Thursday, June 4, 2015

'The SABC is not in crisis,' says minister of communications, Faith Muthabi; promises a new SABC CEO 'any time now'.

The SABC is not in crisis.

So says Faith Muthambi, South Africa's minister of communications about the beleaguered South African public broadcaster, promising that a new CEO for the position which has been vacant for months will happen "any time now".

Faith Muthambi was one of the panelists, together with the SABC's controversial and famously matricless chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng, at the latest breakfast briefing of The New Age newspaper held in Fourways, Johannesburg.

Faith Muthambi denied that she was the one who fired SABC board members Hope Zinde, Rachel Kalidass and Ronnie Lubisi in March.

"Can I say upfront I didn't dismiss any SABC board member. I don't have the power to do that. That was a decision of the board of the SABC to do that. And then they've done that, empowered by the provision of section 71 of the Companies Act.

"There's no crisis," said Faith Muthambi. She denied that the gutted SABC board which has no permanent chairperson and which lost several members since last year, no longer has a quorum. "They quorate. They are still quorating. They still form a quorum."

On when the SABC will see a new permanent CEO - something she promised would happen by September 2014 - Faith Muthambi said "the matter has been finalised. We're still dealing with the due diligence part of it. Any time from now."

"The CEO will be appointed. You know need to do all those due diligence issues that you need because you don't want a situation where someone comes in, that person is not vetted, then you have problems," said Faith Muthambi.

Like Eskom and South African Airways, the SABC has been lurching from crisis to crisis, constantly battered by a barrage of bad press.

Since Lulama Mokhobo abruptly quit in February 2014 after just 14 months into her 5 year contract without any explanation, the SABC has been without a CEO for a year and three months now.

In February the Public Protector, in a scathing report, found that the famously matricless Hlaudi Motsoeneng was "dishonest", lied about having a matric which he admitted to in a recorded interview, and committed fraud by making up symbols for a matric certificate he knew he couldn't produce.

The Public Protector also found Hlaudi Motsoeneng irregularly and rapidly increased the salaries of various SABC staff members and that his own salary also increased three times in one year with 63% to R2.4 million.

The Public Protector found that Hlaudi Motsoeneng was directly involved in purging all the SABC staff who testified against him in an earlier disciplinary hearing, and that the "dysfunctional" SABC board is part of "pathological corporate governance deficiencies at the SABC".

The Public Protector said that Hlaudi Motsoeneng should be suspended; instead the SABC responded by permanently appointing him as chief operating officer (COO). After the Western Cape High Court twice ordered that he be suspended, the case is now moving to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in September.

The unstable SABC board has been without a chairperson for months after the lying chairwoman Ellen Tshabalala resigned in December following the highly embarrassing, highly publicised scandal of faking her tertiary qualifications. She initially also went to court.

SABC board member Bongani Khumalo abruptly resigned in January and Hope Zinde was purged from the SABC board in March together with Rachel Kalidass and Ronnie Lubisi.

The SABC's most watched TV show and biggest TV revenue earner, Generations, abruptly disappeared for months from the airwaves at the end of 2014 due to a talent strike which SABC executives failed to resolve and which saw the cast abruptly being fired and replaced.

The SABC's suspended TV boss Leo Manne resigned and left at the end of April, leaving the position of general manager for TV channels vacant.

In April ongoing concern was raised in parliament over the SABC's audience share which is flat at 53%.

The SABC wasted R3.39 billion on irregular spending in three years according to the Auditor General (AG) and the public broadcaster has so far received 4 consecutive annual qualified audits from the AG.