/ 6 December 2018

Four SABC board members resign

The SABC will have lost about R800-million by the end of the financial year
President Cyril Ramaphosa will have to write a letter to Parliament in order for the relevant committee to appoint four new board members. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

On Thursday, the Presidency confirmed that four of the SABC’s board members had resigned, despite the SABC denying reports of the resignations earlier in this week.

The four: Krish Naidoo, Khanyisile Kweyama, John Mattison and Mathatha Tsedu made up the interim board that was appointed last year to resolve challenges at the public broadcaster. Because of these resignations, the board may not form a quorum, meaning that the board cannot make any decisions.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will have to write a letter to Parliament in order for the relevant committee to appoint four new board members. However, Parliament closes for the festive season next week to reopen in mid-January.

Over the past two financial years, the SABC reported losses exceeding R1.5-billion. The SABC’s losses for the current year to date have topped R323‑million and are forecast to reach R800-million by the end of the financial year.

The SABC’s financial insolvency led it to announce in October that it had no choice but to retrench 981 permanent employees and 1 200 freelancers. This formed part of the public broadcaster’s restructuring programme.

The SABC told the Parliamentary portfolio committee on communications in November that if it did not receive R3-billion by March next year, it would have its own “Day Zero” said Tsedu, drawing connections to the drought in Cape Town and SABC’s insolvency.

The SABC, Tsedu said, would not be able to pay salaries by March 2019.

READ MORE: SABC’s crisis plan fails to impress MPs

The broadcaster issued a statement on Monday denying its group chief executive Madoda Mxakwe had also resigned, and it referred all questions regarding the resignations to the presidency.

The exodus of board members comes after an allegedly strained meeting between the board and newly-appointed Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

It was reported this week that the resignations may be in connection with a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report probing an irregular security tender which cost the SABC R185-million. The investigation forms part of the SIU’s two phase inquiry into irregular spending at the SABC.

According to a News24 report, tensions surrounding the investigation had been simmering long before the intervention of Ndabeni-Abrahams.

In a statement on Thursday, the interim board said that it was “curious” that is was not being investigated by the SIU. However, it hoped that the unit would take into consideration the board’s written responses.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Democratic Alliance have called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to raise money in order to stabilise SABC.

“Majority of the board members will resign, because there is no support from government in terms of the guarantee. They have literally been set up to fail,” EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said in a statement on Thursday.

“The EFF believes that many in the ANC want the collapse of the SABC, to institute a new board that they can control towards 2019 Elections. How can a minister demand SABC to rethink its retrenchment plan, when she is not giving them any guarantee?”

The DA said it would have been desirable for the four board members “to stay on and work together to fix the dire financial crisis facing the SABC”.

The filling of four vacancies that existed due to the resignations of Rachel Kalidass, Victor Rambau, Febbe Potgieter-Gqubule and the withdrawal of Nomvuyiso Batyi has been advertised. Another advertisement must now be issued with the same deadlines of nominations closing on 21 December 2018, so that the committee can interview for all eight vacancies in January 2019.