/ 29 August 2014

Infighting spreads to SABC board

Ellen Zandile Tshabalala
Ellen Zandile Tshabalala

The SABC board chairperson Ellen Zandile Tshabalala has turned on her own colleagues, warning them they will be investigated for the “nondisclosure of potential conflicts of interest” and for leaking “confidential information of the corporation”.

She is appointing a panel of investigators to establish whether the allegations are true, Tshabalala said in a confidential letter she sent to all board members on Monday.

The Mail & Guardian has seen the letter and two members have confirmed receipt of the formal communiqué.

Some of them view Tshabalala’s move as an attempt to deflect attention from her own allegedly questionable academic qualifications.

She is presiding over the third SABC board in just four years. Like the previous boards, it is staggering under allegations of a variety of shenanigans and accusations that its members are lackeys of the ruling party.

“It has come to my attention that there has been a series of breaches of fiduciary duties by different members of the board, in particular, relating to the nondisclosure of conflicts of interest and misconduct through unauthorised disclosure of confidential information of the corporation,” Tshabalala said in the letter. 

She wrote that, in the event that all or some of the allegations were found to be correct, this would amount to a breach of the fiduciary duties imposed on board members in terms of several laws governing the SABC.

It would then be “necessary to look at the remedial steps that need to be taken to remedy this”, she said.

‘Deflecting attention’
Both Tshabalala and SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago refused to answer the M&G’s questions and said the letter was an internal matter.

Two board members said this week that they were in the dark about the allegations made by Tshabalala and were waiting for the panel to interview them. They were unaware of a potential conflict of interests and what Tshabalala had meant when she said there was an unauthorised disclosure of information.

One board member laughed off the investigation, saying the chairperson was trying to deflect attention away from allegations that she had lied about her own academic qualifications.

City Press reported last month that Tshabalala had misrepresented her qualifications in her CV.

This week Parliament, which recommends SABC board members to the president for appointment, said it had asked Tshabalala to furnish it with her response to the allegations by the end of this month.

The chairperson of the parliamentary oversight committee on communication, Joyce Moloi-Moropa, said much work has already been done on the matter with parliamentary legal advisers.

“The committee deems it fair and proper to afford Ms Tshabalala an opportunity to respond to these allegations,” said Moloi-Moropa. “As the committee, we are obligated by law to ensure fairness and impartiality when dealing with any allegations, including these ones.”

Dressing down
In April this year, the M&G reported that SABC boss Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng had given the broadcaster’s acting news head Jimi Matthews a dressing down in front of staff members at a meeting about leaks from within the corporation.

Motsoeneng, who was then the SABC’s acting chief operating officer, called a meeting with news staff and warned them that they would have to face the consequences if they leaked information about shenanigans at the public broadcaster.

He was reacting to reports in weekly papers that editorial staff members were “reminded” by Tshabalala that their phones were being monitored by spies.

This was because they were part of an institution that was declared a national key point.

Motsoeneng told staff that they were being “disloyal” to the public broadcaster if they leaked information about its operations.

Sources within the SABC told the M&G at the time that the meeting got heated when Matthews tried to bring it to a close. He apparently said it was “nonsensical” to try to stem the leaks, according to sources.

A furious Motsoeneng then gave Matthews a tongue-lashing, saying he did not have the authority to close the meeting, and later ordered him to his office to discuss the matter.