Monday, June 28, 2010

SOS Congratulates the Board for beginning to address the serious governance breaches at the SABC but calls for further action



28 JUNE 2010

The SOS Campaign representing a number of trade unions (including Cosatu, Fedusa and Bemawu), a host of NGOs (including Media Monitoring Africa, the Freedom of Expression Institute and Misa-SA), CBOs, industry related bodies, academics and freedom of expression activists congratulate the SABC Board on beginning to remedy the serious corporate governance breaches at the SABC as regards the appointment of the Head of News. SOS is heartened to hear from a number of media reports including the Financial Mail that in line with good corporate governance practices an interview panel will continue its assessment of candidates for the position and make recommendations to the Board.

However, SOS believes strongly that these corporate governance breaches can not be laid to rest here. The Coalition believes that it is still imperative that action is taken against the Chair of the SABC Board. SOS still calls on Dr. Ben Ngubane to resign. This is in light of the fact that he can no longer be trusted to lead the SABC. The Auditor General’s Report looking into corruption and mismanagement at the SABC stated clearly that the SABC needs to ensure leadership and impeccable adherence to good corporate governance procedures going forward. But Dr Ngubane unilaterally decided to appoint the Head of News thus circumventing the SABC’s own internal processes and contravening good corporate practices and protocols as stipulated in the Broadcasting Act, Public Finance Management Act, the Companies Act and King III.

Further, the corporate governance breaches perpetrated by Dr. Ngubane caused such serious governance crises at the SABC that the Minister of Communications was called on to intervene. But ideally the Minister should not be playing an interventionist role. The SABC is a public not a state broadcaster - the Board should govern the affairs of the Corporation. However, the actions of the Chair have directly encouraged Ministerial intervention.

Further, SOS would like to know what action is being taken against the SABC’s GCEO, Solly Mokoetle. We note Mr Mokoetle initially implemented Dr Ngubane’s illegal decision to appoint the Head of News as Mr.Phil Molefe. Then after the Board had clearly stated this action was illegal, he then again confirmed Mr. Molefe as Head of News thus further deepening the corporate governance crises at the SABC.

Finally, linked to this sad state of affairs, SOS again notes the very serious allegations of censorship at the SABC related to this latest governance saga. Once again we call on the Board to investigate allegations in this regard - and in particular the role of Dr. Ben Ngubane, Mr. Solly Mokoetle and Mr. Phil Molefe. SOS notes the Deputy Chair of the SABC Board was censored when commenting on the appointment of the Head of News. Further, it appears that certain union (including Cosatu) and NGO (including Media Monitoring Africa) pre-recorded radio interviews were spiked as they critically commented on the appointment. Also, SOS notes the resignation of the Head of Radio News. SOS notes that allegations have been made that she broadcast, as she was obliged to, the Board’s press statement clarifying the illegal nature of the Head of News appointment. For taking this editorially sound decision she was then illegally disciplined which allegedly led to her decision to take early retirement.

SOS would like the SABC to communicate clearly to the general public on these issues rather than through the media. It is critical that the SABC foster a culture of transparency and communication. As a public broadcaster the SABC’s main stakeholder is the public. Hence the SABC needs to ensure that its decision making and governance processes are transparent to the general public.

For more information please contact:

Kate Skinner – SOS Coordinator - 082-926-6404
William Bird – Executive Director Media Monitoring Africa – 082-887-1370
Siphiwe Segodi – Freedom of Expression Network – 072-655-4177
Melissa Moore – Head Law Clinic Freedom of Expression Institute – 082-924-8268
Matankana Mothapo – Spokesperson Communications Workers Union – 082-759-0900
Hannes du Buisson – President Broadcasting Electronic and Media Workers Union – 082-920-8669