POLITICS

How The SABC Can Be Fixed Sooner Rather Than Later

President Jacob Zuma's spokesperson says he understands "the urgency" with the appointment of an interim SABC board. But it will only, at the earliest, happen in February.

22/12/2016 11:43 SAST | Updated 22/12/2016 12:16 SAST
Rogan Ward / Reuters
President Jacob Zuma has the power to resolve the impasse at the SABC.

COMMENT

We're all chuffed with Vincent Smith and the members of his parliamentary ad hoc committee keelhauling the board of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on live television — but what now?

Bongani Ngqulunga, President Jacob Zuma's spokesperson, told Talk Radio 702 "the president is aware" of the urgency of the situation with no board in place. This after the barnacle-like Professor Mbulaheni Maguvhe became the last board member to resign last week. Zuma will however only appoint an interim board after Smith and his colleagues reports to parliament in February.

Zuma will however only appoint an interim board aftter Smith and his colleagues reports to parliament in February.

If Zuma, as Ngqulunga professes, is aware of the "urgency" of the matter, he would surely "urgently" spring into action to resolve the situation.

The facts are:

  • The SABC is governed by a board, exactly like a public company is governed by a board of directors;
  • The board's mandate is to direct the public broadcaster as going concern, to provide good corporate governance and to appoint the exeutive management; and
  • There is no board in place.
  • All positions on the executive management team are either acting (group chief executive, operations officer, financial officer and company secretary) or vacant;
  • The ad hoc committee will report back to parliament in February, after which the process will begin to appoint an interim board;
  • The parliamentary portfolio committee on communications will receive nominations for and sift through candidates for the interim board;
  • Only after this process is completed will Zuma appoint the caretaker board. They will then start to stabilise the broadcaster.
  • While the interim board starts their ambulance job, the communications committee will advertise for nominations to the permanent board. That process could take up to six months — or longer.

In the meantime viewership will decline (the latest viewing figures show a decline in viewership for all news bulletins, including a sharp drop for the English news bulletin), finances will deteriorate further and questions about supply chain management will remain.

Throw into the mix the political dynamic — Zuma hitting out at critics, the race for the ANC leadership hotting up — and the SABC and its many hard-working journalists are up against it.

This could of course be resolved much quicker. Zuma, as head of state and leader of the governing party, can request both the speaker of parliament and the chief whip of the majority party to convene the communications committee and ensure that an interim board is in place by New Year's Day.

Throw into the mix the political dynamic — Zuma hitting out at critics, the race for the ANC leadership hotting up — and the SABC and its many hard-working journalists are up against it.

It would be good for the SABC, good for effective government and good for the public. It not easy, but it's eminently possible. But only if the president understands the "urgency" of the matter.