South Africa – National assembly adopts report on SABC governance crisis

BD Live

07 March 2017 – 16:51 PM Bekezela Phakathi
Picture: TIMESLIVE
Picture: TIMESLIVE

The National Assembly has formally adopted the report by Parliament’s ad hoc committee that probed governance failings at the SABC.

While all nonexecutive SABC board members resigned in 2016, the ad hoc committee report, which was finalised in February, formally recommends the dissolution of the board, including executive directors.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, who has been blamed for the crisis at the public broadcaster, was not in Parliament on Tuesday as MPs debated the report.

Opening the debate in the National Assembly, Vincent Smith, who chaired the ad hoc committee, said the board and the executive directors had failed to execute their fiduciary responsibilities.

 

The executive directors are acting CEO James Aguma, acting chief financial officer Audrey Raphela, and Bessie Tugwana, previously head of corporate affairs and now acting chief operating officer.

Significantly, the report suggests that President Jacob Zuma “reconsider” Muthambi’s “desirability” in the Cabinet.

Members of the ad hoc committee have suggested that Muthambi may have violated the Constitution by, among other things, acting in a way that “improperly” benefited Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the public broadcaster’s former chief operating officer.

Motsoeneng, who featured prominently during various witnesses’ testimony, had also been blamed for the mess at the public broadcaster.

The ad hoc committee points out in its report that Muthambi interfered in SABC board matters and undermined the Broadcasting Act. She has also been criticised for the illegal amendments she made to the SABC’s memorandum of incorporation (MOI), which gave her and Motsoeneng total control of the public broadcaster.

The amendment of the MOI has been seen as one of the catalysts in the demise of the SABC board and the complete collapse of good governance.

The SABC submitted a response to the report in February questioning the manner in which the inquiry had been conducted. It claimed that the committee had “displayed specific bias” and that this had led to a predetermined outcome. The public broadcaster also said the inquiry had been accusatorial rather than inquisitorial.

In a written submission to the ad hoc committee in February, Motsoeneng’s lawyer said his client felt “prejudiced” because he had not been invited to take the witness stand.

Last week, Motsoeneng said it was unfair that the committee had chosen not to hear directly from him.

The UDM, the only party to object to the adoption of the report, said it did not support its adoption mainly because the ad hoc committee had denied Motsoeneng the opportunity to state his side of the story.

Some of the recommendations contained in the final report include that:

• A forensic investigation into suspect deals at the SABC, along with contracts, salary increases and bonus payments, be undertaken.

• The validity of the board’s MOI be investigated by the interim board in concert with the portfolio committee on communications.

• The interim board ensure that the top three senior executive management positions (CEO, chief operating officer and chief financial officer) are filled by suitably qualified and experienced individuals.

• The current editorial policy is scrapped and new editorial guidelines with public participation are created.

The SABC interim board, which is due to be appointed in the coming weeks, will be tasked with implementing some of the recommendations.

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