SABC board choices ‘political’

Some ANC nominations for the new SABC board are like a ‘kick in the face” and are clearly political, say opposition parties.

On Thursday the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications announced 12 names proposed by the ruling party for the new board of the cash-strapped public broadcaster.

The ANC nominated media and journalism consultant David Niddrie, retired diplomat Barbara Masekela, attorney Clifford Motsepe, engineer Magatho Mello, Numsa president Cedric Sabelo Gina, Mandela Children’s Fund board member and medical doctor Ben Ngubane, attorney Peter Harris, IFP politician Suzanne Vos, journalist and head of journalism at the University of Pretoria Pippa Green, IT law specialist Felleng Sekha, broadcast and media consultant Clare O’Neil and economist Desmond Golding.

Opposition parties objected immediately that the ANC had politicised the process by including nominations that had been put forward by its alliance partners.

Independent Democrats (ID) president Patricia de Lille said the opposition parties — Cope, the Democratic Alliance and the ID — were unhappy that some of the nominations were clearly political. ‘We wanted to start from scratch with the new board and get things right,” said De Lille.

Among the nominations opposition parties objected to were Niddrie, who was nominated by the SACP, Motsepe, who represented the ANC Youth League, ANC stalwart Masekela and former board member Golding, who is currently economic adviser to the minister of public works.

The DA’s representative on the communications portfolio committee, Niekie van den Bergh, said that the ANC nominations were like a ‘kick in the face”. ‘The ANC has been urged not to bring politics on to the board, but that has not happened,” he said. ‘There is a clear politicisation of the process.”

Several meetings to reach consensus on nominations for the SABC board were held by the portfolio committee on communications. ‘It has been a very good group of people, and most of them are extremely competent and highly skilled,” said the chair of the portfolio committee on communications, Ismail Vadi, before Thursday’s meeting.

‘It has been very difficult to select 12 people from such an outstanding crop of people.” The names decided by the communications portfolio committee will be discussed in the National Assembly, and handed to President Jacob Zuma for approval, he said.

Vadi said the interim board led by Irene Charnley had done a great job and sorted out some of the problems at the ailing broadcaster.

The previous board, headed by former chairperson Kanyi Mkonza, was dissolved in June after it was blamed for not averting the current financial crisis at the broadcaster. ‘The SABC still has huge debts to pay, but the interim board put plans in place, and we will hear back from the Auditor General’s office next week when they will present us with a report which they have finalised,” said Vadi.

The Auditor General’s office has been investigating allegations of irregularities and fruitless and wasteful spending at the SABC, which faced a R784-million deficit this year.

As it struggles to cope with its own internal management problems, the national broadcaster has slashed budgets, collected debt more aggressively, formulated a new financial model and held talks with the treasury for a bail-out to keep it afloat.

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