Tuesday, October 19, 2010

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.