Friday, June 19, 2009

SOS - Press Statement 19 June 2009

The following press statement made available for distribution by SOS today.

You can see a .RTF version of the file here, and a PDF. here.

Save our SABC Coalition Press Statement: The SABC Board Fiasco: A Way Forward for Parliament

19 June 2009

The SOS Coalition is concerned at the SABC process unfolding in Parliament. We believe that the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications is unwittingly extending the SABC crisis instead of moving swiftly through firm action. At this moment, the enquiry is not helping matters.

Parliament needs urgently to put in place an Interim Board as the current Board is non-functional due to resignations. In our view, Parliament must recommend to the President to accept the Board resignations with immediate effect which will then result in a non-quorate Board, legally (as well as practically) unable to fulfil its fiduciary duties. Parliament should then hold a technical hearing noting that the Board is unable to fulfil its fiduciary duties and should pass a resolution recommending the removal of all the remaining Board members by the President, in accordance with the Broadcasting Act, as amended.

Together with its recommendations to remove the remnants of the SABC Board, Parliament should provide the President with its recommendations on the men and women with the necessary credentials to stabilise the SABC and steer it out of the many existing crises. Parliament must recommend people who are independent of vested interests, who have impeccable integrity and records of public service and who have skills and experience in corporate governance, finance, media, broadcasting and journalism.

The Interim Board must develop a mandate reflecting a commitment to stabilising the SABC during its short tenure which lasts for a maximum of six months. This stabilisation must include, at a minimum:
the appointment of executive management that is skilled, has impeccable integrity and the relevant broadcasting experience
putting strict financial systems in place
ensuring management checks the use of consultants and the appointment of non-essential staff
negotiating a financial bail out of the SABC with the National Treasury
reaching sustainable agreements with key stakeholders such as independent producers etc and staff on payment issues

Immediately upon the establishment of the Interim Board, Parliament must institute two parallel proceedings: First, it must hold a public enquiry into what went wrong at the SABC. In our view, this must include the problematic initial appointment process which saw inappropriate people being appointed as a result of political interference in the Parliamentary process as well as the financial, management and governance lapses that have characterised the SABC crises, resulting in:
  • corruption
  • huge losses totally hundreds of millions of Rands which in turn has resulted in:
- the near-destruction of the independent production sector through non-payment
- low staff morale through annual increases not being paid
  • acting management throughout the organisation, which has been unable to take the hard decisions necessary to stabilise the organisation
  • content-related crises that directly impact the public such as the still-unresolved black-listing saga.
In our view, the Board cannot bear total responsibility for these crises, many of which, appear to be basic mismanagement by the senior executive management at the SABC too. In holding the enquiry, Parliament must call, among others, senior executive management and all Board members including those who have resigned to give an account of their tenure at the SABC.

Second, Parliament must immediately begin the public process culminating in the recommendation of a permanent Board to replace the interim Board which will sit for a maximum period of six months. The permanent Board appointment process must be beyond criticism if the SABC is to have a chance of regaining public credibility. Thus, it requires maximum transparency and public participation in the nominations, short-listing, interview and recommendations processes. Parliament must take responsibility for the calibre of people appointed to the SABC Board as they are responsible for making the necessary appointment recommendations to the President. We need a permanent Board made up of men and women who are independent of vested interests, who have impeccable integrity and records of public service, who have skills and experience in corporate governance, finance, media, broadcasting and journalism and who broadly represent South Africa through being drawn from various sectors: labour, business, civil society.

Issued by the “Save our SABC: Reclaiming our Public Broadcaster” Working Group.

For more information please call:

Patrick Craven – Cosatu spokesperson
Kate Skinner – Co-ordinator “Save our SABC”
(082) 926-6404