SABC set up to fail

Parliament has set the SABC board up to fail. President Zuma should reject the list of board nominees and return it for reconsideration.

The SABC belongs to the whole of South Africa; it is there to serve us all.

Why then is it that the ANC in Parliament, no doubt under the direction of Luthuli House, saw fit to ignore the views of opposition parties on the portfolio committee charged with considering the nominees?

Power tends to corrupt, in the words of Lord Acton; that the ANC sees nothing wrong with its actions shows how easy it is for a government too long in power to become corrupt.

Instead of following precedent and compiling a list enjoying the unanimous support of all the parties, the ANC rammed through the names it wanted. In effect it showed the finger and insisted on having only ANC “deployees”.

This is really depressing. The SABC is in crisis. Its finances are in a mess, with the auditor general declining to express an opinion.
Almost a billion rand in licence fees is not accounted for; millions more have been irregularly spent; the records are appallingly inadequate and the staffing situation is dire.

In addition, the CEO seems powerless; one has a plethora of acting appointments at senior level, with the acting COO, not even matriculated, being the real powerhouse, with remarkable views about his own abilities and peculiar views about a public broadcaster in a constitutional democracy.

It will be argued that there is a crisis because a temporary board goes out of existence any moment and for the governance of the SABC it is essential to have a new board in place.

Surely there is some way of extending the acting term of the current board. In any event, a new board consisting of those people recommended by Parliament does not inspire much confidence.

They are no doubt all jolly nice people. But how many of them are experienced enough and qualified enough to play the active director role that is so obviously required? The question may be asked: How many of these worthies have ever run a successful business that made money, employed people and paid taxes on profits derived not from being well-connected but from knowledge, skill and hard work?

There may be some, but not many. The next question is: how many of these could be or would be appointed as directors of major public companies? Maybe one or two? If that is so, why does Parliament want to entrust the people’s money and our affairs to a group consisting largely of probably well-meaning but totally inadequate amateurs?

This question is especially pertinent when one learns that as possible nominees, the ANC rejected several competent and able people.

The money involved runs into billions. The mandate of the SABC is to be the public broadcaster for our country and to inform and enlighten and entertain us without being a government propaganda medium promoting the political interests of the ANC in the run up to the election.

We now know what the ANC wants the SABC to do. Put things right, Mr President.

Follow the former opposition chief whip and former ambassador to Thailand on Twitter @dhmgibson


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