Wednesday, May 20, 2015

'SABC is in crisis, the scale of which is only starting to become clear,' says Democratic Alliance's Gavin Davis; SABC 'facing financial ruin'.

South Africa's minister of communications, Faith Muthambi, was slammed on Wednesday as "willfully misunderstanding her role in relation to the SABC" for saying the beleaguered public broadcaster is a state-owned company.

Gavin Davis, a Democratic Alliance (DA) member of parliament and a member of the portfolio committee on communications on Wednesday said the SABC is in crisis, "the scale of which is only starting to become clear" and that "the SABC is facing financial ruin".

He slammed Faith Muthambi, saying she "believes that the SABC is a state-owned company instead of an independent public broadcaster" and that South Africa will face "humiliation on a global scale" in less than a month when the country miss the internationally agreed to deadline to complete the switch from analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT), a process known as digital migration.

Gavin Davis told parliament that Faith Muthambi has failed in her promise of a new SABC CEO to be appointed by September 2014 and that the SABC is being taken back to an apartheid era tool in the hands of ruling party politicians.

Gavin Davis told parliament that since a year ago "we've had an SABC board chairperson [Ellen Tshabalala] resign because she was caught lying about her qualifications. But this was only after 6 damaging months of postponed hearings, court cases and other delaying tactics".

"We've had an SABC chief operating officer (COO) [Hlaudi Motsoeneng] who has been shielded and promoted when the Public Protector said he should have been fired".

"We have a Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) that is abused to promote the majority party, including the channeling of public money into the coffers of a government-friendly newspaper owned by the president's friends".

"In a few weeks on 17 June, we face humiliation on a global scale because, on that day, we will miss the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) deadline to switch over from analogue to digital television".

"If Faith Muthambi had not spent the last year meddling with the Digital Migration Policy, and waging an obsessive turf war to control the process, it is unlikely that we would be in the embarrassing position we now find ourselves in," said Gavin Davis.

While she promised that a new SABC CEO would be in place by the end of September 2014, nine months later the post is still vacant.

"Faith Muthambi wants to take us back to the apartheid era when the SABC was a tool in the hands of politicians, instead of a resource belonging to the people of this country. This is why Faith Muthambi thinks there is nothing wrong with unilaterally seizing the powers of the SABC board, even though this is in clear contravention of the Broadcasting Act," said Gavin Davis.

He also noted that with Faith Muthambi directly interfering with the governance of the SABC and instrumental in the purging of three SABC board members - Hope Zinde, Rachel Kalidass and Ronnie Lubisi - earlier this year, the unstable SABC board which has had only an acting SABC chairperson for months and originally had 12 board members, no longer has a quorum to legally constitute meetings.

"No wonder the SABC is in crisis, the scale of which is only starting to become clear," said Gavin Davis.

"The SABC faces a projected loss of R501 million for the financial year just ended on March 31. This loss is projected to double to R1 billion in the next financial year. The SABC is not on a 'sound financial footing but facing financial ruin," said Gavin Davis.

"We need to work together to find the most qualified and independently minded candidates to take up positions on the SABC board and then they need to be left alone to do their jobs in the interests of the public we serve. These steps will go some way to get the SABC back on track," said Gavin Davis.