Avatar photo

By Citizen Reporter


Calls mount for Ramaphosa to appoint new SABC board

Civil society organisations, political parties and labour unions have called on the president to expedite the appointment of the SABC board.

There are growing calls for President Cyril Ramaphosa to appoint a new board for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

New SABC board

The public broadcaster has been without a board of directors for more than 100 days, since the five-year tenure of the previous board expired on 15 October 2022.

ALSO READ: Parliament approves SABC board candidates, now Ramaphosa has to sign it off

Last November, parliament’s sub-committee of the Portfolio Committee on Communications recommended 12 candidates to serve on the SABC board, following interviews conducted by parliamentarians in October.

The names of the recommended candidates were sent to Ramaphosa on 20 December 2022, for a final appointment, but the president is yet to appoint the new board amid concerns that the SABC cannot function adequately without a board.

Civil society organisations, political parties and labour unions have called on the president to expedite the appointment of the SABC board.


The Democratic Alliance (DA) said the absence of a board at the SABC has left the broadcaster in the hands of just three people namely the chief executive officer, chief financial officer and chief operating officer while there were crucial decisions that required board approval as well as required oversight by the board over the SABC.

“The SABC is sinking under the weight of major financial problems, with the Auditor-General finding that irregular expenditure sits at almost R5 billion. According to the Auditor-General, no officials have faced sanctions despite the [Communications and Digital Technologies] minister’s claims that 16 supply chain management officials are being ‘disciplined’.

“If the SABC is to survive in its current state, a new board must be appointed immediately,” said DA MP and spokesperson on communications, Dianne Kohler Barnard, in a statement.

RELATED: SCA dismisses Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s application to appeal R11.5m payment ruling

Barnard said the SABC board is mandated explicitly to protect freedom of expression and journalistic, creative and programming independence.

“The elephant in the room is that not only did government and Communications Portfolio Committee know exactly on what day the SABC board’s term would expire and that they needed to prioritise the appointment of the new board before then, but dithered until an unseemly last-minute rush finally saw the board approved unanimously on 6 December, in the National Assembly.

“The names were given immediately to President Ramaphosa for approval and absolutely nothing has happened since then. The SABC has now been without a board for nearly four months.”

The DA said it had written to Ramaphosa on 19 January 2023, to inquire as to why the candidates for the board were not yet appointed.

“If our requests are simply ignored, as they have been in the past, the DA will be forced to make contact with legal professionals to investigate appropriate legal remedies.”

Role of SABC

The SABC’s two unions, the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Unions (Bemawu) and the Communication Workers Union (CWU), this week described the situation at the public broadcaster as alarming given the importance of the SABC in contributing to South Africa’s democracy.

CWU secretary-general Aubrey Tshabalala said the union was concerned that the absence of a board could affect the SABC’s governance and accountability.

“It is concerning considering the fact that the SABC is one of the most strategic SOEs [state-owned enterprises] or institutions which is at the centre of democracy when it comes to issues of news, issues of content and issues of informing the public in general.

“So, for such an institution not to have a board is alarming,” Tshabalala told SABC News.

Strategic decisions

Bemawu president Hannes du Buisson said the union was concerned that the delay in appointing the board could have a negative impact on the public broadcaster, especially where strategic decisions have to be made.

“We are on record that we are not too concerned in the short term if the SABC is without a board. But now it seems as if it’s no longer a short-term thing. It seems that this has been dragging on and it’s becoming a big concern, purely because the board was supposed to be operationally involved, we are nearing the year-end of the SABC.

“I think it is time now that we call on the president to hurry and appoint a new board,” said Du Buisson.

Accounting authority

The SOS Coalition, a lobby group established for the strengthening of public and community broadcasting in the public interest, said the litany of undue delays in appointing the SABC board continued to hamper the institution’s efficiency and strategic direction. 

The lobby group said the incoming board should be independent and credible for it to adequately fulfil its role at the public broadcaster.

“The board is essential in providing the SABC with strategic leadership that serves the public good. The board controls the business of the corporation, ensures that the SABC abides by its Charter and that there is public participation in the development of policies.

“It also keeps proper and accurate books and records of the financial affairs of the public and commercial division, updates policies and informs the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) of changes made to policies. Moreover, the board is the accounting authority and the highest decision-making body of the institution,” the SOS Coalition said in a statement.

NOW READ: SA’s digital migration: Ntshavheni announces new analogue TV switch-off date

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits