Two days after newly appointed minister of communications Dina Pule briefed Parliament on the SABC's progress, unions, film makers, NGOs, freedom of expression activists and members of the public will converge on the broadcaster's headquarters and Parliament today, Thursday, 24 November 2011, 1pm-2pm, to picket
. Organisers SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition (SOS) will be calling for "visionary leadership now".
Controversy after controversyFor years
, controversy after controversy has beset the beleaguered broadcaster and led to various sectors of society, including SOS, calling for a turnaround at the SABC.
According to SOS coordinator Kate Skinner, the reason for the executive leadership crisis at the SABC is a legal gap in the SABC's governing statute, the Broadcasting Act of 1999. "The Act does not stipulate who appoints the three top executives (chief executive, chief operating officer and chief financial officer). The SABC's articles of association, allegedly because it is not a public document, require the minister's approval of these three appointments. This lack of clarity has led to confusion and court battles," she explained on the M&G Online
earlier this year.
Corruption is seemingly endemic at the SABC, with more recent scandals surfacing in 2011:
SOS list of demands
- In September, group company secretary Thelma Melk was suspended on charges including taking leave without authorisation and poor work performance.
- In October, the Weekend Argus reported a row between SABC board chairman Ben Ngubane, and board member Cawe Mahlati over the appointment of a GCEO.
- It also emerged that Justice Ndaba, who was responsible for overseeing the SABC's R1.47 billion turnaround strategy and making key decisions at the broadcaster, was not an employee but a consultant because a credit default judgment against him prevented him from being permanently appointed.
- Then in further executive drama, in November the Sunday Tribune reported that an internal forensic audit slammed Ngubane for his appointment of Ndaba as the acting group executive for human capital services.
- This came in the midst of startling allegations regarding the controversial consultant, including his alleged dispute with prostitutes in London and his failure to complete a R246 000 leadership course there, paid for by the SABC - and apparently approved by former acting GCEO Robin Nicholson, according to Business Day. Ndaba has since resigned, and, reports the SABC News, paid for the expenses incurred on his trip to London.
- SABC acting GCEO Phil Molefe also briefed Parliament on Black Tuesday about the issue of the hiring of luxury vehicles for its news team.The leased luxury-vehicles scandal was brought to the public's attention after an Eyewitness News exposé.
- According to SABC News, Molefe said that action was taken against the manager involved, and that an intensive investigation is underway, with more heads expected to roll.
- However, Molefe reiterated to Parliament that the cars were not hired at an exorbitant price, as was reported, and that Debis Fleet Management, which had a contract with the SABC, provided the vehicles as a temporary measure.
The SOS list of demands to the portfolio committee on communications chair Eric Kholwane includes calls for:
Monitoring task team established
- A public broadcaster that has the resources and strategic leadership to meet the information needs of all South Africans
- An SABC that holds government and corporate power to account
- Removal of the SABC board chair
- A permanent GCEO, GCOO and GCFO to be employed with the requisite qualifications, skills and experience
- Transparency around the ongoing scandals taking place
- Transparency around the SABC's vital turnaround strategy
- Excellent public service programming on our screens and on the airwaves
- Fair and transparent commissioning processes
- Compliance with the Regulator's local content regulations and a strengthened Regulator.
The revision of the targets for the government guarantee of a loan intended to relieve the financial crisis at the SABC is dependent on the successful execution of a turnaround plan, which must be finalised by January 2012. The minister will present to Parliament again between February and March 2012.
Pule reported to Parliament
that the Department of Communications (DOC) and National Treasury have established a monitoring task team to monitor SABC's progress on the strategy and to track its financial position.
"It is a pity the issues around the government guarantee have been postponed. [These issues relate to] the SABC being a 'going concern'. These are some of the problems that result when there are so many shifts in the Ministry," Skinner told Bizcommunity.com yesterday, Wednesday 23 November. "Loan with conditions undermines"
Prof Tawana Kupe, associate professor of media studies and dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Wits University, also said to Biz yesterday that it is unfortunate that "a broadcasting monopoly like the SABC" needs a loan.
"If run professionally and efficiently it should be profitable or able to meet its financial obligations without a loan," he says. "A loan with conditions undermines its operational, editorial and programming independence and places it in the control of banks and government because of the guarantee."
The minister also told Parliament that she'd set up a "war room" at DOC that will focus on addressing governance issues at the SABC.
On the broadcaster's plans to implement a 24-hour news channel, Skinner says, "It certainly can't with its present funding so more public funding will be required. The SABC needed to put forward a clear plan and budget but this didn't happen."Bizcommunity attempted to contact SABC Group Communication's Kaizer Kganyago, and various media representatives at the Department of Communications for comment. Chief director for communications at the DOC, Pearl Seopela, said she would respond but, at the time of going to publication, we had not received any response.For more: