/ 11 October 2007

Presidency: Mbeki to respond over SABC board concerns

The Presidency has declined to confirm whether President Thabo Mbeki will hold back on appointing the new South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board as requested by labour and civil society organisations, saying it will address its written response directly to those organisations that had made the call.

”The call was made in a formal letter and the president will respond formally to the letter,” presidential spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga said on Thursday.

Several labour and civil society organisations have asked Mbeki to hold back on appointing the new SABC board and return the list of names approved by the National Assembly last month.

A letter to Mbeki in this regard was sent from the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Freedom of Expression Institute, Media Workers’ Association of South Africa, the National Council of Trade Unions, the South African Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, the South African NGO Coalition and the Treatment Action Campaign.

The organisations argue in the letter that, as representatives of the labour movement and civil society, they do not believe the list of nominees fulfils the requirement of the Broadcasting Act.

In terms of the Act, the board, when viewed collectively, should consist of ”persons who are suited to serve on the board by virtue of their qualifications, expertise and experience in the fields of broadcasting policy and technology, broadcasting regulation, media law, frequency planning, business practice and finance, marketing, journalism, entertainment and education, and social and labour issues”, the organisations said in their letter to the president.

The organisations also objected to the inclusion of six members of the old board, all of whom had failed to demonstrate they were ”persons who are committed to fairness, freedom of expression, the right of the public to be informed, and openness and accountability”, as required by the Act.

”We are especially concerned about the prospect of Christine Qunta being appointed chairperson of the board.

”In her existing capacity as deputy chairperson, she has presided over problems mentioned above, and has defended the board’s actions publicly, including in her individual capacity in her interview with the portfolio committee on communications,” the organisations said.

The organisations also cited allegations that a list has been imposed on the… committee by the African National Congress, ”which — if it proves to be true — could amount to political manipulation of what was meant to be an open and transparent process”, the organisations said. — Sapa