POLITICS

SABC Board: The ANC Always Reverts To Type

Why are people surprised at the ANC's insistence that a number of cadres be deployed to the SABC?

06/09/2017 10:13 SAST | Updated 06/09/2017 10:13 SAST
Mike Hutchings / Reuters
Demonstrators protest against the decision by the SABC that it would not broadcast scenes of violent protest. Photo: REUTERS / Mike Hutchings

ANALYSIS

The ANC reverted to type on Tuesday when it forced through the appointment of the board of the embattled SABC in Parliament. In truth, it should surprise nobody.

The SABC has been one of the worst-performing state-owned entities over the last decade and a half. It has been mired in political controversy, it has suffered under a succession of bad executive appointments and had become a refuge for crooks and commissars. When Parliament eventually kicked into gear last year and launched a wide-ranging inquiry, South Africans were delighted. Here was a multiparty effort that sought to root out corruption and rot and aimed to right the SABC ship.

The inquiry introduced South Africans to Makhosi Khoza, a fearless ANC MP, who accepted no lies and suffered no fools, and Phumzile van Damme, a DA MP who managed to work across the aisle in an effort to find consensus with the governing party. Their findings were damning and laid bare the effects of years of political interference and cadre deployment on its finances, operations and, more importantly, its journalism. Finally, it was hoped, the SABC -– an institution with a such an important role as public broadcaster -– can start anew.

The SABC has over the years been debilitated by the ANC's smothering policy of cadre deployment.

These hopes were dashed when the ANC used its majority on the portfolio committee on communications to impose its will on the SABC when it finalised its choices for the board without buy-in from the opposition. Two appointments particularly irk the opposition parties, including the DA and the EFF: Febe Potgieter-Gqubule and Krish Naidoo.

The former is a one of the organisers of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's campaign for the ANC leadership and also a senior party member, and the latter works as a legal adviser in Luthuli House, the party's headquarters in Johannesburg. Added to that, the DA pointed out, Bongumusa Makhatini serves as chairperson of Bongi Ngema-Zulu's foundation. She is one of President Jacob Zuma's wives.

The SABC has over the years been debilitated by the ANC's smothering policy of cadre deployment. It reached fever pitch with the ruinous tenure of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as senior executive and led to enormous damage to the journalistic credibility of the institution, never mind the massive financial losses.

The governing party does not learn from past mistakes, is unwilling to change course, refuses to cede even a measure of control and always reverts to type.

The ANC's decision to persevere in the deployment of overt and declared ANC operatives to an institution that has visibly suffered under political interference is not surprising, even if there was an air of honesty and cooperation when the extent of Motsoeneng's gutting of the broadcaster was unpicked by the multiparty inquiry. The governing party does not learn from past mistakes, is unwilling to change course, refuses to cede even a measure of control and always reverts to type.

When former president Thabo Mbeki was defeated at Polokwane in December of 2007, his first order of business after returning to Pretoria was to sign off on his preferred picks for the SABC board. And one of the first orders of business for Zuma when he moved into the ANC president's office in Johannesburg was to initiate the dismantling of that selfsame board. In the years since, the ANC have feigned overtures to find consensus when appointing boards, only to swat aside the opposition when voting comes. It has repeatedly broken agreements with the opposition to be more inclusive and have blindsided a succession of opposition MPs who had hoped on a more amenable ANC.

Potgieter-Gqubule is a major political player. She is on the staff of the person who has a more than even chance of becoming the next head of state. Naidoo provides Gwede Mantashe, the ANC's secretary-general, with legal advice. Makhatini is directly linked to the president through his wife. They are hopelessly politically compromised and their loyalty lies with Luthuli House.

And somewhere, in the dilapidated hallways of the SABC's Auckland Park complex, there's another Motsoeneng, just awaiting the call from the ANC.