The evasive new SABC CEO, Frans Matlala, struggled to give any straight answers during a 702 radio interview, while Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who weirdly accompanied Frans Matlala and who is supposed to be neutral, again launched an on-air tirade against the Democratic Alliance (DA) political party.
In a radio interview which quickly turned awkward, 702 anchor Xolani Gwala asked relevant and pointed questions of the beleaguered South African public broadcaster's new boss – none of which he was willing to specifically and adequately answer.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation last week announced that Frans Matlala has been appointed as the new CEO at the SABC – the struggling broadcaster's 9th person in the position, including those who've acted in the position, since 2009 when the SABC came to the brink of financial collapse.
Frans Matlala's appointment – he's done consulting work for the SABC for over 18 months – came a year and five months after the last permanent SABC CEO, Lulama Mokhobo, abrupty quit just months into her 5-year contract.
Xolani Gwala asked Frans Matlala point-blank on 702 whether he was going to finish his contract and term and if he's worried; to say what the problems are at the SABC as CEO, how he will be dealing with undue political interference, what he is going to be doing differently than predecessors who've failed, whether he is going to take final decisions and responsibility for those decisions, and whether its's business as usual or how decisions are going to be made differently at the SABC.
On none of the questions Frans Matlala – who remained evasive throughout the interview – gave specific answers.
Frans Matlala remained non-committal and refused to say whether he as the chief executive officer of the SABC will be taking final decisions as the leader of the broadcaster and be responsible for those decisions.
Frans Matlala said he is "proud" to work with the SABC's controversial and famously matricless chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who strangely accompanied Frans Matlala to the radio interview.
'SABC a great place to work at'
Frans Matlala, a former banking executive, told Zolani Gwala that the "SABC is a great place to work at".
Without mentioning credibility, accountability or public broadcasting independence once during the interview, and echoing president Jacob Zuma's speech closely last month at an SABC launch event, Frans Matlala said "there has been a narrative about the continent and South Africa over many years that needs to be corrected. Institutions like the SABC are ideally positioned to make sure that the right story about the continent and about the country is told".
Asked about the bad side of the SABC and what the specific problems are, Frans Matlala mentioned none and dodged the question and said he sees opportunities.
Asked about the big issue of political interference at the SABC and how Frans Matlala plans to deal with it, he said "I wouldn't call it political interference, I would call it political interest".
Asked what he's going to do differently, Frans Matlala said "I'm going to do what I've always been doing" and that it's important to remember that "as a leader you're part of a collective".
Xolani Gwala asked – twice – whether Frans Matlala or Hlaudi Motsoeneng is going to be the one to take decisions at the SABC. There were no clear cut answers to listeners from either – both skirted around the issue with technical jargon.
"It's not individuals who take decision within the organisation," said Hlaudi Motsoeneng. "We vote there, but what I know most of the issues that I put on the table, people agree with me, and they vote with me. So which means, when I'm able to influence the team, it's good for the organisation."
No real answers
"The buck has got to stop with the group CEO, you must make the final decision," said Xolani Gwala. "If you get tempted into taking that role as a CEO, you'd be failing," responded Frans Matlala.
"With the new CEO, an impression is created that it's a new era for the SABC. You seem to be suggesting that it's business as usual, nothing is going to change, we're still going to make decisions the same way. Which one is which?" asked Xolani Gwala.
Again, Frans Matlala gave no real answer.
"I'm excited to work with a team. I've had the privilege of working with a team. In fact some of the staff at SABC including the strategies of the SABC, I've had the privilege of facilitating and providing input into that."
Xolani Gwala repeated the exact question and Frans Matlala continued with newspeak, saying "We're building on the foundation we have to date and we're going to take new opportunities that we see that will enhance the organisation going forward".
Motsoeneng: 'DA wants to cause confusion'
At the end of the 702 interview, and not asked a question, Hlaudi Motsoeneng – as an executive of the public broadcaster who is supposed to be seen as neutral – suddenly interrupted, launching a scathing attack yet again against the Democratic Alliance (DA) political party – his third public rant this year on the airwaves against that specific party.
"I want to deal with the issue of this DA who want to cause confusion amongst us. They're not going to see that. Cause this, we're solidly like a rock," said Hlaudi Motsoeneng.