Government intends acting promptly on the public protector’s report into pressing issues at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). Communications minister Yunus Carrim and his deputy, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, met with the SABC board to discuss the report, titled ‘When Governance and Ethics Fail’, that fingered acting COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng for abuse of power, lying about his qualifications, and giving himself a massive salary increase in just one year, from R1.5 million to R2.4 million.
Advocate Thuli Madonsela’s report also questioned why there is such a high turnover of board members and senior executives at the public broadcaster, something else the board and ministry promised to look into.
In a statement issued after the meeting, Ndabeni-Abrahams said the communications ministry had given the SABC board the legal opinion it had received from the state law advisor. “In their report, they are going to take into account this opinion,” she said, adding that the ministry and the board had resolved the report needed to be dealt with promptly. The SABC board would give the ministry an update on their work by the end of March.
The Media Workers Association of South Africa welcomed the minister’s swift response to the damning report, saying Carrim had kept his promise to act swiftly. But it also drew attention to the high turnover of staff in the office of the minister of communications. “There has not been any sustained ministerial programme to address the challenges of the changing communications landscape, environment and economy. We face the real and present possibility that a new minister may be in the offing after the imminent May 7th elections,” said general secretary Tuwani Gumani.
Gumani also said the union was concerned over the lack of consultation with “ordinary” workers at the SABC. “The public protector has found that SABC employees do not necessarily trust or have faith in the SABC board and executive,” he said.
“Excluding the voices, insights and opinions of workers and SABC users will not lend any credence to the anticipated efforts announced today. The workers have kept the SABC on air under trying times over more than a decade of instability, dysfunctionality and rampant corruption at the highest levels of the broadcaster and the broadcasting value chain.”
Meanwhile, the Save Our SABC coalition, a civil society body that advocates creating a public broadcasting system dedicated to “quality, diverse, citizen-orientated public programming committed to deepening South Africa’s Constitution” says the SABC is “dying and our democracy with it”.
The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition is organizing a mass meeting in an attempt to answer three key questions: We have three big questions: Why is our SABC falling apart? Who benefits from a dysfunctional SABC? What is to be done?
“Political interference, censorship and unspeakably bad administration are killing OUR public broadcaster. We, the people, must act radically, and act now!” it said.
The meeting is taking place on Friday, 7 March between 2pm – 5pm at Constitution Hill (Number 4 and 5), Braamfontein in Johannesburg.