Friday, October 29, 2010

Torrent of outrage finally hits Ngubane

Kindly remain seated

Broadcaster on the brink thanks to SABC head's to-ing and fro-ing

Carol Paton, Financial Mail, Johannesburg, 28 October 2010

Ben Ngubane, the chairman of the SABC board, has a lot to answer for.

In the 10 months he has led the broadcaster, Ngubane has dug it deeper and deeper into crisis.
It began with his unilateral and illegal appointment of a new head of news in May, made without following prescribed legal processes, which set the rest of the board against him. The debacle over the news appointment resulted in the board unanimously declaring its loss of trust in Ngubane and passing a formal resolution to that effect.

But instead of resigning or being removed, as would be the normal response when a board loses confidence in the chair, Ngubane — owing to the peculiarities of how the SABC board is appointed — has remained. Instead, it has been board members — so far four out of 12 — who have felt stymied and have resigned.

In contrast, Ngubane has enjoyed political protection, since neither parliament's portfolio committee on communications nor communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda nor the presidency — all of whom played a role in appointing him — have been prepared to act against him. The portfolio committee has pretended that it lacks the authority to remove him. And, say board members, Nyanda told them at a meeting in June that its resolution declaring a lack of confidence in Ngubane should be "shredded". (Nyanda had not responded to questions from the FM at the time of publication.)

But last weekend, time abruptly ran out for Ngubane. The parliamentary portfolio committee is now preparing to motivate to the presidency for his removal.

The action that turned sentiment against him was another of Ngubane's trademark unilateral and illegal declarations, the audacity of which sent members of the committee and board members reeling.

In September, the board suspended group CE Solly Mokoetle for failing to present a turnaround plan for the corporation since his appointment in January. It was a decision which everyone on the board, except Ngubane, had supported. Chief financial officer Robin Nicholson was delegated the authority — for the next 30 days — to act in his place.

By the time Ngubane and the board appeared before parliament last week, the delegation of authority had expired, leaving the SABC without a legally appointed group CE. Ngubane pointed this out to the committee. However, after the meeting he promised Nicholson — who was seated beside him throughout the hearing — that the situation would be remedied as a matter of urgency and that immediately on returning to Johannesburg he would sign a new delegation of authority.

But that evening, though he was aware that he could easily sign the delegation, Ngubane told SABC news that if an acting group CE could not be appointed very soon he would have to move to bring Mokoetle back.

Without a legal CE and no prospect of one soon either, the business of the SABC looked poised to come to a halt. Apart from this being a reportable irregularity, the SABC's auditors warned the board on Friday, it also meant that the full range of transactions and processes that require the CE's authority could not be processed.

What followed was a torrent of outrage, unleashed towards Ngubane from board members, the portfolio committee and the president's office.

By the end of a weekend of furious e-mail correspondence and phone calls, Ngubane had flip-flopped once more. On Monday a board meeting was called at which Nicholson was given the unequivocal thumbs-up. Not only did the board express its full confidence in him "to lead the SABC at this time", it also put to bed the lingering doubts that had been publicly raised over his abilities and integrity.

Nyanda had been among his detractors. In September, after meeting the board, he said he was unhappy with Nicholson's appointment and urged the board to review it. Supporters of Mokoetle, lobbying against his suspension under the banner of the MK Military Veterans' Association, called Nicholson "corrupt" and SABC chief people officer Phumelele Ntombela-Nzimande described his financial management as "pathetic".

In a statement issued after the meeting, the board pointed out that while Nicholson had faced a disciplinary hearing last December arising from a report by the auditor-general, he had been found guilty of relatively minor infractions. In one case, he had sought to retain an existing service provider beyond the contractual obligations and in a second he had authorised payment for a service before a valid contract was in place. The board noted that the hearing found no dishonesty on the part of Nicholson and declared him "a man of integrity dedicated to the services of the SABC".

Ngubane wasn't the only one to come in for a roasting. Board members were also angry about the antics of senior management who they believed had played a role in influencing Ngubane's statements after the hearing in parliament. Individuals with a political agenda who meddled with governance processes would not be tolerated for much longer.

On the face of it, Ngubane's behaviour has in several instances been unfathomable. When asked about his motives, via SABC spokeman Kaiser Kganyago, Ngubane would only say that he had never said that he did not want Nicholson to act as group CE, only that it was a matter on which the board had not yet agreed. Now that it had been agreed, he was quite happy.

After his appointment as chair in January, Ngubane, who joined the ANC only lately and was a member of the IFP most of his life, was regarded as a good choice because of his independence. But on each major call it has been clear that his top objective has been to please his new party bosses. In doing so, he has been the cause of the broadcaster's new crisis.

Parliament has opened the nomination process to replace the four missing board members. Since the deputy chair of the board, Felleng Sekha, who had been regarded as a strong and capable support to Ngubane, is among those who have resigned, the portfolio committee will be looking for some strong individuals. But as the experiences of the board have shown, serving on this board is not an attractive proposition.

  • Nicholson finally gets thumbs-up as CEO
  • Four of the board's 12 members have left

Monday, October 25, 2010

SABC Media Statement - Appointment of the Acting GCEO



Johannesburg, 25 October 2010 – The Board of Directors at a meeting held on 25 October 2010, resolved to approve the reappointment of Mr. Robin Nicholson as Acting Group Chief Executive Officer, until such time that the disciplinary matter against Mr. Mokoetle had been finalised.

The Board has expressed full confidence in Mr. Nicholson and his ability to lead the SABC at this time.

The Board further considered the finding in the disciplinary matter against Mr. Nicholson on charges of misconduct flowing from the report of the Auditor General.

Mr. Nicholson's disciplinary hearing was chaired by Senior Counsel NA Cassim and the finding delivered on 9 December 2009. Mr. Nicholson was found guilty on two of the five charges. Mr. Nicholson was found not guilty on two out of the five charges and negligent on one of the five charges.

The finding was of having infringed the application of the procurement policy with regard to the manner in which Mr. Nicholson sought to retain existing service providers as well as the authorization of payments for such services before a valid contract was in place.

The Chairperson of the hearing could find no dishonesty on the part of Mr. Nicholson. Adv. Cassim found that he was a man of integrity and dedicated to the services of the SABC. The recommended sanction was that of a formal written warning to endure for a period of nine months.

The Board has accepted the finding of Adv. Cassim without reservation.


Issued By: Group Communications
Media Enquiries: Kaizer Kganyago 082 306 8888

Economic Unit

Call for Proposals for Durban FilmMart Project Manager
The Durban Film Office and Durban International Film Festival are calling for proposals for a project manager to manage, coordinate and implement the operational plans of the 2011 Durban FilmMart project. The project manager should have at least five (5) years experience in and knowledge of:
  • Film industry role-players and organizations
  • an understanding and a grasp of salient film-related issues;
  • Excellent communication skills
Contract term runs from 1 December 2010 to 31 August 2011. Deadline for the submission of proposals is 8 November 2010. For enquiries and to receive the proposal guidelines please contact: Musonda Chimba: +27 31 311 4248 OR at the Durban Film Office.

Rehad Desai

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Notice of 2010 SASFED AGM


Dear fiends of SASFED,

Hereby please receive notice of the Annual General Meeting of SASFED as follows:

DATE: 09 November 2010

TIME: 09h00 (please note the meeting is expcted to last till 14h00)

VENUE: Atlas Studios - Studio 6

Please find the agenda for the AGM here, as well as the draft of a significantly amended SASFED constitution that will be tabled for adoption here. The old existing Constitution can be found here, should you wish to review it and see the differences.

SASFED encourages you to inform your membership of the AGM so that they may participate in proceedings. However please note that only one designated person of a member affiliate may exercise a vote on behalf of the member organisation. Please duly inform SASFED who this mandated representative is.

You are reminded too that only fully paid up members of SASFED may exercise the right to vote.

Please RSVP your intention to attend the AGM to: by no later than 1 November 2010.

Thanking you,

Thandi Brewer
Khalid Shamis

Co-secretaries: SASFED

Constitutional Compliance / Notice of Meeting:

Notice of the 2010 SASFED AGM was given at the combined Board & Committee meeting (a General Meeting) of SASFED on the 31st of August 2010 and was set for Tuesday the 26th of October 2010. The SASFED Secretary released minutes of this meeting on the 20th September 2010 to the full board & committee.

In this meeting notice was given of a proposal to amend the SASFED constitution to the Committee. Since the Committee represents Membership of the Federation, notice of the AGM and Suggested Changes to the Constitution was given at least 30 days prior to the proposed AGM as required by Clause 21.2 of the current SASFED constitution.

The Board felt that more time was needed to ensure the SASFED constitution was properly re-written before the AGM, and to allow notice of the AGM to reach a broader interest group. As such it was recently decided to POSTPONE the date of the AGM from the originally called date of Tuesday the 26th of October 2010, and the Committee & Board unanimously agreed on a new date of Tuesday the 9th November 2010. This notice of the postponed meeting is therefore two weeks ahead of the meeting as required by Cause 15.1.10 of the current constitution and attached is also notice of the suggested amended constitution, together with the Agenda as required by Clause 21.1 of the current constitution.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

SABC board nominations called for. Again

Staff Writer and Sapa, MyBroadband, Johannesburg, 22 October 2010

Yet another round of nominations for positions on the SABC board was opened by Parliament's portfolio committee on communications on Friday.

"The portfolio committee on communications is inviting institutions and individuals to nominate suitable candidates to fill the vacancies of non-executive members of the SABC Board," read a statement.

This followed the resignation of board deputy chairwoman Felleng Sekha, David Niddrie, Barbara Masekela and Magatho Mello. They were reportedly frustrated with the failure of the government and the committee to intervene to resolve the problems at the SABC.

Advertisements would be placed in weekend newspapers so the public could submit nominations.

Candidates must have knowledge of the following: broadcasting policy and technology; broadcasting regulation; media law; business practice and finance; marketing and journalism; entertainment and education; and social and labour issues.

"The candidates must also be committed to fairness, freedom of expression, openness and accountability."

The committee will compile a shortlist of candidates, conduct interviews and present its findings to the National Assembly for recommendation to the president for final appointment.

Nominations close on November 15, 2010.

On May 22 the board announced a breakdown of trust with its chairman Ben Ngubane, who failed to produce a performance review of the board's first six months in charge.

Committee chairman Ismail Vadi was unhappy with this saying: "I don't want to set a precedent that if any entity does not want to report, all it has to say is that is does not have the documents."

The board has lurched from crisis to crisis over the years. This has included tussles over who the chief executive officer is, rejection by critics of former president Thabo Mbeki of a list of commentators he had approved, and apparent paralysis over a financial crisis at the broadcaster.

The SABC was reducing its losses, but still risked failing to repay loans secured against a government guarantee of R1 billion.


M&G Article on SABC Issues : Mokhobo favoured for SABC CEO

The following article appeared in the Mail & Guardian and will be of value to SASFED Readers.

Mokhobo favoured for SABC CEO

GLYNNIS UNDERHILL - Oct 22 2010 13:00

Former SABC public broadcasting division chief Lulama Mokhobo is emerging ever more strongly as the government's candidate to succeed acting chief executive Robin Nicholson, raising further questions about state interference in the broadcaster.

SABC board chairperson Ben Ngubane told Parliament this week that Nicholson "is not legal" in his post, leaving the corporation vulnerable to litigation. Nicholson told the Mail & Guardian this was because Ngubane had not signed a letter delegating authority to him.

Some board members claim that the real reason Ngubane has not signed off on Nicholson's appointment is that Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda has publicly expressed the desire to have him removed and replaced by Mokhobo.

SABC board members who asked to see Mokhobo's curriculum vitae were allegedly told there was no need to view it, as "the shareholder" (Nyanda) had decided to appoint her to the position. Mokhobo was shortlisted for the post of chief executive by the interim board, led by Irene Charnley. But, in a controversial move, the interim board opted for Solly Mokoetle shortly before the current board assumed office in January this year, without leaving it to choose its own chief executive.

This week board members told the M&G that Cedric Gina, the president of metal union Numsa, who also sits on the board, had informed them that Mokhobo's appointment to replace Nicholson had been decided by "the shareholder".

Gina brushed off the allegation, saying he was an "independent person with his own mind".

Asked if she was interested in the job, Mokhobo said: "Honestly, I can't comment."

Nicholson was asked to stand in for Mokoetle, who was suspended as chief executive seven weeks ago and faces 17 charges, including one of failing to deliver the SABC's turnaround strategy.

'Not much room for optimism'
This week board members said the impetus for Mokhobo to take the post had not gone away. Asked why this was the case, when former deputy board chairperson Felleng Sekha had said Nicholson was doing "an excellent job", a board member whispered to the M&G at the tea table in Parliament: "Because the shareholder has decided it will happen."

Nyanda was on a trip to Egypt with President Jacob Zuma. He therefore missed the sorry spectacle of SABC board members being berated in Parliament this week by members of the communications portfolio committee, including its chairperson, Ismail Vadi.

The committee said that it could not receive presentations of the board's performance review for the current year because of its dismal failure to submit relevant documents.

"The committee believes there is not much room for optimism about the affairs of the corporation," said Vadi. "It has also noted the correspondence from the president accepting the resignations, with immediate effect, of four members of the board."

Vadi said the committee felt the board had failed to provide coherent leadership and to ensure proper corporate governance of the SABC.

"The committee believes that, with the four resignations, a greater responsibility rests on the shoulders of the remaining members of the board to ensure its smooth functioning," Vadi said. "Participation in the board under these circumstances should be seen as a national service."

The infighting that has paralysed the board, and the subsequent four resignations, was not broached during the parliamentary hearings.

Infighting on the board began in earnest when Ngubane appointed Phil Molefe as head of news in May, without other board members' approval.

Mokoetle backed Ngubane, setting the board against him.

The matter was not discussed this week, as expected. A slide giving a time-line of events that led to Molefe's appointment popped up on a screen, as if by accident, but was quickly taken down.

A meeting of the communications portfolio committee in September to discuss the functionality of the board, the appointment of the head of news and the corporation's turnaround strategy was closed to the press. But the South African National Editors' Forum sought an interdict to gain access to the hearings. This week's meeting was supposed to air these critical issues.

Ngubane called once again for the communications committee to investigate the board's problems. At the closed portfolio committee meeting he was given the chance to read out his submission on the dysfunctionality of the board, but the submission by disillusioned board members has not yet been aired in Parliament. It was approved by 10 of the 11 non-executive members at the time.

The submission lays bare the concern of other board members about political interference in the SABC's affairs.

"It is to be noted," states the submission, which was leaked to the M&G, "that on other occasions and prior to the shortlisting process [of Molefe], the chairperson stated to other directors, individually, 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."

Renewed turmoil
The depleted SABC board could be thrown into renewed turmoil by Mokoetle's disciplinary hearing next month. This week Mokoetle pointed out that the sudden departure of deputy board chairperson Sekha posed questions about who was charging him with dereliction of duty.

Sekha had expected to serve three months' notice, but Zuma discharged her and the other board members who have stepped down with immediate effect.

Sekha had signed his letter of suspension, said Mokoetle, but she was no longer a board member. "Who is now taking disciplinary action against me and who is charging me?" asked Mokoetle. "All the charges against me were brought by Felleng."

He also argued that if Mokhobo was appointed to the post of chief executive while disciplinary action was pending, it would amount to his constructive dismissal. "All I can say is that clearly somebody wants to make me very rich," he said.

Mokoetle claimed to have drafted the turnaround strategy handed out in Parliament before his suspension, which made a mockery of the charges against him.

There were hints this week of further possible resignations, following those of Barbara Masekela, Magatho Mello, Sekha and David Niddrie in the past 10 weeks. There are now only eight non-executive directors on the board and there is concern that further resignations or absences would render meetings inquorate.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address:

Friday, October 22, 2010

SOS Press statement

The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition


22 October 2010

The SOS Coalition notes the outcomes of the Communications Portfolio Committee hearings on 20 October 2010.

The Coalition is concerned about the findings of the CPC, in particular the glaring lack of corporate governance, the lack of leadership and the dereliction of duty by the chairperson of the Board, Dr Ngubane. The CPC stated strongly that it is of the view that the "Board has failed to provide coherent leadership and to ensure proper corporate governance over the SABC." The Board needs to take responsibility. Further to that it is alarming to hear that the SABC Chair, Dr. Ngubane has not signed the delegation of authority document as regards the new Acting GCEO, Robin Nicholson. In effect the SABC is now operating illegally. The Chairperson of the Board needs to take immediate responsibility for this major corporate governance breach.

However, the Board is not the only guilty party in these protracted crises – it is also important to look at the problems of the SABC's oversight structures. The oversight structures include Parliament, the Ministry and Department of Communications and ICASA. Part of the Board's dysfunction stems from a prolonged lack of appropriate and effective oversight. One of the key issues here is Parliament and the executive's inexplicable unwillingness to resolve the stand-off between Dr. Ngubane and the Board. When a Board declares publicly there is a total breakdown of trust between itself and the Chair - urgent action must be taken. Of course the Board should also have called more clearly for Parliamentary intervention.

It was only eventually, after the resignation of a Board member, Barbara Masekela, that Parliament called a hearing. This was in late August when the initial calls had been made in May. Unfortunately Parliament then decided to hold the hearing behind closed doors. This led to the meeting being disrupted and only certain parties being heard. (SANEF won an urgent court interdict insisting the meeting be held in the open. At that Point Parliament decided to adjourn the meeting.) Strangely, Parliament allowed the Chair of the Board to present even though he had not submitted his documents in advance. (He submitted them that day.) Then when it was time to give the rest of the Board a platform, Parliament adjourned the meeting until further notice. Only one side of the story was thus heard and not from the majority of members.

The Minister's role has also been problematic. During this prolonged period of crisis at the SABC, the Minister intervened but seemingly did not support the Board to address the issue of the corporate governance breaches. Strangely his position on the situation was that the problems were merely the result of "factions" on the board. And unfortunately the crisis was further exacerbated by his unfortunate remarks as regards his unhappiness with the appointment of Acting CEO, Robin Nicholson. In terms of the Articles of Association the Board had no choice but to employ Nicholson. The Articles state that only a member of executive management can act in the position of GCEO. The only person available was Mr. Nicholson. Also, SOS wants to note that the Board needs to be very cautious around calling for interventions from the Minister. The SABC is a public not a state broadcaster. Ministerial interventions should thus be strictly limited to strengthening the position of the board to ensure good corporate governance principles and practices are in fact practiced at the SABC.

The SOS Coalition believes that the problems with the Board and oversight structures need to be urgently examined and remedied. The Chair of the Board needs to be disciplined in terms of his failure to sign the delegation of authority document as regards the SABC's Acting CEO, Mr. Robin Nicholson. SOS believes that moving forward it is critical that the SABC operates scrupulously within the framework of the law. Further, SOS believes it will be difficult to find new SABC board members with the necessary integrity, expertise and experience to serve on this most important of public boards if the governance - and oversight structures - do not recommit themselves to these basic principles of good corporate governance.

The "SOS: Support Public Broadcasting" Coalition represents 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), and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-SA); as well as a number of academics and freedom of expression activists

For more information:

Kate Skinner – SOS Coordinator – (082) 926-6404
Patrick Craven – Spokesperson Cosatu – (082) 821-7456
Matankana Mothapo – Spokesperson Communications Workers Union – (082) 759-0900
William Bird – Director Media Monitoring Africa – (082) 887-1370
Faiza Smith – Director Misa-SA – (076) 995-9513

TVICE Presentation to SABC & SABC Board on Terms of Trade

The TVIEC gave the attached presentation on revising Terms of Trade to the GCEO, Clare Oneal and David Niddrie last week.

The Presentation can be downloaded HERE.

COSATU urges Parliament to back SABC Board

The Congress of South African Trade Unions deeply regrets that Wednesday’s meeting between the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications (PPC) and the SABC Board failed to resolve the serious problems facing South Africa’s public broadcaster.

While the Board members deserve criticism for failing to produce a written performance review of its first six months in charge, the MPs should have probed deeper into the underlying reasons behind the ongoing crisis facing the board, rather than saying, as they did, that “the board had failed to do its job… and failed to provide coherent leadership and to provide proper corporate governance over the SABC."

The new board was elected after an extensive process of consultation. It includes people from a range of civil society, labour, business and political organisations and was broadly representative of South African society. They had integrity and skills and deserved the full support from everyone interested in saving and transforming a valuable national, especially Parliament.

From the outset however, as it got to work to tackle the massive financial and administrative problems they inherited, the board was dogged by attempts to undermine its role.

In May 2010 11 Board members issued a statement outlining serious corporate governance breaches, particularly over the unilateral appointment of the Head of News by the Chairperson, Dr. Ben Ngubane, in violation of the Broadcasting Act 1999 and the SABC’s Articles of Association. In our view Dr Ngubane, who clearly never attended any democratic meeting in his life, is at the centre of the SABC challenge.
There was persistent undermining of the board’s governance role, most notably during battles over the performance of the GCEO, Solly Mokoetle, who ignored and overturned board decisions and yet was supported in this by Dr. Ngubane. He appeared to believe he did not need the approval of his board on any matter, and was clearly not familiar with the culture and traditions of our democratic society.

Effective oversight and leadership of the SABC suffered deeply due to this stand-off between the Chairperson and CEO on the one hand and the rest of the Board members on the other, and board meetings were constantly cancelled. The GCEO, amongst others, is facing charges for failure to submit a turnaround strategy.

This helps to explain why, after nine months in office, the Board has still not been able to draft a turn-around strategy. Strangely this is now blamed on the very board that is attempting to address the paralysis.

The lack of board meetings has also meant that none of the policy issues raised with the SABC
by the independent production sector and the unions have been addressed. It is public knowledge that board meetings were cancelled on last minute by the board chairperson.
All this led to the resignation of four board members. If this continues it will be devastating for the future of the public broadcaster.

COSATU welcomed the PPC’s decision to exercise its oversight role over the SABC by holding a hearing into the controversy around the appointment of the Head of News, progress on the drafting of the SABC’s turnaround strategy and the overall functionality of the Board.
But when a date was finally fixed for a hearing on 24 August 2010, COSATU was dismayed that it was to be held behind closed doors, when transparency and accountability to the public was paramount.

Yesterday’s hearing, this time in public, should have been the opportunity to clear the air and back up the board. Events however suggest that the PPC is trying to absolve itself from any responsibility for the crisis. Neither Parliament nor the Minister have played their roles effectively. When the Minister did intervene he did not address the governance breaches and back up the board, but instead reduced the problem to board members simply not getting along with one another.

We strongly urge that the PPC, at the next hearing scheduled for November 2010, must insist that the constitutionally appointed board be allowed to do its job without interference from the Minister and other parties pursuing narrow political interests. We also urge the board members to make sure that they submit the necessary reports and supporting documents.
Unfortunately the issue has been clouded by rumours and allegations against members of the board. Not a shred of evidence has yet been produced for any of these allegations, yet their constant repetition seems to be bearing out Josef Goebbels’ notorious maxim that if a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes accepted as the truth. If there is any evidence, let it be made public; if not, let us hear no more of it.

COSATU welcomes the decision to advertise the vacant positions on the board immediately and urges all civil society organisations and the unions speedily to nominate qualified and representative candidates. It is urgent, because the longer the governance crisis continues, the harder it will be to convince quality candidates to serve as board members, and the long-term sustainability of the SABC will suffer.

COSATU believes that control of the SABC has to be in the hands of the board that was put in place by a public and democratic process and is answerable to Parliament. In this regard we call on the Minister of Communication and all other interests groups to give the Board space to conduct its business within the ambit of the law and articles of association. That is the principle that the PPC should have insisted on supporting.

The SABC is the only vehicle which can possibly speak for all South Africans in their own languages and reflect our lives, our history our culture and the political debates of the day. The board must be empowered and charged with the momentous task of ensuring that our public broadcaster plays the role laid down in our constitution.

Resolution of the Portfolio Committee on Communications on the SABC

Having received presentations from the Board of the SABC on the following: the 2009/10 Annual Report of the SABC and the financial position of the SABC presently; and having agreed not to receive oral presentations on the performance review of the Board for the current year and the functionality of the Board because of the failure to submit relevant documents, the Committee believes that there is not much room for optimism about the affairs of the Corporation.

It has also noted the correspondence from the President accepting the resignations, with immediate effect, of four members of the Board.

In essence, the Committee is of the view that the Board has failed to provide coherent leadership and to ensure proper corporate governance over the SABC. The Board has also failed to meet its statutory requirement of meeting on a quarterly basis. It has developed an unusual preference for running the affairs of the Corporation through a series of ad-hoc and special meetings. In the Committee's view, such an approach to corporate governance is decidedly unacceptable and must be corrected forthwith.

The Committee notes with concern the emphasis contained in the Independent Auditor's Report in respect of non-compliance with the PFMA, Treasury Regulations and the Broadcasting Act. Of particular concern is the breach of relevant procurement processes.

The Committee urges the Board Members to remember that they hold office in a crucially important public entity, which has an impact on the lives of millions of our citizens. Therefore, they should pay greater attention to their duties and responsibilities, and to the manner in which they carry out their duties.

The Committee believes that, with the four resignations, a greater responsibility rests on the shoulders of the remaining members of the Board to ensure the smooth functioning of the Board. Participation in the Board under these circumstances should be seen as a national service.

The Committee further notes with concern that the Annual Report lacks detail of the corporation's subsidiaries, and it is not clear whether these subsidiaries have been audited. It wishes to caution that such apparent breaches are not only against the norms and standards of good corporate governance, but can lead to further adverse audit findings, and possibly to criminal prosecution. In this regard, a special responsibility rests on the shoulders of the entire Board to ensure statutory compliance.

Finally, the Committee notes that the financial position of the Corporation remains precarious, and that the Board has not been able to adopt a comprehensive turn-around strategy.
The Committee, therefore, recommends that:-

1. the Chairperson and the Board should approve a schedule of quarterly Board meetings for the period between now and December 2011, and submit such a schedule to the Committee on 10 November 2010;
2. a turn-around strategy for the SABC must be tabled before the Committee on 10 November 2010;
3. the policy of retention bonuses for staff members be reviewed;
4. the Acting GCEO provides a full and detailed report to the Committee on the activities of all subsidiary companies associated with the SABC on 10 November 2010;
5. the Board presents a written report to the Committee on 10 November 2010 on further progress in respect of the Auditor-General's investigation into alleged irregularities at the Corporation;
6. the Board reports to the Committee on staff, including Senior and Middle Management, salary increases and benefits as from 2007 to date on 10 November 2010;
7. the Board reports to the Committee on disciplinary cases and reasons why no action was taken in respect of the cases highlighted in the 2009/10 Annual Report on 10 November 2010; and
8. the Board tables a performance review report for the current year that includes a report on the functionality of the Board on 10 November 2010.
The Committee further resolves that it will endeavour to process the recommendations for filling of the vacancies on the Board during the current session of Parliament.

BEMAWU Media Statement re SABC Crisis


BEMAWU is calling on the President, Mr. Zuma and the Communications Portfolio Committee to act responsible and with the utmost urgency to remove the Chairperson of the SABC Board, Dr. Ben Ngubane for inter alia the following reasons:
His inability to perform his role as chairperson of the Board due to the total breakdown of trust and working relationship between him and the rest of the Board,

His demonstrated inability to carry out simple administrative functions like preparing documents for a meeting with an important body like the Portfolio Committee, appointed by Parliament to oversee the public broadcaster,

His failure to sign the delegation of authority letter to enable Robin Nicholson to properly manage the SABC in his acting capacity, and by doing so putting the SABC at severe risk by rendering all decision making on the highest level inoperative, which will have an effect on the SABC to meet it’s mandate in terms of programming and repayment of its loan,

This not only puts the SABC as an organisation at risk, but also our members, as they will be targeted first for retrenchments if the SABC cannot obtain another loan to meet its financial responsibilities.

His admission that he failed to produce a performance review. Our members are disciplined and dismissed for similar offence.

The Portfolio Committee’s admission that there is not much room for optimism about the affairs of the corporation, and it’s accurate observation that the board has failed to provide coherent leadership and to provide proper corporate governance over the SABC, for which Dr. Ngubane must take accountability.

The Board has failed to report, for which Dr Ngubane must be held accountable. It is a serious dereliction of duties. It shows disrespect for parliament and the people. He had sufficient notice to prepare, but failed. It is clear that by failing to sign an operational procedure like delegation of authority and failing to prepare for a meeting with his superiors, the portfolio committee, the chairperson of the board is obstructing progress and the ability of the SABC to meet its mandate.

Although Mr. Nicholson may not be the favourite to appoint as the acting GCEO, there is no prohibition in statue or regulation against his appointment as such and it is only in an acting capacity.

According to the portfolio committee, the board has failed. We know what the problem is. If a board cannot trust its chairman, he must be removed. It is important, and more so in the SABC’s situation that the Board must be united and functional. They are not. It’s divided between Dr. Ngubane the rest.

How can a board not be able to agree? Surely they have processes to follow if there is no agreement. Normally the majority rules, so why not at the SABC? It is unthinkable and unacceptable that the chairperson of one of the most important and influential boards in this country are telling parliament and the people they are unable to make decisions because the board cannot agree. It shows serious lack of ability to steer the public broadcaster. If the majority of the board agreed Nicholson should be appointed, Dr. Ngubane must sign, or he is in breach of corporate governance. If the majority of the board voted against his appointment, Nicholson cannot be appointed. Unless there is external influence, it should be a fairly simple exercise.

We do not understand why board members who have resigned were barred from participating in the meeting. They are serving notice and despite their resignations being accepted, they remain legally and otherwise members of the board until the end of their notice period.
With the precarious financial situation of the SABC the most urgent intervention is necessary. Failing to do so would make the overseers as guilty of breach of corporate governance as the board. Should the President and the portfolio committee not immediately removes the chairperson, the SABC will be seriously compromised. With its precarious financial position and the anticipated failure to meet its obligations, the SABC will have to pay cash for programs and other capital-intensive projects. It will simply not be able to broadcast soon, as they will not have the cash to trade .

Hannes du Buisson


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Right2Know campaign kicks off the Week of Action: 19 - 27 October

Dear SASFED Friend,

We recived the following info from the Right2Know campign.

Since the campaign's launch on 31 August 2010, the campaign havs been growing and consolidating. They now apperantly have over 370 organisations and 10200 individuals endorsing the campaign statement!

They have established working groups in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg and now face the challenge of translating the great support and commitment into action. To this end, they have called a nationwide ‘Week of Action’ from today until the 27 October.

The Week of Action kicked off yesterday with a bang with protests at the City Hall and SABC in Durban and Provincial Legislature in Pietermaritzburg. Over 1000 people marched in Johannesburg to Constitution Hill to defend our constitutional right to access information and to send a clear message to government: Stop the Secrecy Bill! The Week of Action will end with a march to Parliament on Wednesday 27 October.
Please find attached the Right2Know Call to Action and details of some other events planned for the Week of Action. We urge you to take action and mobilize your constituencies by participating in the planned events, and planning meetings, pickets and protests within your communities/organization to educate and mobilize against the Protection of Information Bill.

After the Week of Action they will be facilitating a national dialogue to develop consensus on campaign strategy and structure. This dialogue will include a series of provincial workshops culminating in a national campaign summit in January 2011. The Right2Know campign would welcome your active participation in this important process.

Let the truth be told! Stop the Secrecy Bill!

Click on the image below for a larger one.

Young loveLife filmmakers take to the streets of South Africa to film their documentaries

The loveLife Film Competition has finally reached the ‘lights, camera, action’ stage after a tough round of documentary pitches from the competition front-runners. Seven thought-provoking documentaries on how young people in South Africa deal with issues have been chosen and will be screened on SABC next year. With funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), loveLife, South Africa’s largest HIV/Aids prevention programme for young people – in partnership with Born Free Media and the SABC – has over the past two weeks used the facilities at Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking in Milpark, Johannesburg, to help the young filmmakers fulfill their cinematography dreams.
The 28 film enthusiasts were chosen from 120 competition entrants and have been working in groups of four to complete the seven chosen documentaries. They pitched their documentary ideas to a panel of judges, who selected the most viable ones. Each group has a professional director, photography director, sound and production assistant. The groups are currently scattered around the country to shoot the footage for their documentaries and will return to Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking later this month to edit their shots.

Born Free Media Executive Producer, Carolyn Carew, says the selection process was difficult as there were potentially six other strong ideas. “We wanted to ensure that we had a story per province and that they work in terms of loveLife’s communication strategy and target audience for the Make YOUR Move campaign which is designed to encourage behaviour change and ultimately prevent the spread of HIV among young people.”
Scott Burnett, loveLife’s Youth Programmes Director, says the basic skills and professionalism instilled through the process of working on a film are things the trainees will keep with them for life, no matter which career they choose for themselves. “I have been blown away by the young filmmakers we have selected. I wish we could turn every story they have brought into a full-length feature film. The group is motivated, enthusiastic, and full of drive. I can see bright futures ahead for all of them.”
The Director for the documentary A World Within, Chumisa Ndakisa (20), says she is fortunate to be a part of this experience and is excited to return to the edit suite and work on the final product. “We are all grateful for the opportunity to be in this space and to have met such amazing people on this journey,” she says. The documentary is based on the lives of four young Hip Hop artists from different backgrounds who have a passion for music. The aim of the documentary is to unleash the interest around the poetry of music, culture and the challenges of the music industry.

Sithulile Mbayi (19) is the producer for the documentary iSitimela, which is about the experience of using trains in Johannesburg and how the different people and activities on it make it seem like a world in itself. “The concept is powerful and the fact that it was chosen as one of the seven documentaries means there is something special about it. I am kissing clouds of excitement and can’t wait to sit down and watch it with everyone else,” Mbayi added.
The remaining five documentaries are:
Jiva Majiva - takes a look at a tavern in a rural village in Limpopo which uses underaged children known as Jika Majika to dance and entertain the patrons in exchange for money and alcohol. This film explores the influence it has on the children and the village, and the ensuing lack of focus on their school work and plans for the future, as well as teenage pregnancies and the high rate of HIV/Aids in the village. The film will concentrate on the children, the community, the tavern owner and patrons, and the royal family who has been unable to control this.

United Mates of South Africa - is a documentary about the existence and infusion of diverse cultures in South Africa, particularly the Afro Chinese culture. Different ethnic groups, cultural upbringings and backgrounds are respected in South Africa and this will document the rainbow nation as a whole.

Where is the love? - is a documentary about breaking the cycle of teenage pregnancy by involving community leaders and role models. This will be shot in a contemporary way that intertwines dance, poetry and music throughout the documentary.

Driving force – takes a look at the journey of self-discovery of a boy becoming a man. The documentary is about one of the young filmmakers’ voyages through life after he was released from jail for robbery. It also takes a look at the life-long lessons learnt from the traditional circumcision school in the Eastern Cape.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SOS press statement - 19th October

The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition

Truth telling and accountability needed to resolve crises at the SABC

19 October 2010

The "SOS: Support Public Broadcasting" Coalition 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 Workers World Media Productions (WWMP); as well as a number of academics and freedom of expression activists note the fact that four board members have now formally resigned and that the President has accepted their resignations.

SOS views this situation with ever increasing alarm. Our SABC is facing seemingly continuous serious governance and financial crises, with no end in sight. The situation calls for immediate decisive leadership - and action from all parties involved including the SABC Board and its oversight structures.

Firstly, SOS believes we need some forthright candidness from the Board members themselves in order to begin to rebuild the Board's tattered reputation. In the Parliamentary hearing tomorrow Parliamentarians need to ask Board members some tough questions and Board members need to be prepared to answer them. Questions should include the following:

  1. How the Head of News, Phil Molefe, was appointed including the nature of the procedural breaches surrounding this and how these breaches were remedied to ensure consistency with good corporate governance practices and protocols.
  2. The issues surrounding the suspension of the CEO, Mr. Solly Mokoetle, including the decision taken around the appointment of the Acting CEO, Mr Robin Nicholson. Further, we need to understand the Board's subsequent decisions to reverse Nicholson's appointment in order to consider the employment of an Acting CEO not presently employed by the SABC – despite the fact that this directly contradicts the SABC's Articles of Association.
  3. We need to know if any board member has done paid work for the SABC and if so what procedures were followed to ensure proper authorisation. Also, has any board member unprocedurally employed friends or family to posts in the SABC?
  4. Also, we need to understand the kind of relationship board members have with their Board chairperson given the fact that they previously claimed that their relationship had irretrievably broken down.
  5. Also, and most importantly, it appears that the ongoing crises in governance at the SABC have encouraged inappropriate Ministerial interference. This is despite the fact that the Broadcasting Act, 1999 is very clear, "The Board controls the affairs of the corporation". We thus need to know in what ways have board members and the Board collectively invited Ministerial interference and conversely how Board members have ensured the independence of the SABC from both direct government and commercial influence.
  6. Finally, in terms of the Board, we need a thorough examination of the SABC's financial situation including a detailed explanation of what is happening in terms of the SABC's critical turnaround strategy.
We believe that if these issues are not sufficiently aired and discussed and decisively resolved it will be difficult to move forward. The accusations and counter-accusations have eroded the credibility of the Board. These issues need to be aired and decisively dealt with before it is possible to begin a process of selecting new candidates for the Board. There is certainly urgency in this regard. We must ensure that the Board continues to quorate. Board members serve a three month notice period. The notice periods of two Board members, who have resigned, are almost up. Parliament must urgently deal with the governance crises at hand and then swiftly move to replace these members.

Secondly, in terms of the oversight structures themselves (including the Executive, Parliament, and ICASA) we need some introspection and a clear examination of their roles in the exacerbation of the ongoing crises. Parliament, for instance, inexplicably delayed holding a hearing into the governance crises at the SABC when Board members had made it clear that corporate governance breaches had taken place as regards the appointment of the Head of News. Then when Parliament eventually did hold a hearing it took the unfortunate decision to hold this behind closed doors. The South African National Editors' Forum then got a court interdict to compel Parliament to hold its proceedings in the open. Parliament then indefinitely postponed the session – so that the governance crises continued to remain unresolved. Only the SABC Board Chairperson was given space to put forward his views, prejudicing to other Board members. Parliament's role, the role of the Minister in resolving the conflict and ICASA's continued total absence in taking responsibility for the SABC need all to be carefully examined.

For more information:

Kate Skinner – SOS Coordinator – (082) 926-6404
Patrick Craven – Spokesperson Cosatu – (082) 821-7456
Matankana Mothapo – Spokesperson Communications Workers Union – (082) 759-0900
Marc Schwinges – South African Screen Federation – (083) 901-2000
William Bird – Director Media Monitoring Africa – (082) 887-1370

SABC board 'will continue to function' (from the BusinessDay)

Chantelle Benjamin, Business Day, Johannesburg, 19 October 2010

THE communications ministry says the SABC board will continue to function, despite President Jacob Zuma accepting the resignations of four of its members, including its deputy chairwoman.

Panyaza Lesufi, spokesman for Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda, said yesterday: "The articles of association are clear; all board members who resign have to serve out three months' notice, so the board can still meet quorate and make decisions.

"Now that President Zuma has announced his acceptance of the resignations, Parliament will issue a public notice calling for the nomination of representatives. They will then conduct interviews."

Mr Lesufi said while the board selection process was the responsibility of the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications, he was confident the SABC board would be able to continue functioning — despite Barbara Masekela and Makgatho Mello's notice period ending in a fortnight.

"There are executive directors that also sit on the board so there will be enough members for the board to continue to function," he said.

Mr Zuma yesterday confirmed the resignations of Ms Masekela, Mr Mello, deputy chairwoman Felleng Sekha and David Niddrie, and thanked them for their "contribution to the SABC".

Kate Skinner, spokeswoman for the Save Our SABC Coalition, yesterday warned that Parliament may battle to attract quality applicants for the board if the oversight functions of the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications and the communications ministry were not strengthened to ensure the board is given more support.

"Government needs to get to the bottom of why these four resigned and what the underlying problem is at the SABC," she said. "If deep structural problems are not dealt with we could have a situation where more board members resign, which is a real possibility, and new board members resign at a later date."

Ms Skinner said the SABC had a history of board members resigning. "Going forward, we need to look at what needs to happen to ensure there is a stable board that can make sure that SABC fulfils its mandate as a public broadcaster.

"SOS believes Parliament and the minister need to look at what part they might have played in the instability of the board."

Civil society organisations that make up SOS — including Cosatu and the Freedom of Expression Institute — have expressed concern that the committee and the minister did not back the board and that its factionalism was a direct result of a lack of appropriate oversight.

Board members who resigned have not issued statements, but it is understood that for many a lack of support from the government was a key contributor to their decision.

Ismail Vadi, chairman of the portfolio committee on communication, said it had not yet received official notification of the resignations. He said the committee took its oversight role "very seriously" and is meeting tomorrow — as soon as it could after a court interdict that halted a previous meeting with the board.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

SOS News A host of upcoming events!

Hello all
There are a host of upcoming events. Please click on the links for attached PDF.
  • There is a lecture on digital standards issues tomorrow in Pretoria. Click here for PDF.
  • Rhodes is holding a media colloquium over the weekend on media transformation issues since 1994. (Sadly this does not look at public broadcasting but covers other interesting issues.) Click here for PDF.
  • Then there is the Right to Know Campaign's week of action next week. Click here for PDF.
  • Also there is a major Media Freedom day event on the 19th at Wits. Click here for PDF.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nominations for NFVF Councillor Positions

Dear Members,

This is your chance to make a make a difference!

Please click here to find the request for nominations for the new NFVF Council members released in the press last week by the Department of Communications. The Council will consist of between nine and fourteen members.

Nominees should have special knowledge or experience in the film and video industry, or specialist skills which are not directly related to the film and video industry but which would be beneficial to the Council, such as legal knowledge, knowledge of marketing, liaison and fundraising.

Nominees will be interviewed in public. Any member of the public may object in writing to any nomination of any person. The members will be appointed by the Minister.

The closing date for nominations is 2 November 2010.

The IPO is co-ordinating nominations for it's members and asks their members to please send nominations by Friday 22nd October so that they can create a shortlist of nominees and prepare all of the required paperwork.

SOS press statement on SABC Crisis issues

The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition

SOS notes with increasing alarm the deteriorating situation at the SABC

12 October 2010

The "SOS: Support Public Broadcasting" Coalition 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), and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-SA); as well as a number of academics and freedom of expression activists note the deteriorating situation at the SABC with ever increasing alarm. We note the possibility that the Board may again collapse.

Newspaper reports over the weekend and Monday morning have stated that Board members are asking the Minister of Communications, Siphiwe Nyanda to amend the SABC's articles of association so that an acting CEO can be chosen from outside the organisation. At the moment the acting CEO is Robin Nicholson, an internal executive. Previously newspapers had quoted the Minister stating that he was concerned about the appointment of Mr Nicholson (the current Chief Financial Officer).

SOS does not hold any particular brief for Mr Nicholson but the Coalition believes that the decision to review the SABC's Articles of Association ostensibly to allow for the appointment of an external candidate is flawed on a number of grounds. First, we believe that the reversal of the Board's initial decision to appoint Mr. Nicholson is creating further instability at the SABC. A situation the institution can ill afford.

Second, it gives the impression that the Board did not consider the impact of this reported latest decision but rather responded to shareholder pressure (in contravention of corporate governance principles). If it did, it calls into question whether or not Board members sufficiently applied their minds when taking the initial decision.

Third, although we believe that the Articles of Association should be reviewed to bring them in line with constitutional principles and the new Company Act and King Codes among others, we are concerned that the latest Board proposal seems to indicate a piece meal approach to the Articles rather than the necessary thorough, open and comprehensive review clearly required. The impression that is being created is that these revisions are haphazard and being driven by outside pressures rather than genuine inside requirements. We fear this will bring the SABC's reputation into further disrepute.

SOS believes that the Articles of Association need to strengthen the SABC's institutional autonomy so as to prevent Ministerial intervention in the operations of the SABC, a key safeguard for editorial and programming independence. Further, SOS believes that this should be part of a broader review of broadcasting policy and legislation in the country.

Finally, we would like to emphasise that we believe that these recent problems with the Board are all symptoms of a deeper malaise caused by a failure of oversight by Parliament and appropriate oversight by the Executive which is ultimately affecting audiences' right to be informed.

Crises first emerged close to five months ago in May this year when the Board called on Parliament to consider an apparent breach of the law by some members in unilaterally appointing a Head of News. These issues have yet to be discussed in Parliament, though the Portfolio Committee is saying that it will resume a public hearing on the matters on 19th October 2010. This is long overdue and at least three Board members have resigned over the period reportedly due to the lack of decisive oversight and leadership. According to media reports others are considering resigning as well.

The lack of clear oversight is further evidenced by the fact that Parliament has yet to initiate a process to replace resigned Board members. Board member Barbara Masekela resigned in July 2010 and Magatho Mello in early August. Members have a three month notice period in which Parliament is mandated to replace them. It appears that Ms. Masekela's notice period is almost over.

It is clear from a range of reports (including the SABC's annual reports, the Auditor General report and others) that the crisis facing the SABC will require a concerted effort to resolve. A Board can only deliver on this and ensure audiences can have access to meaningful content if they are given the necessary support to act decisively and then held accountable for meeting their mandate.

The ongoing challenges faced by the SABC make it urgent that the role of the oversight structures is reviewed as well in their handling of the various crises at the SABC.

For more information:

Kate Skinner – SOS Coordinator – (082) 926-6404
Matankana Mothapo – Spokesperson Communications Workers Union – (082) 759-0900
William Bird – Director Media Monitoring Africa – (082) 887-1370