After a week of intense speculation, the SABC has confirmed the resignation of Lulama Mokhobo as group chief executive officer of the public broadcaster. It said the SABC board and Mokhobo had “amicably agreed” that she would leave after two years at the head of the broadcaster. She was to have served a five-year term.
A statement issued late on Monday confirmed Mokhobo would be leaving the broadcaster at the end of February, but did not offer reasons for her departure, saying only the reasons were “personal and confidential”.
But earlier, tech website Tech Central posted a story that reckoned Mokhobo’s situation at the SABC had become “untenable” due to there being two centres of power, one in her office and the other in that of controversial acting COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Tech Central said Mokhobo “has simply had enough of the political fault lines tearing at the organisation”.
Minister of communications, Yunus Carrim, in the statement, said, “We are informed that this was a mutually agreed separation, and accepted by the Board. Obviously, we are concerned about stability at the SABC and urge that the vacant senior posts be filled as soon as possible”.
The SABC board, itself having come through a year of resignations, disruptions and accusations of political interference, is now tasked with finding a replacement for Mokhobo “as soon as possible”.
That might not be as easy as it seems. One of the main reasons given for the endless instability at the SABC is that its top echelon of manager are mostly in ‘acting’ positions with five top management jobs filled with ‘acting’ heads including chief operations officer, chief financial officer, head of news and head of strategy.
Now, with Mokhobo’s resignation, the stability at the top level has been severely compromised, with no permanent executives guiding the SABC.
The SOS Coalition, an NGO comprising broad spectrum of civil society stakeholders committed to quality broadcasting, told Eyewitness News Mokhobo’s departure would leave the SABC with a “lack of leadership and direction” just a few months before South Africa’s general election. The organisation’s co-ordinator Sekoetlane Phamodi said Mokhobo’s resignation was “an admission of failure”.
Also on the SABC’s radar is a report by the Special Investigating Unit into corruption at the broadcaster. Minister Carrim has requested that the chairperson of the portfolio committee on communications, Eric Kholwane, give him an opportunity to brief the committee on the SIU’s investigation in a closed meeting. The Democratic Alliance spokeswoman on communications, Marian Shinn, has vehemently resisted this proposal, proposing the minister brief the committee openly, without naming those not yet charged. “Anything else will be deemed to be a cover-up or lethargy on the part of the SIU and SABC to adequately deal with the wide-ranging corruption that brought the SABC to its knees four years ago,” she said.
Carrim last year confirmed disciplinary steps were only pursued against 300 of the 1 465 employees identified during various investigations.
To make matters more complicated, the Public Protector is due to release the report into her investigation at the SABC, titled The Blame Game. A draft of the report recommended disciplinary action against Mokhobo “for her abuse of power and improper conduct in the appointments and salary increments” of Motsoeneng and his associate, Sully Motsweni.
The SABC, in its statement, said Mokhobo had “committed to continue to serve the organisation diligently as the GCEO until the 28 February 2014. We expect all the stakeholders of the SABC to cooperate with her during this period and to give her the support that she requires”.
Board chairperson, Zandile Tshabalala, thanked Mokhobo for her “positive contribution to the organisation over the past 24 months” and wished her well.