mce_keep=”true”Suspended SABC group executive of news and current affairs, Snuki Zikalala, is once again the centre of political turmoil at the SABC. Various commentators are in agreement that both the suspensions of Zikalala and the group chief executive (GCEO), Dali Mpofu, were largely driven by political allegiances.
Harald Pakendorf, a political commentator, says it cannot be forgotten that Zikalala was once forced out of the SABC by the then CEO Peter Matlare.
“He was then brought back. The reasoning for his re-appointment was unclear, but it was presumably because he was closer to (President Thabo) Mbeki,” he says.
While Matlare left, having knocked heads with the board, one explanation is that he resigned after the board re-appointed Zikalala without his consent.
!_LT_STRONGMore of the same!_LT_/STRONG
History seems to be repeating itself in some ways with the current GCEO, Mpofu, href=”/themedia/view/themedia/en/page1351?oid=8634&sn=Detail” target=_blank mce_href=”/themedia/view/themedia/en/page1351?oid=8634&sn=Detail”moving against Zikalala this week by suspending him on the grounds that he leaked “sensitive information”. Following this, href=”/themedia/view/themedia/en/page1351?oid=8647&sn=Detail” target=_blank mce_href=”/themedia/view/themedia/en/page1351?oid=8647&sn=Detail”Mpofu was suspended by the board for his “refusal and/or failure to abide and implement decisions of the board”. Media !_LT_U href=”http://www.pretorianews.co.za/?fSectionId=3534&fArticleId=iol1210135152848S121″ target=_blank mce_href=”http://www.pretorianews.co.za/?fSectionId=3534&fArticleId=iol1210135152848S121″reports!_LT_/U have linked the latter suspension with his decision to move against Zikalala.
Pakendorf says there appears to be a clear about-turn from government with regards to the SABC board.
“The same parliamentary portfolio committee on communications that made recommendations to the President about the composition of the board subsequently !_LT_U href=”/themedia/view/themedia/en/page1351?oid=8399&sn=Detail” target=_blank mce_href=”../../../../themedia/view/themedia/en/page1351?oid=8399&sn=Detail”passed a vote of no confidence!_LT_/U in the SABC board last week,” he says. “It seems clear that the new ANC (leadership) elected at Polokwane last year is flexing its muscles hence the turnaround of the parliamentary portfolio committee and the suspension of Mpofu,” he says.
Anton Harber, Caxton Professor of Journalism at Wits University, says that he has no doubt that the two suspensions are not as a result of information in documentation that was supposedly leaked, but have come as a result of political manoeuvring.
“Both Mpofu and Zikalala are great political survivors. There has been a lot of political manoeuvring post Polokwane and these suspensions are directly related to a post Polokwane fallout,” he says.
Harber says the current situation can be traced back to two clear problems with the SABC.
“The beginning of the collapse can be traced back to the moment Essop Pahad (minister in the presidency) or Luthuli House interfered in the process of choosing a board. This meant the SABC had a board that was tainted and lacked credibility. This board has been unable to deal with the issues around the (G)CEO and roll of the ANC with regards to the SABC.
“Secondly, the board became aligned with factions within the ANC, which means that post Polokwane, the new ANC leadership is making a move against the current SABC board,” he says.
Pakendorf agrees, saying that while there are obviously serious issues within the SABC around procedure, (a reported) budget deficit, the leaking of information and the firing of the SABC’s former chief legal officer Mafika Sihlali last year, the immediate trigger to current events is political.
A way forward
Harber says the SABC is now such a mess that a board will have to be re-appoint that is not tainted by recent crises.
“The difficulty is that parliament has shown to be an unreliable protector of the SABC’s independence. In fact, parliament has shown itself to be the vehicle for the manipulation of the SABC,” he says.
While he believes the process around appointing the board and the running of the SABC could enable an independent public broadcaster, the board will have to have the desire and authority to protect the organisation from political interference, he says.
Whether the board of a public broadcaster can be truly independent is debatable, says Pakendorf. “However, we will likely see some of the board or all of it being replaced and the new board is likely to appoint a new (G)CEO and head of news,” he says.