.

"How can we trust you on a board that is meant to fix the mess that people like Hlaudi made?" Van Damme asked.

Mbokane responded, saying, "Maybe I should not have cited those people for my argument, because I believe it was a good argument.

"It was informed by what I knew at the time. In hindsight, I should not have cited those people."

Van Damme did not back down.

"You knew full well that Hlaudi was a corrupt person. The media was full of information about him. A Public Protector report implicated him in corruption. I will not support a candidate that defends such a person," she said.

ANC affiliations

Also under the microscope were board hopefuls Advocate Siphile Buthelezi and David Maimela, whose open support for ruling party the African National Congress was questioned during the interview process.

Both have campaigned for the governing party on their private social media accounts ahead of the May election.

Buthelezi helped found the Progressive Professionals Forum and chaired SAA technical. Maimela told the committee that he had experience in the Gauteng Provincial Government and considers himself "a student of public policy".

Ndlozi asked Buthelezi whether it was fair to appoint SABC board members who actively campaigned for the ANC on social media. Buthelezi said this was fair and legal, as did Maimela.

Ndlozi, however, continued his line of questioning, "If a judge appears on social media for an accused in a serious crime, how can the accuser hope to get a fair trial?"

Buthelezi maintained, multiple times, that it was fair, saying MPs campaigned for political parties ahead of elections.

Ndlozi restated the question, insisting that his vote on Buthelezi's board appointment depended on his answer. Ndlozi took Buthelezi's consistent answers to mean he would continue to campaign for the ANC if he were appointed to the board.

Buthelezi then said he would stop all conduct that constituted a conflict if appointed.  

Like Buthelezi, Maimela maintained it was fair for a candidate to campaign for their party of choice in the upcoming elections.

Ndlozi asked Maimela whether he agreed with the ANC's calls for a media tribunal. Maimela said there were many ways to regulate the media and South Africans should not fear the debate.

* This article has been updated to reflect that it was only Advocate Lekalakala who was grilled in relation to allegations of instances of previous mismanagement and not Nkosana Mbokane. Mbokane, who was asked questions in relation to his opinion piece on former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng also denied that he was a fan of Motsoeneng during the interview. Fin24 apologises for any inconvenience caused. 

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