SABC boss resigns

South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) chief executive Peter Matlare announced his resignation following a special meeting with the broadcaster’s board of directors on Wednesday.

Matlare had asked to be released before his contract expired in December. He will take up a position at Vodacom “which is in line with his career aspirations”, SABC spokesperson Paul Setsetse said in a statement.

SABC chairperson Eddie Funde said after Monday’s meeting: “Peter has played a pivotal role in leading the SABC into a new era of professionalism and provided leadership during the transformation of the SABC into a world-class broadcaster.

“Mr Matlare leaves a legacy of positive financial results and significant achievements in the development and expansion of local content for which the SABC has won numerous domestic and international awards.”

Matlare said: “I have had a great time at the SABC, and the decision to leave was not an easy one. But we have an excellent management team, and I leave knowing that the strategies we put in place two years ago are bearing fruit.”

His resignation follows media speculation of a tiff between Matlare and the broadcaster’s managing director of news, Snuki Zikalala.

The Star reported that Monday’s meeting was to find out from Matlare why a new current affairs programme, Round Table, had been commissioned to an outside production house, in contravention of the broadcaster’s policy.

Zikalala had raised the matter as he felt undermined by Matlare, the report claimed.

DA ‘not surprised’

The Democratic Alliance said on Wednesday it is not surprised that Matlare is heading for a “healthier business atmosphere”.

“The DA has long thought that it was only a matter of time before Matlare would leave. He has been under visible strain since the present board took over at the beginning of last year and began to turn the public broadcaster into the mouthpiece of the ANC [African National Congress] government, starting with the full live broadcast of the ANC election launch,” said DA spokesperson Dene Smuts in a statement.

Smuts said the appointment of Snuki Zikalala as head of news “must have spelled the beginning of the end for Matlare, who is a serious professional”.

“If any proof is needed that the SABC board takes its line from government, board chairman Eddie Funde supplied it by telling SAFM on Wednesday afternoon that he was consulting ‘the shareholder’—the government—on Matlare’s replacement.”

He said the board is there to act on behalf of the South African public, and is not supposed to take instructions from the government.

“Matlare, notwithstanding his protestations that there has been no direct government interference, has been in the unfortunate position where he embodied the interface between editorial staff and the board.”

Smuts said if Matlare’s replacement is hand-picked by “the shareholder”, it will not be long before “senior editorial staff already working under difficult conditions start departing”.

ACDP ‘disappointed’

The African Christian Democratic Party expressed disappointment at Matlare’s resignation on Wednesday.

“It’s evident that there’s been some pressure from some quarter for him to resign,” ACDP spokesperson Selby Khumalo said.

Khumalo said he believes Matlare’s resignation followed Zikalala’s complaint to the board over the Round Table show.

Khumalo hopes the appointment of a new CEO will bring with it news bulletins less biased in favour of the opinions of government ministers, and more concerned with “grassroots” issues.

“We hope that the SABC, in selecting a new CEO, will move towards the public and not towards the government. But that would be a difficult task,” Khumalo said.

Khumalo also said he is “excited” with the format of Round Table, being hosted by SAFM presenter John Pearlman.

“The programme is what South Africa needs, fair and honest debate.”—Sapa

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