Communications minister Pule wants say in SABC board appointments

Changes to the Broadcasting Act will be put before Parliament in an attempt to curtail a high turnover of SABC board members, Communications Minister Dina Pule said on Tuesday.

Speaking to the media shortly after delivering her budget vote speech in the National Assembly, Pule said several corporate governance problems needed to be tackled at the public broadcaster.

One was the fact that she had no say in who was appointed to the board, yet was held accountable when board members resigned.

Parliament was responsible for interviewing candidates for the board, and for submitting names to the president for approval.

“The minister was not at the interviews, the minister does not know who was interviewed and the kinds of qualifications that these people have, and what the parliamentary committee saw in these members… and when there is a challenge, the minister must answer,” she said.

The SABC has had four boards since 2008, following the mass resignation of members.

“Clearly, from our research, something is not right with the governance model,” communications deputy director-general Themba Phiri said.

It would ultimately be up to Parliament’s communications committee to decide whether it would change the model used to appoint board members.

He said the committee might have to look at whether its role in appointing boards was problematic.

“The kinds of skills sets that constitutes the SABC board, you’d recall in some instance we had challenges around financial skills within the board and things like that… how do we deal with the whole issue of strengthening governance?” Phiri said.

Pule said the amendment was not about acquiring more power for the minister.

“It’s not about the minister and the power of the minister.

“It’s about the SABC and making sure the SABC is stable,” she said.

In her budget vote speech, Pule said the broadcaster would speed up its repayment of a R1 billion government guaranteed loan.

“The SABC plans to pay the outstanding balance of R220 million within four months,” she said.

The R1bn Nedbank loan was granted in 2009 after the broadcaster reported cash flow problems.

Pule said the SABC would be able to meet its obligations in terms of digital terrestrial television (DTT) — migrating from analogue to digital broadcasting.

“The SABC can immediately migrate these three existing channels to the DTT platform and launch new channels in due course,” she said.

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Communications minister Pule wants say in SABC board appointments