The SABC is two steps away from getting a new board of directors after Parliament’s communications committee selected 12 names to spearhead the rebuilding of the public broadcaster.
The names of Khanyisile Kweyama, Mathata Tsedu, Michael Markovitz, Nomvuyiso Batyi, Rachel Kalidass, Dikwanyane Mohuba, Jack Phalane, Bongumusa Makhathini, Victor Rambau, John Matisonn, Krish Naidoo and Febe Potgieter-Gqubule will be presented to the National Assembly this afternoon for adoption by the House before they are presented to President Jacob Zuma to formally appoint the new board. The interim board’s six-month term ends on September 26.
The multi-party communications committee retained all five members of the interim board but it was no smooth sailing for Potgieter-Gqubule and Naidoo to get in. While the recruitment process has been largely amenable, the last hour of the process was heated with accusations and counter accusations of political bias as the opposition objected to the inclusion of the two ANC members.
In the end, the ANC had to use its majority following the hour-long stalemate. All parties were in unison in proposing Kweyama, Tsedu, Markovitz, Batyi, Kalidass and Rambau. With a bit of horse-trading, Matisonn and Phalane were in. But that’s where the niceties ended.
In including Potgieter-Gqubule and Naidoo, who were grilled by the opposition about their political affiliation during their interviews last week, ANC MP Lerumo Kalako said the party was satisfied with the way the duo had handled the work [of the interim board] under pressure and their achievements as part of that collective.
But the opposition begged to differ.
DA MP Phumzile van Damme said the party was going to be strong against the deployment of individuals who are intensely involved in the ruling party.
“We don’t have an issue with the people who were involved in the ANC, for example in the struggle against apartheid; there were lots of people involved in that struggle. [But] what we are going to be against is people who are intricately involved in the ANC,” she said.
Van Damme said the DA’s preferred candidates were people who have fulfilled the skills set in terms of the Broadcasting Act.
Economic Freedom Fighters MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said he was uncomfortable with Potgieter-Gqubule because she seemed to harbour ambitions of holding a political office and was not a mere political party member. Ndlozi noted that Potgieter-Gqubule seemed prepared to leave the SABC board in the event she is elected into the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) in December.
“But it is even more dangerous to be in the board prior to being in the NEC, because she could be seen to be using the SABC to campaign towards that position,” he said.
“She is an outright politician. She is ambitious of being a politician; she wants to be in the NEC.” Ndlozi referred to a statement made by Naidoo in Parliament last year that the ANC had asked him to help rebuild the party. This instruction from the governing party made him uncomfortable.
Ndlozi also expressed concern at the overall quality of the candidates who applied to be on the SABC board and those that were shortlisted. He said the poor quality had left the committee with not many qualified, articulate and experienced women to choose from. He suggested that a woman be appointed the new chairperson of the board. This is up to the president.
In Naidoo and Potgieter-Gqubule’s defence was ANC MP Mondli Gungubele who argued that the duo were not just academically qualified, but had a track record in society and both had served in the interim board without any negative view about their performance, and instead the work of the interim board was appreciated by society. Gungubele listed the duo’s credentials, not in the ANC but in the boards, state and other societal organisations they have served in. “As the ANC we envisaged in future a mature democracy where South Africanness would prevail over ideological partisanship and people who demonstrate their ability to be South African whenever they are called upon to do so should be rewarded. In our view there are no better people to be acknowledged for that purpose than these two,” argued Gungubele.
Meanwhile, the committee also heard that two of the 34 candidates it interviewed last week had criminal records, while four had negative credit records. One of the candidates who performed well in the interviews was excluded due to this.
While MPs initially felt it was unfair to exclude candidates because of their financial standing; they left the candidate out because he did not declare the matter during the interview. “This point of people having credit records and being excluded, that to me is a problem. We need to understand the situation in our country that very many people have not been working; we have a problem. We need to consider that,” he had argued.
The SOS Coalition which has fought for a corruption-free and independent public broadcaster is pleased with “what looks like a list of very strong candidates”, it said yesterday.
“Many on the list have proven track records in their respective professions so we hope that the SABC and indeed, South Africa, will benefit from their expertise,” said Duduetsang Makuse of the civil society group.
She said they were looking forward to working with the new board to build a citizen-orientated public broadcaster that will work towards the deepening our democracy.
Makuse noted that the process was quite rushed. “We would have loved to have seen the full list of 363 applicants as well as their nominating parties. We would have hoped for a secondary shortlisting process to avoid having poorly qualified candidates on the final shortlist of 36. I think those people took up places that could have been occupied by stronger candidates,” she said.
Makuse said they would also have preferred for the public to have a longer period to review the final shortlist and to make their submissions.
We're also calling on the new board to adopt and commit to the principles we believe would build a SABC that works for us all. Don't forget to support and join our campaign. Sign the petition here.
** The SOS coalition and City Press are following the interviews beat by beat and reporting on our websites and our social media platforms.
We would like to thank the 34 candidates who availed themselves for an intense interview process for the SABC board, last week. These will be the people that ensure that the SABC’s management is acting in the best interests of the public. We are certain that the National Assembly will appoint board members that are qualified and suitable for the mammoth task at hand.
However, a new board does not mean that the troubles at the SABC are over. Our public broadcaster still has a long way to go before it can efficiently fulfil the education, entertainment and information needs of the South African audience.
The appointment of a new board means that we, the public, have an opportunity to ensure that the incoming SABC board has a clear mandate from us, in how best we should be served and how to steer it out of the governance and financial chaos it finds itself in.
To members of the incoming SABC board,
We, the undersigned, call on you to ensure that public programming is credible, reliable, balanced and offers audiences variety. To achieve this, and in line with international best practice, we call on you to commit to using your term in governance to ensure that the SABC adopts and adheres to the following principles:
Every person in South Africa is able to receive both radio and television programming in all official languages, thereby strengthening the goals of our Constitution.
The SABC is independent of commercial, state and/or partisan interests.
Content must reflect the full range of South African opinions, particularly the views of the traditionally marginalized. This means that the public broadcaster must set the bar in terms of local content production and that the majority of its budget must be allocated to promoting, commissioning and producing local content.
The SABC must draft a new Charter that commits the broadcaster to the broadcasting of cutting edge, people-orientated programming, which must be developed through a consultative process between Parliament and the SABC. It should be reviewed and updated regularly.
The SABC must review, update and implement its editorial policies regularly to ensure that it plays its watchdog role while catering to all audiences in the upcoming digital, multichannel environment.
The SABC offers a forum for democratic debate, while also including content and issues originating from outside of the country to contribute to people’s knowledge of, and exposure to the world and issues outside of South Africa’s borders.
Journalists in the SABC must be protected from political and commercial interests so that they can play their key information gathering and dissemination roles in the interests of the broadcaster’s audience.
Additional public participation mechanisms must be investigated and implemented to ensure accountability to its audience.