Have faith, I have the power, says Muthambi on SABC

Brandishing the Companies Act as her go-to Bible for all decisions pertaining to the public broadcaster, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi on Tuesday defended the amended version of the SABC’s Memorandum of Incorporation, the dismissal of non-executive director Hope Zinde from the board and her scope of her powers as the “sole shareholder of the state” to a parliamentary committee.

Accompanied by SABC board members as well as chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, her deputy Stella Ndabeni and acting director-general Donald Liphoko, Muthambi was briefing the communications committee on the state of the public broadcaster and the evaluation of its capacity.

Responding to a question from the Democratic Alliance’s Gavin Davis on whether the MOI gave her unprecedented powers to control the affairs of the corporation, she said it was a working document that had been registered by former minister Dina Pule.

“Myself as the minister, as the sole shareholder representative, I have the authority to appoint the chief executive officer, chief operations officer and the chief financial officer, therefore under the circumstances, I also have the ability to discipline or suspend them.”

She said as the minister, as a representative of the state, she has the powers to amend the MOI of the SABC.

“We have done that, we have amended and signed it because we have been empowered by the law, by Section 16 of the companies act. There is nothing wrong with that.”

Last Thursday, the SABC board passed a vote of no confidence in Zinde and removed her from the post, a decision that Muthambi said she was fully appraised of.

Quoting from the Companies Act, she said it “empowers the board to remove one of their own, provided the procedures as set out were followed.

“I want to put it on record that the board members have complied and she [Zinde] was afforded an opportunity to explain her conduct, both in writing and orally.”

Acting board chairperson Professor Obert Maguvhe said as far as they were concerned, they had followed due procedure in removing Zinde.

“The matter is closed. From our side, once we remove a person, they are removed. If she strongly believes she has a case, she can go to the courts as her next step.”

ANC MP Maesela Kekana called out Davis for speaking to the media on committee issues, while Maguvhe and Motsoeneng accused him of causing divisions within the board. The DA MP responded by saying the presentation by Muthambi was just smoke and mirrors.

Motsoeneng called on Davis to lead by example as an honourable member and accused him of distorting information in the public sphere.

“You need to be honourable. You always distort information when it comes to the SABC. He should respect the independence of the SABC. He interferes operationally, talking to the staff of the SABC and he should refrain from that. He is inciting the staff of the SABC, which is wrong as a member of Parliament who should be honourable and his acts are not. We need to respect the members but they should be honourable first,” Motsoeneng said.

Maguvhe said the divisions seen among the board members were due to interference.

“It’s interference by some members of this house. They are dividing us. These divisions must come to an end so that we are able to fulfill our mandate without interference. Give us time and space to do our work and you will see the SABC flourishing.”

Expressing his support for the minister and the board, Kekana said he commended them for taking the SABC from the intensive care unit to normalcy.

“You must do everything in your power to make sure you revive the broadcaster. If there is sabotage, lazy workers, please remove them all the way to make sure that everything is in the right path. Discipline must be order of the day.”

Muthambi said she did not have any agenda with the SABC, besides working to stabilise it.

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