Monday, August 30, 2010

SOS News Solly Mokoetle has been suspended!

The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition
SOS welcomes the Board’s decision to suspend the SABC’s GCEO, Solly Mokoetle
27 August 2010

The “SOS: Support Public Broadcasting” Campaign representing a number of trade unions including COSATU, COSATU affiliates CWU and CWUSA, FEDUSA and BEMAWU; independent film and TV production sector organisations including the South African Screen Federation (SASFED); and a host of NGOs and CBOs including the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI), Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-SA) and the National Community Radio Forum (NCRF); as well as a number of academics and freedom of expression activists welcome the SABC Board’s decision to suspend the SABC’s CEO, Solly Mokoetle.

Mr. Mokoetle has strongly backed and supported the Chair of the SABC, Dr Ben Ngubane’s serious breaches of corporate governance at the broadcaster. He has implemented the Chair’s illegal unilateral appointment of the Head of News thus throwing the SABC into a serious, an entirely unnecessary, corporate governance crisis.

Further, it is alleged that Mr Mokoetle has operated unilaterally (with only the authority of the Chair) and without accounting to the rest of the Board on a number of important occasions. For instance, in a leaked memo from Board members to the Minister of Communications on 8 June 2010 it appears that Mr. Mokoetle attended a conference in China on behalf of the Chair of the Board, days before the opening of the World Cup, on an issue not vital to the SABC’s core mandate, and without appointing anyone to act in his absence.

Further to these specific allegations it appears that Mr Mokoetle has failed overall to deliver on his detailed performance targets clearly laid out in his performance contract with the SABC Board. To date the SABC still does not have a “turn around” strategy in place. Further, he does not appear to have implemented any cost cutting measures at the cash-strapped broadcaster – in fact it appears that there was significant fruitless and wasteful expenditure at the SABC over the period of the FIFA World Cup. This is in terms of the purchase of World Cup tickets, without ensuring direct benefits to the SABC, and the hiring of the Sandton Convention Centre, at excessively high rates, as a broadcast venue.

If these various allegations are in fact proved to be correct then we believe Mr Mokoetle should be fired for both actively supporting and implementing illegal decisions taken by the Chair and further for not fulfilling the clear targets of his performance contract.

The swift conclusion of Parliamentary processes

Further to this action around the CEO we believe that Parliament needs to conclude its hearings into the SABC governance crises in an open session. SOS supports the calls by IDASA, SANEF, MISA-SA and others to ensure that Parliamentary sessions are held in the open to ensure maximum public accountability and transparency. We therefore do not believe that Parliament should wait to hear the conclusion of the court case that forced them to adjourn their closed session. The Parliamentary hearing should be held in the open as soon as possible.

The Coalition notes that to date only one side of the story has been tabled and reported on – the evidence of the Chair Dr. Ben Ngubane. We urgently need to hear the evidence from the rest of the Board.

SOS believes that Parliament must then investigate this evidence before them and take appropriate and swift action against those guilty of violating good corporate governance practices, processes and protocols at the SABC. If it is found that the Chair of the Board, Dr Ben Ngubane has in fact violated good corporate governance practices at the SABC, which it certainly appears he has, then he should be removed as Chair of the Board.

For more information please contact:

Kate Skinner – Coordinator – SOS: Support Public Broadcasting – (082) 926-6404
Rehad Desai – Executive Member – South African Screen Federation – (083) 997-9204
William Bird – Director – Media Monitoring Africa – (082) 887-1370