Minister dilutes SABC board powers

Some SABC board members are up in arms after Communications Minister Faith Muthambi unilaterally amended the articles of association of the corporation to ensure board members were not consulted in connection with the recent high-profile appointments there.

They found out about the appointments after the SABC publicly announced the appointment of five general executive managers on November 27.

This was a departure from an established tradition and a requirement of the memorandum of incorporation – one of many instruments that regulates the relationship of the SABC and the state – that board members approve the appointment of executive managers.

The SABC announced the appointments of Jimi Mathews as group executive of news, Bessie Tugwana as head of sport, Sully Motsweni as group executive of stakeholder relations and provinces, Nothando Maseko as head of television news and Sebolelo Ditlhakanyane as head of radio news.

SABC company secretary Theresa Geldenhuys informed the SABC board members about the new appointments last Thursday afternoon via email and hours after acting group chief executive officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng announced them on an SABC TV breakfast show earlier that day.

City Press has seen correspondence between Motsoeneng, Geldenhuys and two board members where they raised their concerns with the process.

Board member Hope Zinde wrote: “Weren’t these proposed appointments supposed to be brought to the board for ratification and sanctioning or non-sanctioning? My understanding is that the board should have been approached first before the appointments are formalised and announced.

“Why are we on the board, to just rubber-stamp? I do not agree,” she wrote.

Geldenhuys’ response to Zinde showed that Muthambi had amended the memorandum of incorporation and had delegated the authority to appoint and/or discipline general executives to the chief executive, COO and CFO.

“For your reference, below is the extract of [the] clause: the powers to appoint and to discipline staff and members of the SABC management team are delegated to GCEO, CFO and COO and can only be revoked by the minister.”

She said it was the prerogative of the minister, in her capacity as the shareholder representative, to delegate matters and to amend the memorandum accordingly. Muthambi acts as the state’s shareholder at the SABC.

The correspondence shows that Muthambi unilaterally amended the memorandum of incorporation to approve the appointment of senior managers from the board to SABC management.

Zinde could not be reached for comment.

Another board member, Rachel Kalidass, asked for a copy of the amended memorandum and demanded details of the amendment and “any other changes made by the minister to the memorandum of incorporation as these have not been brought to our attention up until now”.

Muthambi’s office refused to say why she had instituted the changes and if there were going to be any more changes. It referred all questions to the SABC.

SABC board sources suspect that Muthambi only made the amendments after the executive board members led by Motsoeneng had decided on the appointments without consulting nonexecutive board members.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago confirmed that the appointment of the group executives was done by three executive directors and that board members were informed accordingly.

He said they were not aware of any board member who was unhappy about the process that was followed.

“It must be noted that we take exception to anyone who leaks information to the media and we will do everything in our power to deal with anyone who is caught leaking our documents and any other information.”

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