Thursday, June 3, 2010

SOS - Press Statement 03 June: Calls for the SABC Board to Urgently take action re: The Head of News



3 JUNE 2010

The SOS Campaign representing a number of trade unions, independent producer organisations and a host of NGOs, CBOs, academics and freedom of expression activists notes with dismay that the SABC CEO, Solly Mokoetle, has gone ahead and confirmed the appointment of Mr. Phil Molefe as Head of News. Given that the Board, which is required to make such an appointment, has already rescinded this appointment, Mr. Mokoetle is now further deepening the corporate governance crisis at the SABC. In light of these events, SOS believes that the Board needs to take immediate, appropriate and strong, action against the GCEO.

SOS notes that unfortunately the Chair of the Board, Dr Ben Ngubane has shown flagrant disregard for good corporate governance practices. We once again note the statement he released on the 22 May 2010 where he stated that he had taken the decision to appoint the Head of News on his own 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.

We call on the Board to take strong, decisive action against the Chair as well, including: conducting an enquiry into the matter in accordance with due process, and, depending on the outcome of such enquiry, calling on him to resign as well as recommending to the National Assembly and to the President that he be removed on account of misconduct in terms of section 15(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act, 1999. As representatives of the general public we need to be assured that no further corporate governance breaches will be tolerated. Unless strong action is taken now we have no assurance that these kinds of corporate governance breaches will not take place in future

Further SOS has noted the Minister’s statements that he plans to intervene to stabilise the SABC. While it is obviously essential that the SABC is urgently stabilised we believe the Board has the critical role to play. The Board needs to report to the Minister as to the plans it intends to take to rectify these corporate governance breaches, what disciplinary action it intends to take against those who have committed these breaches and what plans it intends to put in place to begin to build the general public’s shattered trust in the institution.

The SOS is extremely concerned at the Minister’s would-be involvement in what are essentially Board decisions as this can only undermine the SABC’s independence and its standing as a public as opposed to a state broadcaster. The fact that this dispute concerns the appointment of the head of news makes it even more essential that the Minister is not seen to be meddling in such appointments.

Finally, we call on the Communications Portfolio Committee to convene an urgent public hearing to look into these matters. As our public representatives, the Communications Portfolio Committee needs to hold the SABC to account. It would be a dereliction of duty for the Committee not to investigate these corporate governance breaches and ensure that every measure has been put in place to stop such breaches occurring in future. Parliament can not afford to sit back while this serious lack of professionalism and commitment to basic corporate governance principles is being so flagrantly displayed - by both the Chair and the GCEO.

This is a critical moment for the SABC – and in particular the SABC Board. The public are beginning to lose faith in the SABC’s ability to reinvent itself as a strong, powerful, democracy enriching institution. The Board has to stand up and show its mettle. There is no time to lose.

For more information please contact:

Kate Skinner – SOS Coordinator - 082-926-6404
Patrick Craven – Cosatu Spokesperson – 082-8217456
Siphiwe Segodi – Freedom of Expression Network – 072-655-4177
William Bird – Executive Director Media Monitoring Africa – 082-887-1370