Nyanda defends appointment of new SABC boss

The SABC’s interim board was well within its rights to appoint Solly Mokoetle as group chief executive, Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda’s office insisted on Tuesday.

The ministry said in a statement the Sunday Times report at the weekend was “grossly irresponsible and lacking in credibility as the statements are merely attributed to so-called anonymous sources”.

It was irresponsible for anyone to attempt to portray a picture of discontent and perpetuate the notion that there was a crisis regarding the appointment of a group CEO (GCEO) by the SABC interim board, it said.

Nyanda had indicated in his budget-vote speech last year that he intended to move swiftly in initiating the process of appointing an interim board.

Among the chief priorities of the interim board would be to stabilise the SABC both financially and organisationally, including filling key vacant positions such as that of the GCEO, chief operations officer, and head of news and current affairs.

The Broadcasting Act empowered the interim board to appoint a GCEO.

“Accordingly, the interim board was well within its rights to make such an appointment because it has the equal amount of authority as a full, permanent board.

“The point being made by some, including these faceless sources, that the incoming board should have the prerogative to appoint a GCEO is baseless and unfounded,” the ministry said.

A GCEO was not the property of any particular board and there was nothing in the Broadcasting Act or the Articles of Association governing the SABC that dictated the term of a GCEO should be synchronised with that of a board of directors.

Neither was there any clause stating that every board should appoint its own GCEO.

“The ministry of communications also finds as irresponsible and unprofessional the conduct of the board member/s quoted as the anonymous sources.

“It is unbecoming for any board member to disregard the available channels to raise whatever grievances they may have and instead opt for planting baseless stories in the media.

“This goes against the letter, spirit and purport of corporate governance which board members should endeavour to uphold at all times.

“We therefore wish to put it on record that no one has ever approached the office of the minister of communications raising concern about either the legitimacy of the process of appointing the GCEO or the successful candidate’s suitability to hold that kind of office,” the ministry said.

Mokoetle, who was the SABC’s chief operations officer (COO) between 2001 and December 2006, took up office on January 1 on a five-year contract.

He reportedly left the state broadcaster in a huff as COO, following a damning audit report compiled by Gobodo Forensic and Investigative Accounting in 2005.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that the report found he had badly failed in his corporate governance duties.

The paper reported the new SABC board would challenge the outgoing board’s appointment of Mokoetle, which had been approved by Nyanda.

‘Not hitting the ground cold’
Mokoetle should get along with the new board as he is “undeniably passionate about broadcasting”, senior SABC executives who have worked with him told the M&G in December. But Mokoetle concedes that the SABC faces leadership and financial challenges.

“There’s a tough time ahead. To turn around an organisation from a deficit situation is not easy,” he said. “Fortunately, the interim board has done some significant work in the path of recovery. They’ve managed to get a government guarantee for R1,4-billion and developed a financial model which, if implemented to a T, would bring a turnaround by 2012. I’m not hitting the ground cold.”

Interim board chairperson Irene Charnley said Mokoetle’s five-year contract was linked to performance. “We know he’s up to the challenge,” she said. “It was a rigorous and transparent [selection] process and I’m comfortable with his appointment.”

The M&G has learned that chief financial officer Robin Nicholson will be back at work to assist Mokoetle. Nicholson was one of four senior executives suspended after the release of the auditor general’s report on fruitless and wasteful expenditure at the corporation.

The 12 non-executive members appointed to the new SABC board are Cedric Sabelo Gina, Philippa “Pippa” Green, Peter John Harris, Barbara Masekela, Magathe Mello, Nkotomane Motsepe, Baldwin “Ben” Ngubane, David Niddrie, Clare O’Neil, Felleng Sekha, Suzanne Vos and Desmond Golding.

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