On the same day the SABC’s board was finally appointed by President Jacob Zuma amid opposition concerns about the political affiliation of his choices for chairperson and deputy chairperson, the High Court also made a ruling that will safeguard the SABC from political interference in the appointment of the broadcaster’s top executives.
There were, however, concerns from the DA and the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) about the politically connected chairperson and deputy chairperson of the board that Zuma appointed.
On Tuesday morning the Presidency announced that Zuma designated Bongumusa Makhathini as chairperson and Febe Potgieter-Gqubule as deputy chairperson of the board.
Others who have been appointed to serve on the board for the next five years are Krish Naidoo, Khanyisile Kweyama, John Matisonn, Mathatha Tsedu, Rachel Kalidass, Michael Markovitz, Victor Rambau, Dinkwanyane Mohuba and Jack Phalane.
Nomvuyiso Batyi withdrew her application.
Makhathini is the chairperson of the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation. Ngema-Zuma is one of Zuma’s wives.
Potgieter-Gqubule is a long-standing member of the ANC and former chief of staff of ANC presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma when she headed the African Union Commission. Her name also appears on some slates for the ANC’s top six to be elected at the party’s conference in December.
DA ‘keeping a hawk’s eye on the board’
The DA, which opposed Makhathini and Potgieter-Gqubule’s inclusion on the board, noted their appointment as chair and deputy chair “with grave concern” and described them as “close allies to President Zuma and his family”.
“It is obvious that the president willfully delayed the appointment of the permanent SABC board because he wanted certain individuals on the board to serve his own interests, not those of the South African public,” said DA MP Phumzile van Damme.
“The SABC needs individuals who will carry out the mandate of the SABC, act within the prescripts of the Broadcasting Act and not bow to political pressure.”
She said it was reassuring that there were some very qualified and suitable individuals on the board and wished them well.
“We will be keeping a hawk’s eye on the board’s work,” warned Van Damme. “It is now up to them to stand up against corruption and political interference.”
President of the union Bemawu Hannes du Buisson said Makhathini should resign from the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation’s board, and if elected to an ANC position, Potgieter-Gqubule should also resign from the board.
During her interview for the board position with the portfolio committee on communications Potgieter-Gqubule said she would take this step if elected, and Makhathini told the committee during his interview that he would consider resigning from the Ngema-Zuma Foundation’s board if appointed.
“The appointment of the board is a very small step in the right direction,” said Du Buisson.
He also said the union would watch the board closely.
Last week Bemawu threatened a strike at the SABC. Du Buisson said the non-appointment of the board was one of the union’s main grievances. Bemawu will meet with the acting group CEO on Thursday before deciding on a way forward.
Director of Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) William Bird said he welcomed the appointment of the board, albeit three weeks late.
“We are however absolutely thrilled by the ruling on the SABC MOI (memorandum of incorporation) case where it is now clear that the board has the exclusive power to appoint senior executives,” said Bird.
He was referring to the application that the MMA, the SOS Coalition and the Freedom of Expression Institute brought against the SABC, the minister of communications and others.
The organisations asked the court to declare certain sections of the SABC’s MOI dealing with the minister’s ability to appoint or remove the SABC’s top executive invalid.
Judge Elias Matojane on Tuesday found in their favour in the Johannesburg High Court.
He ruled that the executives be appointed solely by the board members without any requirement of approval by the minister.
Shortly after announcing his appointment of the SABC board, Zuma also announced another Cabinet reshuffle, moving Minister Ayanda Dlodlo from the communications portfolio to home affairs and replacing her with Mmamoloko Kubayi, who was energy minister.