DA accuses ANC of meddling in SABC board ‘chaos’

Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

The opposition claims the ruling party wants the board to collapse so it can install an interim board that would be more obedient.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has accused the governing African National Congress (ANC) of meddling in the “chaos” unfolding at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board.

The DA’s accusation came after the SABC issued a statement on Tuesday addressing speculation about three of their board members resigning.

The party confirmed that two SABC board members, John Mattison and Khanyisile Kweyama, have resigned.

The DA’s Phumzile Van Damme said it appeared no official resignation letters had been sent to the SABC, parliament, or the president.

She said the DA could confirm there had been no third resignation yet.

“But we have been reliably informed that Krish Naidoo was asked to resign from the board by Luthuli House and has thus far not done so,” Van Damme said.

She said the DA was aware of an allegation that the ANC was attempting to collapse the SABC board by rendering it inquorate and therefore unable to make any legally binding decisions.

“It is election season, and the ANC does not want an independent board. The SABC is key in communicating the ANC’s ‘good story’ and an independent board that won’t take instructions, as we saw this weekend with the new minister, would be most undesirable for the ANC,” Van Damme said.

The broadcaster is in a tussle with newly appointed Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Ndabeni-Abrahams is battling the board over the retrenchments of permanent and freelance staff at the public broadcaster.

“The ANC is using the excuse of saving jobs by halting retrenchments, but it knows full well that the SABC is commercially insolvent and its staff bloated. The only reason the [ANC] would want to collapse the board would be to install an interim board that would be at its beck and call. Its concern is not the staff of the SABC, it is its own electoral prospects,” Van Damme said.

She added that the DA is, however, against retrenchments at the public broadcaster.

“We await the SABC’s presentation in January and trust that it will present this information and not give the ANC reason to dissolve the board in terms of s15A of the Broadcasting Act, which states that parliament can dissolve the SABC board for the inability to perform its duties ‘efficiently’.”

She said it was “highly unfortunate” that, as the SABC is currently technically insolvent with staff retrenchments on the cards, “political interference is once again causing chaos at the SABC”.

On Mattison’s resignation from the board, Van Damme said it was unfortunate because he had “decades of experience in the broadcasting sector and institutional knowledge which would have served the board well in its current financial dire straits”.

“Kweyama was simply over-committed, with being chairperson of the Passenger Rail Association of South African (PRASA), Brand SA, as well as serving on other boards,” she said.

Van Damme said the DA trusts the two’s resignation from the SABC board did not have to do with the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigation into the awarding of a security tender by the interim board in which they served.

“The tender was awarded to Mafoko Security by the interim board in 2017 despite it being ranked second in a bidding process. The interim board allegedly overruled its own supply chain processes, ignored National Treasury and its own lawyers’ advice in awarding the tender to Mafoko,” Van Damme said.

In July this year, the president issued a proclamation for the SIU to investigate the awarding of the contract valued at over R185 million.

Van Damme said the SIU had found that the contract was awarded irregularly and there was financial misconduct and contravention of section 86(3) of the PFMA and contravention of sections 38 and 45 of the PFMA for failing to act in the best interest of the SABC.

“The SIU confirmed in parliament last week that it is preparing criminal and disciplinary referrals regarding the awarding of the security tender and had submitted a status update on the investigation to the SABC board chairperson, Bongumusa Makhathini on 14 September 2018. An interim report was provided to the president on 30 November 2018 and a final report is anticipated for release on 31 March 2019. We await this report for full investigation and findings on the awarding of this tender.

“We also await the SIU’s final report on the awarding of the security tender, and if wrongdoing by the members of the interim board is found, they must be held accountable.”

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