SACP concerned at reports of SABC 'battle'

The South African Communist Party (SACP) on Tuesday expressed its deep concern at media reports signalling a “looming battle” between the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board and management.

“We are deeply concerned that this will divert the tasks of the SABC of focusing on building itself as a credible public broadcaster,” SACP spokesperson Malesela Maleka said in a statement.

The Sunday Times reported that the SABC board planned to axe its CEO, Dali Mpofu, for dereliction of duty.

It reported that he had clashed with board chairperson Khanyisile Mkonza over his management of the public broadcaster.

Mkonza had apparently told board members the SABC was in danger of an operational, financial and governance crisis and that if Mpofu did not go, she would.

“Despite the attempts by the chairperson of the board to downplay this battle, it is very clear to us that the daggers are out,” the SACP said on Tuesday.

It also voiced concern at the apparent leaking to the media of an internal memorandum to board members.

“All this is but one consequence of appointing a board that does not enjoy the full confidence of our people,” it said.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) slammed the new board as unrepresentative of South African society following the announcement of its 12 members by President Thabo Mbeki in December.

“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,” spokesperson Patrick Craven said at the time.

The board consists of Mkonza, deputised by Christine Qunta with, as its members, Independent Electoral Commission chief executive Pansy Tlakula, businesswoman Gloria Serobe, former presidential spokesperson Bheki Khumalo, businessman Peter Vundla, Ashwin Trikamjee, Alison Gilwald, Andile Mbeki, Fadila Lagadien, Nadia Bulbulia and Desmond Golding.

The SACP claimed that the internal battle followed attempts by the SABC to conduct “secret surveillance” of SABC leaders and “ongoing and systematic bias” by news heads against “particular leaders in our movement”.

“We wish to state it categorically that these manoeuvres seem to be firmly rooted in an agenda not unrelated to that of senior government and some past African National Congress leaders, who imposed the new SABC board on the ANC study group in Parliament,” said Maleka.

“We are also convinced that the calculated and deliberate exclusion of working-class representatives from the new board was precisely aimed at re-orienting the SABC towards elitist interests and position it as a support base for particular leaders in government and in our movement.”

The SACP said the public broadcaster could not and should not be “a platform for battling and settling political scores”. Equally, the board was not a team of political friends, but one charged with overseeing the work of the SABC.

“We remain deeply worried, for instance, on the latest move for an appointment of one of the board members to serve as a spokesperson of a government department.

“Undoubtedly, whether this is an ad-hoc measure or not, there is a big conflict of interest here.”

The SACP urged the board to embark on an open, transparent public engagement and not secretive manoeuvres on any significant repositioning of the SABC.

“We have also consistently called for an SABC that prioritises, in its news and programming, the interests of the overwhelming majority of our people, most of whom rely on the SABC for news and information.

“Any palace-type manoeuvres will certainly set the SABC on a permanent collision course with the working class,” the SACP said.—Sapa

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