Thursday, August 12, 2010

SABC Board resignations

Hello all

Please see below - board member, Barbara Masekela has resigned and other members have threatened to resign.

I had a quick chat to the Chair of the Portfolio Committee, Mr. Ismail Vadi this morning and he is worried about the situation. He is hoping that the Minister will intervene to calm things down and stem the resignations. Failing that he will be calling board members to Parliament to come and account. This will be done shortly but no exact date has been set yet. Ismail is not sure if the President has accepted Barabara's resignation. If he hasn't then there is still time to try and persuade her not to resign. However, the overall critical issue is to sort out all the corporate governance breaches that have taken place - and continue to take place - at the SABC. We can not move forward wthout this happening.

As SOS we have decided to hold an urgent discussion on the issues. We have planned it for next Thursday night - 19th August 6 to 8 at Constitutional Hill, Old Fort Conference Room. Will be sending you further details on that shortly.


Masekela quits amid new turmoil at SABC

Simon Mundy, Business Day, Johannesburg, 12 August 2010

BARBARA Masekela, former ambassador to France and a prominent figure in the African National Congress, has tendered her resignation from the board of the SABC, with several more resignations possible, Business Day has learnt.

The board has been plagued by division since its appointment in December.

Two reliable sources told Business Day last night that both Ms Masekela and her fellow director, Magatho Mello, had written letters of resignation this month after losing patience with the conduct of chairman Dr Ben Ngubane and CEO Solly Mokoetle.

A board meeting yesterday, aimed at addressing these issues and instituting disciplinary proceedings against Mr Mokoetle, was cancelled by deputy chairwoman Felleng Sekha, the sources said.

A board member, who did not wish to be named, said: “I and several of my colleagues will resign in the near future if we continue to be unable to exercise our fiduciary responsibilities.”

In June, other directors strongly criticised Dr Ngubane in a memorandum to Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda.

The memorandum, which Business Day has seen, accuses Dr Ngubane of misconduct relating to the appointment of Phil Molefe as head of news, and reveals that a special meeting of the board in May decided that its “relationship with, and trust in, the chairperson have irrevocably broken down”.

It says that Dr Ngubane cancelled interviews for the head of news position on the day they were due to take place, before seeing to it that the interviews took place on a day when three members of the interview panel where unavailable.

“The chairperson has stated to other directors ... that he was operating under the direct instructions of the president of the republic and that he was resolved to appoint his preferred candidate, whom he identified by name,” the memorandum says.

It says Dr Ngubane and Mr Mokoetle held a secret meeting on May 20 and it was decided to appoint Mr Molefe as head of news. Two days later, the board cancelled the appointment.

Since then Dr Ngubane had refused to meet other directors, and had failed to attend a scheduled meeting. Between them, Dr Ngubane and Mr Mokoetle had “seriously delay(ed) the development and implement (sic) of a turnaround strategy” as required by an agreement with the Treasury, and had “entirely undermin(ed) the ability of directors ... to exercise proper oversight or to provide strategic direction to the SABC”.

Dr Ngubane last night confirmed that he was aware of one recent letter of resignation by a director, but would not confirm the person’s identity.

“I passed on to the shareholder one letter, and the shareholder has not yet responded.”

He denied that Mr Mello was the author of the letter, but would not answer when asked if it was Ms Masekela.

He was not aware of the memorandum to Gen Nyanda, and denied that he had said he was following the president’s instructions in appointing Mr Molefe. “That’s an absolute lie; that’s pure mischief. I’ve never, never made such a statement. I just said I acted in terms of what was right.”

There were still corporate governance issues to address at the SABC, he said, but insisted dissenting directors should table their concerns at board meetings.

Ishmael Vadi, chairman of the parliamentary communications portfolio committee, said it was “losing patience with the delay in resolving the tensions in the board”.

If the issues were not tackled shortly, the committee would summon the board to explain the situation, he said. “I need to table it before the committee, but I can say it will be very, very soon. This kind of situation is unacceptable. It doesn’t augur well for the corporate governance of a very important institution.”

Tiyani Rikhotso, a spokesman for Gen Nyanda, said he was not aware of the memorandum sent to the minister in June.

When asked whether he had resigned, Mr Mello said: “I don’t even want to go there. We have a standing principle in the board, that if we are going to speak about anything in the media, there’s a certain way we would do that and no other way.” Ms Masekela could not be reached for comment.