/ 23 December 2007

New SABC chairperson rolls up her sleeves

The new chairperson of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, Khanyisiwe Mkhonza, paid tribute to the outgoing board in a statement to the media on Sunday.

”The outgoing board under the leadership of Eddie Funde has done well and has been successful in implementing its mandate during its four-year tenure” she said.

Mkhonza said Funde had done a great job as chairperson and it would be a great challenge to follow in his footsteps.

”It is an honour and a privilege to be assigned this responsibility. I am humbled by the confidence shown in me to lead a team that I believe consists of very experienced and capable individuals,” she said.

Mkhonza, who is the current chairperson of the public broadcasting services board sub-committee, acknowledged challenges facing the new board.

It would have to ”revisit the public broadcaster’s funding model, increase attention on technology recapitalisation ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, including working closely with ICT [information and communications technology] partners on digitisation and positioning the SABC in the new competitive environment of convergence of technology as well as the introduction of more television players in the market,” she said.

Considered a fierce Mbeki supporter and Aids dissident, Qunta had been tipped to head the board.

Named as board members were Independent Electoral Commission chief executive Pansy Tlakula; businesswoman Gloria Serobe; former presidential spokesman Bheki Khumalo; and businessman Peter Vundla.

Also appointed the board were Ashwin Trikamjee, Alison Gilwald, Andile Mbeki, Fadila Lagadien, Nadia Bulbulia and Desmond Golding.

The new board was appointed with effect from January 1 for a period of five years.


There were no changes to the original list of names put forward to Mbeki in October, despite objections by labour and civil society organisations. They had asked him to send the list back to the National Assembly for reconsideration.

”If the people whose names appear on the current list are appointed, a pall will hang over the SABC for the next five years, which may do untold damage to the broadcaster,” they warned in a letter to Mbeki.

The critics included the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI), the Media Workers’ Association of South Africa, the National Council of Trade Unions, the Media Institute of Southern Africa and the South African NGO Coalition.

They argued that the list did not fulfil Broadcasting Act requirements and objected to the inclusion of six members of the old board, claiming Lagadien, Qunta, Gilwald, Trikamjee, Mbeki and Mkhonza had demonstrated they were unfit for reappointment.

The African National Congress (ANC) and Democratic Alliance (DA) backed the nomination of Bulbulia, Gilwald, Vundla, Khumalo, Lagadien, Mkhonza, Tlakula and Trikamjee. All of the eight except Khumalo also received the support of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

The DA and IFP opposed the appointment of Mbeki, Qunta and Serobe.


Reacting on Saturday, Cosatu said it wants the appointment of the new SABC board referred back to Parliament. It also wants urgent talks on the matter with the leaders of its tripartite alliance partners, the ANC and South African Communist Party.

The new board is unrepresentative of South African society, said Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven. He said the new board is biased in favour of black economic empowerment business.

There is no trade-union representation and none from the media, even though a highly respected trade-union leader and experienced journalists were shortlisted.

The Broadcasting Act requires the inclusion of people with expertise and experience in social and labour issues representing a broad cross-section of the country’s population, Craven pointed out.

”Cosatu is … concerned that the new board will not tackle the serious problem of the public broadcaster being used to promote government policies and stifle the views of those with different views, rather than [as] a vehicle for the whole spectrum of opinions.

”A representative board is essential to ensure that the SABC remains a public broadcaster and not a state broadcaster,” he said.

The board has a political agenda, the Young Communist League of South Africa (YCL) charged.

”We do not take seriously this newly announced board, given that it was meant to serve a particular political interest and agenda,” the YCL said in a statement.

”The YCL view these new appointments as part of legitimising the interference by certain individuals within the [ANC] leadership echelons who had undermined the parliamentary democratic process.”

The YCL said the board does not represent critical constituencies of South Africa, including the working class, organised labour, youth and other civil society representatives. — Sapa