/ 3 June 2010

Communications minister to meet SABC board

Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda will meet the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board soon about the recent appointment of Phil Molefe as head of news, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.

“The minister has been briefed about the issue and assures the public that it is receiving his attention,” Nyanda’s spokesperson, Tiyani Rikhotso, said in a statement.

“He is engaging all parties involved, including the board and management, on all outstanding matters.”

Nyanda was “concerned” about the development and appealed for “calm and restraint”.

“He urges board members to refrain from making statements while this issue is being dealt with.”

SABC CEO Solly Mokoetle on Monday announced Molefe was the public broadcaster’s new head of news.

He [Molefe] was introduced by the CEO as such [head of news] … yesterday was June 1, according to the appointment, his first day in office,” said SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago on Wednesday.

Last weekend, 10 members of the 12-member SABC board held a meeting to discuss Molefe’s appointment.

Afterwards, Kganyago said in a statement: “The SABC board resolved that the purported appointment of the group executive news and current affairs head, Mr Phil Molefe, is null and void and has no legal effect.”

Reports suggested Mokoetle and board chairperson Ben Ngubane were in favour of Molefe’s appointment, but the rest of the board was opposed to it.

‘She was never disciplined’
Meanwhile, Kganyago on Wednesday denied reports that the head of radio, Mapule Mbhalati, faced disciplinary action for airing the statement by the board that Molefe’s appointment was null and void.

She had since requested to go on early retirement.

“She was never disciplined … there is no such thing. There was no pending disciplinary hearing against her,” Kganyago said.

“I don’t think there’s any problem when people ask for early retirement … now they [media reports] want to bring the connotation that she was pushed, which I don’t understand. There’s no evidence to support that.”

Senior positions at the public broadcaster had been the centre of controversy for months.

In January, the new SABC board was said to be unhappy with the appointment of Mokoetle — the former Telkom Media chief content officer — as the CEO.

He was appointed by the interim board.

Mokoetle, who was the SABC’s chief operations officer between 2001 and December 2006, succeeded Dali Mpofu, who was paid R11-million to leave the broadcaster. Mpofu’s departure came after he had a public spat with then-head of news Snuki Zikalala, whom he accused of leaking confidential SABC documents to the media.

Mpofu subsequently suspended Zikalala, but then the board suspended Mpofu.

At the time, it emerged that the SABC was in dire financial straits. In July last year the SABC reported a loss of R839-million for the past financial year. — Sapa