Watching the Hlaudi show may be the best job on the planet

The SABC offices in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The SABC offices in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

THE FIFTH COLUMN

The SABC recently placed an ad for a new group chief executive. The successful candidate will have to answer to a board that, in a perfect world, will be dissolved soon, creating the best job in the world.

According to the ad, the SABC’s next group chief executive must have an MBA or something similar and will presumably be interviewed by a colleague or no one in particular. Candidates must have the sensitivity to deal with a broad spectrum of stakeholders to handle things when the public start to question the validity of the position.

When the board is dissolved, the ad will change completely and read only as a job title – group executive officer – and a call to action: forward a detailed CV to apply for the best job in the world.

In 2009, Tourism Queensland in Australia launched a campaign to find a caretaker for an island on the Great Barrier Reef.
They called it the best job in the world and listed duties such as feeding ocean fish and sitting around doing nothing in a very short job description.

At first glance there are striking similarities to the SABC’s search for a caretaker of our national broadcaster, chief of which being the main duty of the chief executive – to steer the direction of the corporation – translating to nothing more than feeding yourself and sitting around doing nothing.

Where the two campaigns do differ, however, is in accountability. In the Australia version you still had to fetch the mail and answer to a regional director. (In accordance with the current trend where we beat the Aussies on every possible front, that makes theirs only the second-best job in the world.)

Then there’s the fact that people who live on islands have to answer to God every time a hurricane moves in. A responsibility which is most certainly not a requirement when you lead the SABC. As far as accountability goes, SABC chief executives answer to the communications minister and, if she’s out, questions may come directly from the president. If anywhere, God is sitting behind a desk at Auckland Park fulfilling his duties as winner of the SABC’s 2016 Best Job in the World.

An unfortunate part of the job is the pesky issue of having to deal with an executive of corporate affairs who is below you on the corporate ladder, but above you in all other departments.

Your executive of corporate affairs will refer to himself in the third person to establish dominance. He will claim to perform miracles to strip you of the title of God. He will defy the courts and start wearing hats for no apparent reason. The man will run the show, board or no board, and be on every page and every screen laughing it up.

As the circus plays on you will find yourself wondering, as we all do, whether picking up the mail on a deserted island is perhaps not better than the feeling of being deserted on an island with a power-crazed maniac.

You will question the powers that be, society and the judiciary. You will regret answering the ad in the first place. You might, however, start to think, as I do, that it’s the best show on the planet and watching it unfold might just be the best job in the world. 

JS Smit

JS Smit

JS Smit is a Cape Town-based freelance writer. Formally trained as a copywriter, he took a break from ads in 2010 to write a blog for the Mail & Guardian's Thought Leader and since 2015 has written for the Mail & Guardian. Read more from JS Smit

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