Monday, August 2, 2010

SOS News SABC board in crisis - City Press

SABC board in crisis

City Press Reporter, City Press, Johannesburg, 1 August 2010

The SABC is in a corporate governance crisis, with several board members calling for the head of group CEO Solly Mokoetle.

Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda held a meeting with SABC board members last Sunday at which some mooted the removal of Mokoetle as positions hardened on the controversial appointment of head of news Phil Molefe.

“The board has been immobilised and is in severe danger,” said one source, adding that its relationship with Mokoetle had been severed.

Nyanda ignored the discussion about Mokoetle’s ousting and urged the board to finalise the stalemated appointment of the news boss.

Molefe’s appointment was announced on May 20 by board chairperson Ben Ngubane, who acted unilaterally.

The board was still grading short-listed applicants at the time and was shocked by the announcement of Molefe’s appointment.

Several board members said elements of the crisis were Ngubane’s refusal to convene board meetings except on ad hoc matters; simple information requests being stonewalled by the broadcaster; and audience numbers that had received a fillip from the World Cup trending downward.

Mokoetle was generally disdainful of the board, members said, adding that a healthy relationship with him had soured after the Molefe affair.

Nyanda’s spokesperson, Tiyani Rikhotso, denied that the minister wanted Molefe’s appointment ratified.

“We understand the appointment to be the sole responsibility of the board.

“If anything, the minister actually advised the board to ensure that due process is followed and consensus is sought among all board members when decisions such as these are made, to ensure that corporate governance is not flouted.”

Molefe allegedly blacklisted the deputy chairperson, Felleng Sekha, from the airwaves when she tried to expose the irregularities.

A board meeting two days after the shock appointment repudiated the decision, but insiders claim that Molefe nevertheless received a contract the following week.

In terms of the SABC’s articles of association the board is responsible for all group executive appointments.

Mokoetle denied that the contract was signed after the board declared Molefe’s appointment to be null and void.

A government source said it was unlikely that the board would succeed in overturning Molefe’s appointment as he had now been on the job for two months.

A compromise might, however, be struck by restructuring news management to bring in Jimi Matthews, the second short-listed candidate who lost out to Molefe.

Meanwhile, the SABC has received a bail-out in the form of a R1-billion loan guarantee from the Treasury.

It will receive another R473-million guarantee only once a turnaround plan has been finalised.

The turnaround has stalled because the board and its executive management are deadlocked.

Mokoetle said: “No appointment at the SABC happens without simultaneous signing of a contract. Whoever told you that is peddling a lie.”

Asked whether Molefe’s appointment would stand despite the fact that 11 out of 12 board members believed it to be illegal, Mokoetle said: “I do not want to get into that.”