Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


SABC board: Delay in appointments ‘worrisome’ and could lead to ‘destabilisation’

Parliament's communications portfolio committee was 'dysfunctional'.


There is no end in sight for the delay in the appointments of board members at SABC, and independent civic movement Public Interest SA has warned the delay is not only worrisome but could potentially lead to a catastrophic situation or destabilisation.

Although the board plays a crucial role in providing the SABC with strategic leadership in the public interest, it is still unknown when the State Security Agency’s (SSA) process of vetting candidates will be over.

No comment

SSA spokesperson Mava Scott yesterday told The Citizen the vetting process was “an operational matter that we are not at liberty to discuss with third parties in terms of the law”.

He could not comment on who the SSA was or was not vetting, nor how long it would take – “save to say our vetting systems are in place and are working in terms of what is required in terms of legislation and our mandate as an agency”, Scott said.

Dysfunction

However, Public Interest SA’s Tebogo Khaas said this was a clear sign the SSA and the parliament’s communications portfolio committee were both dysfunctional and used to reacting after effect. He questioned why all the 34 candidates had to be vetted, instead of the final 12.

“They should have known, at least a year before the previous board would be gone and allow for a vacuum, which is an essential part of appointment process, and prepare for any contingencies,” he added.

“I know it’s not easy to make provision for quick changes, but some of the contingencies could have been avoided if they had started the process early.”

‘Concern’

Former SABC board member Michael Markovitz was concerned about the delay.

He said: “It is not my job anymore to have oversight over the #SABC. But I deeply care about its future & the vital role it plays in our democracy.”

Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said the committee had started late, giving the SSA only a week to start the vetting process.

“Needless to say, they’ve been doing a few every day and I think they still have another four or five to do, so we still have no sign of a board,” she said.

Irregular and wasteful expenditure

“The management has been working with no board and no oversight. So it is a catastrophic situation. And I mean, the SABC still has billions in irregular and wasteful expenditure.

“Even though they had a captive audience during Covid, things are still not looking good. They need a board desperately.”

Kohler Barnard said the committee still had to meet and determine a shortlist of 12, who would have to be approved by the National Assembly before being referred to the president for the appointment.

“So it’s just as usual a case of you didn’t start soon enough; you knew it was going to happen. They knew for five years that the board was going to expire and still weren’t ready.

“So with the 12, that’s another very long meeting. And we’ve only got 2½ weeks left of this term in parliament.

“But until they’re done, we can’t move forward and this process has taken a very long time,” Kohler Barnard said.

Meanwhile, the SOS public service broadcasting coalition said the SABC‘s current financial standing posed a threat to its existence, following the auditor-general’s 2021-22 annual report which indicated the R201 million loss in this financial year may cast significant doubt on its ability to continue operating.

“As such, the incoming board’s primary focus should be to devise policies and strategies that seek to remedy the financial downturn at the SABC,” the SOS Coalition’s national coordinator Uyanda Siyotula said.

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