MEDIA STATEMENT: The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition is deeply concerned about the latest flare ups in the ongoing crises at the public broadcaster, namely the resignation of SABC Board member, Peter Harris, the appointment of Mr. Phil Molefe as acting CEO and the amendments to the SABC’s Articles of Association.
1) Resignation of Mr Peter Harris: We have had a number of board resignations over the years and we are very disturbed that this is happening again. Further, what is equally disturbing is that it seems that Board members are bound by confidentiality agreements that do not allow them to explain what their reasons are for resigning.
To date we have never been given the formal reasons for the resignations of the four Board members that resigned in 2010. Board members represent the public therefore the public has the right to know why they have resigned.
2) Appointment of Mr. Phil Molefe as acting CEO. The Coalition is disappointed by the fact that the Board has taken such a long time to fill the position of CEO. To ensure the stability of the SABC, this should have been a top priority. Again, we need the Board to explain why this hasn’t happened and why we have yet another acting CEO, and the reasons why Mr. Phil Molefe has been appointed.
It also appears that the SABC has opened itself up to a major labour dispute involving the former Acting CEO and CFO Robin Nicholson. The SABC has stated that Mr. Nicholson will be leaving the SABC with immediate effect. However, according to media reports, it appears that Mr. Nicholson believed his contract would be renewed for a further six months.
SOS notes the potential problems created by this dispute, including further management instability, further fruitless and wasteful expenditure on labour disputes, as well as the then urgent need to find a new CFO, leaving SABC with people acting in two essential positions.
3) The Amendment of the SABC’s Articles of Association: The SOS has, for many years’ now, argued that the Articles and Memorandum of Association of the SABC ought to be publicly available and ought not to be entered into or amended without the public being heard on the matter. The SABC is not a typical company, it is the public broadcaster and must be open, and transparent in its dealings.
“As SOS we are generally deeply disturbed by this turn of events. It seems that there are deep structural problems at the SABC that are not being dealt with. SOS believes that a number of long-term solutions need to be sought to these problems. One of the key places to start is the long overdue broadcasting policy review process.
“The Minister of Communications announced in Parliament on May 31 that this process would be launched within three weeks. This deadline has been passed. We call on him once again to make this a priority,” said Kate Skinner, SOS Coordinator.
We call on the SABC Board, the Minister and the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications to ensure that:
1) the following documents be made available to the public, namely:
– Minutes of Board Meetings (save for confidential commercial information)
– the Memorandum of Association of the SABC; and
– the Articles of Association of the SABC;
2) That no confidentiality agreements are in place regarding Board matters other than in respect of SABC’s proprietary confidential commercial information. In particular we call on these bodies to release Mr Harris’ reasons for resigning into the public domain; and
3) That a permanent appointment of the CEO of the SABC happens as quickly as possible and in accordance with due process.
The SOS Coalition represents a number of trade unions including COSATU, COSATU affiliates CWU and CWUSA, FEDUSA, BEMAWU and MWASA; 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.