If President Jacob Zuma or one of his many Union Buildings media aides wanted to discuss editorial matters with the SABC, that message should have been conveyed through the parliamentary communications committee.
Meeting editorial managers of the public broadcaster before Zuma could appoint a board of directors, as recommended by parliament, has raised many unanswered questions.
This is a view expressed by SOS Coalition, an NGO established to support public broadcasting. Its national organiser, Duduetsang Makuse, said the organisation was shocked to learn of the contentious meeting, particularly as it is Zuma himself who appears to be stalling the appointment of the board of directors.
The SABC is currently without a board of directors and executive management. All three top positions of CEO, COO and CFO are occupied on acting basis. Last week, Zuma told the media he was still applying his mind before he could officially inaugurate the board of directors, with parliament having whittled it down to a list of 12.
“It [the meeting] was absolutely inappropriate. If he wanted to address editorial issues there are other oversight bodies and existing democratic and open processes [to deal with concerns].
“It is untoward, under the circumstances. We want the minister to allow the board members to appoint senior executive skilled management. Close to 7 million people in the country rely on the public broadcaster that [it cannot] be politically manipulated,” Makuse added.
Presidential spokesperson Dr Bongani Ngqulunga denied the allegations that two staff members from the SABC national news bureau, general manager of news Kenneth Makatees and head of TV news Nyana Molete, were “summoned”.
“There was nothing suspicious or sinister about the interaction with the SABC. We have similar interactions with journalists from other news organisations, and we will continue to do so.”
SABC national spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago described the DA’s claims as “ridiculous”.
“We have stakeholders. We meet stakeholders from time to time. There was nothing sinister about that‚” ANA reported Kganyago as having said today.
Meanwhile, DA shadow minister of communications Phumzile Van Damme told The Citizen that during this afternoon’s meeting in parliament, Minister of Communications Ayanda Dlodlo assured the committee the board would be announced soon.
“We have just been informed by the communications minister in Parliament today that the appointment is likely to happen within the week. We await that,” she wrote in response to The Citizen.