Press statement on the planned mass action to the SABC
03 June 2009
“..Mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing before it can pursue politics, science, arts etc” – Karl Marx
Issued by the following organisations:
1. Creative Workers Union of South Africa
2. Communication Workers Union
3. TV Industry Emergency Crisis
4. Young Communist League of South Africa
5. Actors’ Coalition
Representatives of the five organisations met yesterday, Tuesday 2 June 2009, to constitute the SABC Crisis Coalition, based on mandates from the four organisations to contribute to rebuild the SABC as a true public broadcaster, reflecting South Africa and the world to all South Africans.
The meeting identified this as the Coalition’s primary objective, and discussed the strategies and tactics necessary to achieve it. The Coalition’s first initiative will be the mass actions planned for tomorrow, 4 June 2009.
The Coalition identified the priority and urgency – for the survival of the broadcasting industry and for its thousands of workers – of pressuring the SABC to meet its financial obligations immediately. Failure to do so will result in escalating actions to force it to do so.
But the Coalition also recognises that major changes must be made urgently at the SABC, particularly in its leadership ranks.
The Coalition is mobilising against a background in which:
· The Current SABC Board was illegitimately appointed through improper and underhand intervention in the parliamentary process to achieve narrow political objectives, The Board therefore lacks legitimacy and no amount of manoeuvring can give it the legitimacy required for the leadership of a national asset.
· The current SABC Board has plunged the SABC a situation in which it’s very survival is threatened, lurching from one crisis to the next sicne its appointment two years ago.
· The SABC is an estimated R2-billion in the red and is losing R200-million a month – all of which is the result of disastrous leadership by the SABC Board.
· Both the law and regulation governing the SABC recognises that all Board members are collectively responsible for this disastrous situation and most be dealt with collectively. That
· There is abundant evidence that members of the Board have failed to meet their fiduciary responsibilities – as trustees of a national asset on behalf of the people of South Africa – and have in many cases broken both the law and the regulations governing their behaviour in doing so – authorising fruitless and wasteful expenditure while workers remain unpaid, leaking to the media confidential internal information (often inaccurate) about each other and about SABC personnel to score points and protect themselves; reportedly spied on each other and on SABC personnel; favouring their allies in management in breach of all governance requirements of fairness and equity.
· Many senior managers, working in alliance with Board members, have contributed to the collapse of the SABC financially and operationally.
· Even when confronted with its current massive financial crisis, the SABC Board and senior management has failed to produce a credible rescue plan – calling instead on the government to pour money into the bottomless pit the Board and many in senior management have dug for the corporation..
Informed by these realities, the Coalition takes the following view:
On the SABC Board
· The current Board chaired by Ms Khanyisile Mkhonza does not enjoy public confidence and support. The Coalition therefore supports the parliamentary process to dissolve the current Board in line with the Broadcasting Act, which empowers parliament to dissolve the Board. Our call is informed by the following perspective;
· The current Board was appointed only hours after the democratic replacement of the ANC President. The then President of the Republic Thabo Mbeki, at the ANC’s 52nd National Conference at Polokwane. The hurried and covert nature of the appointments – as well as the covert intervention in the nomination process – indicates that it was an attempt to entrench supporters of the previous president in positions of control at the SABC.
· Former Presidential official Smuts Ngonyama interfered with the appointment process of the current SABC Board, undermining due parliamentary process to serve a narrow sectarian political agenda in attempting to abuse the SABC to fight internal political battles – initially within the National Liberation Movement and subsequently to skew its news coverage in favour of one political party.
· The current SABC Board was not constituted in line with the Broadcasting Act and lacks both legitimacy and representativity of all the elements of our society, especially labour, youth, rural people and disabled. The Board is characterised by the absolute absence of individuals able or willing to ensure that the public broadcaster serves the interests of the working class and the poor – the vast majority of South Africans.
· The Coalition’s founding organisations have therefore initiated a programme of militant mass action under the banner SABC Crisis Coalition. This programme launches on 4t June 2009 at the SABC Auckland Park offices. We will ensure that the SABC is in a standstill to demonstrate our mobilisation muscle. We further agreed, as all these structures to do the following;
· Demand that Parliament dissolves the current Board in terms of Clause 15 of the Broadcasting Act and replaces it with an Interim Board to dissolve the SABC Board and restructures its Executive Management with immediate effect. In making this demand, the Coalition notes the finding of Judge M Tsoka in May 2008 that ‘the board of directors act as a collective. In this capacity the board is as culpable as its chairperson’.
· Lobby Parliament, the Executive and ANC, SACP and Cosatu leaders to ensure that the Interim Board and the full board which replaces it six months thereafter are mandated to cleanse and rebuild the SABC as an effective and sustainable national public broadcaster, without political influence and manipulation, able to meet the needs of all South Africans, but particularly of the majority – the workers and the poor. In demanding a public broadcaster free of political interference, we support the demand for independence, but warn against the abuse of the idea of ‘independence’ to entrench and promote influence and control of the SABC by narrow, class-based special interests, some of whom are seeking to use the strength and militancy of the working class to replace control of SABC by one elite with another.
· We therefore intend to lobby Parliament, the Executive and the leading political and class formations to ensure that the mandate of the SABC is redrafted to ensure that in future it is obliged to meet the needs of all South Africans, independently, objectively and without fear or favour.
On the SABC Financial Bailout:
The Coalition and its affiliates support a financial bailout for the SABC. We call on the Department of Communications under its Minister, Cde Siphiwe Nyanda, to work with Parliament and the SABC to develop and implement a funding system to free the SABC of the influence of commercial interests through advertising. In this we support the mandate given by the ANC 52ND National Conference in Polokwane.
The Coalition opposes giving the bailout to the current Bard and management. Government aid must come only once the Mkhonza Board has been replaced by However, we strongly believe that the bailout must be under strict conditions and must not be processed under the current Board and Management tenure of office.
SABC News Division:
The non-renewal of Dr. Snuki Zikalala’s contract as mere ploy by the SABC Board to save itself. We see this as a poor attempt to solicit public sympathy and easing pressure mounted by our organisations on the Board to be showed the door.
We call for end to the abuse of the SABC News Division for narrow and factional battles in the broader liberation movement. We call for reconfiguration of the SABC News Division which sees an end to its political abuse in the interests of seeing more news stories that speak to labour, community, youth and class struggles – of stories that accurately reflect South Africa to itself, as it is in reality, and not as sectarian individuals would like it to be
We are concerned that the programme content of the SABC is informed by the whims and dictates of the market at the expense of the developmental needs of our society. We demand that the SABC channels more resources and funding towards local content as opposed to the ‘Americanisation’ of our society, which impacts negatively on the values and morals we seek to infuse.
Finally, we are committed in building a truly public broadcaster that contributes towards nation building, social cohesion, informative and educational. We will never allow our public broadcaster, the SABC, to dance towards its deadly destruction and doom as a results of political manipulation and influence.
We call on all patriotic South Africans to join us in our struggle to rebuild the SABC as a true public broadcaster, reflecting all South Africans to themselves and to each other.
SABC Crisis Coalition