The SABC on Wednesday distanced itself from controversial comments by former chief operating officer (COO), Hlaudi Motsoaneng, that the interim board had no credibility.
Motsoeneng lashed out at the MPs who constituted a Parliament ad hoc committee to probe the fitness to hold office of the previous SABC board and claimed he did nothing wrong by implementing decisions such as ensuring 90% local content.
He also accused board member and human rights lawyer Krish Naidoo of having a conflict of interest.
Responding to Motsoeneng’s marathon media briefing, SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the broadcaster’s board would not be drawn into a public spat with Motsoeneng.
The SABC’s interim board began work earlier this month after new Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo gave it the green light following former minister Faith Muthambi’s attempts to halt its work.
“We have noted Hlaudi’s press conference and we are following it. But we are not going to be responding to Hlaudi because, like any other employee, this is a human capital department matter,” said Kganaygo.
“The board will not communicate with him through the media and will not respond. But it will engage with him directly as an employee. The board has six months to fix things [at] the SABC, including the finances and paying off service providers.”
Dlodlo also hit back at Motsoeneng’s attack on Naidoo, saying there was nothing untoward about the appointment of the interim board.
“The Broadcasting Act clearly made provision for the president to appoint the interim board within 10 days of receiving recommendations from the National Assembly,” she said.
“As government, we would like to assure the public that the current interim board is a legally constituted board.
“The board has been mandated to implement the SABC ad hoc committee’s recommendations and should be afforded the space to do its work. It is expected that the interim board should ensure proper functionality of the SA Broadcasting Cooperation so as to deliver on its public mandate as per the Broadcasting Act.”
Motsoeneng was replaced at the public broadcaster after a damning parliamentary ad hoc committee report that found the previous board had mismanaged the SABC, leading to losses of hundreds of millions of rands. The SABC reportedly needs as much as R3 billion in the form of a bailout.
Parliament’s ad hoc committee report followed a series of court actions, including a 2015 high court ruling that found Motsoeneng’s appointment as COO was unlawful.
Among the controversial decisions Mostoeneng enforced at the SABC while at the helm are the 90 percent local content on radio, banning of violent protests on TV, banning of reading newspaper headlines on radio, banning open-line calls on talk shows, the canning of Vuyo Mvoko’s “On The Record” TV programme, and increasing his salary by almost R1 million, from R2.8 to R3.7 million.
Kganyago admitted the SABC was under financial strain but said it ould be concluded that the 90/10 principle introduced by Motsoeneng was responsible for that, as the board was yet to make a determination.
“The SABC is in financial crisis as we speak, as we said a few weeks ago. We stipulated at the time that [was due to] factors, among others, such as the economy [not] doing well at the moment. It is not only SABC suffering. A lot of print media is suffering and we cannot be immune to that,” Kganyago said.
“The board is going to go through each and every decision we took the previous year; if any were took wrongly they are going reverse them. The board will also look into the 90/10 principle because it was a decision we made at the time. If there is a decline of viewership because of 90/10 we will present such to the board.”
– Additional reporting by African News Agency