SABC's Tshabalala plays kingmaker again

Norman Arendse and Michael Tillney of Parliament's communications portfolio committee with SABC chair Zandile Ellen Tshabalala. (David Harrison, M&G)

Norman Arendse and Michael Tillney of Parliament's communications portfolio committee with SABC chair Zandile Ellen Tshabalala. (David Harrison, M&G)

As SABC board chairperson Zandile Ellen Tshabalala fights off the demand for proof of her academic qualifications, it has emerged that she and the controversial chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng have tried to push through the appointment of a new SABC group chief executive officer.

SABC sources said this week that three names in an order of preference were forwarded to Communications Minister Faith Muthambi on Monday after what they described as a perfunctory process.

It is understood that an SABC consultant, Frans Matlala, is their preferred candidate. He is a close ally of Motsoeneng and sources say he would be Motsoeneng’s insurance if Tshabalala were to be removed from her position. Motsoeneng is alleged to have undermined the previous chief executive, Lulama Mokhobo, and run the SABC with the chief executive under his thumb.

Matlala has been an SABC consultant for just over a year, according to the corporation.
He provides project management and strategic advisory services.

The chief executive position was advertised in April, but SABC sources have claimed that it was done without the involvement of Professor Bongani Khumalo, the chairperson of the board’s human resources committee.

Predetermined outcome
Sources said that Khumalo ducked the interviewing process because he knew it was predetermined. As chairperson, he should have driven the process.

According to sources, it was not the first time Khumalo abstained from the appointment of a senior executive. In July, he was one of the board members who abstained from the vote when Motsoeneng was appointed as the chief operations officer. When contacted this week, Khumalo declined to comment.

The five-member panel that drove the process included Tshabalala, her deputy, Mbulaheni Maguvhe, and three other board members.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago refused to discuss Khumalo’s role, or lack of participation, in hiring the new chief executive, or any details about the process.

He said it was an internal process and he was not in a position to give out information about it.

“All we can say is that all the processes for the appointment of the GCEO are being followed,” Kganyago said.

Process completed
Tshabalala confirmed this week that the process of appointing a new group chief executive had been completed.

“That process is with the shareholder now; the shareholder is busy with the matter now,” she said. “But we can’t even tell you that because it’s an internal process between us and the shareholder,” she added. She refused to respond to the rest of the Mail & Guardian‘s questions.

Sources claimed that the SABC board had overlooked the well-known and respected businessman Sandile Zungu, who they claimed had applied for the position.

But Zungu denied this. He said he had been approached to be the next chief executive but had declined.

The new appointment comes at a time when the public broadcaster is struggling to shed its poor image. It is stumbling from one controversy to the next and continues to lose viewers, which is reflected in the latest annual report.

The Democratic Alliance is challenging Motsoeneng’s appointment in the Cape Town high court.

Unqualified
Tshabalala appointed him despite public protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings that he does not have matric, that he purged senior SABC staff and that he increased his own salary from R1.5-million to R2.4-million in a year.

In her report, titled When Governance and Ethics Fail, Madonsela recommended that disciplinary proceedings be taken against Motsoeneng and that a permanent chief operating officer and chief executive be appointed within 90 days.

The deadline passed but she granted the SABC an extension.

Muthambi is understood to be a big supporter of Tshabalala and Motsoeneng. Even the ANC was angry when Tshabalala announced Motsoeneng’s appointment in July.

She is expected to take the board’s recommendation on preferred candidates for chief executive officer to the Cabinet before the end of next week.

Her office didn’t respond to several requests for comment.

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