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SABC board crisis: Nobody wants to be on it anymore

2015-05-13 15:10

Cape Town – With the severely damaged public reputation of the SABC and ongoing drama at the beleaguered public broadcaster another crisis has been created: South African citizens are no longer willing to serve as readily on the unstable SABC board marred by acrimonious in-fighting and plagued by government interference as people once were.

From hundreds of applications in the past when an SABC board position opened, it’s plunged to only a shocking 24 applications which were received – for two positions.

Meanwhile instability continues with the SABC board still without a permanent SABC board chairperson – a vacancy which has also not yet been filled.

Prof. Obert Maguvhe has been serving as acting SABC chairperson for almost half a year now after Ellen Tshabalala abruptly resigned in mid-December 2014 after being exposed for fraudulent credentials.

Tshabalala lied about tertiary qualifications she didn't have but claimed she "did nothing wrong" despite being found guilty on two charges by parliament's portfolio committee on communications, tasked with oversight of the struggling public broadcaster.

The call for applications for a new SABC chairperson led to 97 applications received, but in the months since her departure has not yet been filled.

While five candidates out of the 97 were shortlisted by parliament not a single interview for new SABC chairperson has taken place.

Meanwhile the public broadcaster continues to make daily news headlines for all the wrong reasons similar to struggling and crises-riddled parastatals SAA and Eskom.

Since the beginning of the year another three SABC board members – Rachel Kalidass, Ronnie Lubisi and Hope Zinde – were all fired by the minister of communications, Faith Muthambi, saying she can do so under the Companies Act because the SABC is a state-owned firm, instead of the Broadcasting Act which directs the workings of the public broadcaster.

Besides those three SABC board posts not yet filled – only 24 applications were received for the vacant positions of yet another two "empties": that of Thembinkosi Bonakele and Prof. Bongani Khumalo.

Bonakele quit the SABC board almost a year ago in June 2014 with Faith Muthambi taking months to tell parliament. A fed-up Prof. Bongani Khumalo, tired of government interference in the SABC board, abruptly quit in January 2015.

Replacement process postponed further

The crisis with a lack of people with experience and a background in broadcasting and management willing to serve on the SABC board, is raising fears that people have now become scared to damage their career CV's if the potential exists for their names ending up in lurid headlines, or getting removed as a board director if there's backstage drama.

The crisis with too few applications for the SABC board which originally had 12 members, has now led parliament's portfolio committee on communications to postpone the process of finding and replacing SABC board members.

Portfolio committee chairperson Joyce Moloi-Moropa admitted yesterday that there exists a perception problem, since the position of permanent SABC chairperson has not yet been filled, while further vacant positions for SABC board positions had been advertised.

Gavin Davis, Democratic Alliance (DA) MP and member of the portfolio committee yesterday requested that the vacant positions for SABC board members be readvertised. "I must be honest, I can't find that much quality among these 24 candidates and that is going to leave us with a problem."

Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP and member of the portfolio committee said that the low number and quality of applications reflect a crisis for the SABC and the country.

"If the vacancies were properly advertised then this country is in a crisis because these CV's were difficult," he said.

The portfolio committee on communications now wants to relook at the 97 applications received for SABC chairperson, to possibly use and sift through those to fill the growing gaping holes on the SABC board.

Moloi-Moropa said parliament's legal advisors will be asked about the legality of including the 97 CV's for the SABC chairperson position.

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