Another day, another piece of nonsensical news surrounding the SABC emerges.
Today, the Department of Communications (DOC) appears to have washed its hands of all recent matters concerning the SABC. This is pretty eyebrow-raising stuff, considering one of the DOC’s mandates is to regulate and oversee all affairs relating to communications in South Africa.
Still, the department released a statement today, saying it has chosen not to “meddle in the SABC’s internal matters that were widely reported in recent weeks”.
This is the same DOC which just last week was demanding sign-off on all overseas travel by SABC employees. The absurdity of that is that it could mean journalists, who obviously need to do a fair bit of foreign travel to do their jobs, might need government approval to go Lesotho to report on – say – a delegation of SA dignitaries visiting.
The “internal matters” the DOC doesn’t want to “meddle” with, however, include the firing of eight journalists at the public broadcaster in July, and a decision by the SABC’s COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng to have the broadcaster not show any footage of violent protest in the run-up to this month’s municipal elections.
“We deliberately decided not to pursue an interventionist stance as the Ministry. Our view is that, these are in fact operational issues which need to be resolved by the board as the accounting authority for the Corporation,” said Faith Muthambi, Minister of Communications.
Muthambi added that “this hands-off approach demonstrated the ministry’s confidence in the [SABC] board”.
“Failure to observe this key constitutional and policy provision would, in fact, render the ministry as interfering with the duties of the Board and management of the public broadcaster. This is something we have not done in the past, and that we do not wish to do in the future,” she added.
“The mandate of the SABC is set out in the Broadcasting Act no 4 of 1999 and in the 1998 White Paper on Broadcasting Policy. In addition, section 14(1) makes provisions for the affairs of the Corporation to be administered by the Executive Committee, consisting of the Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Chief Operations Officer (COO), the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and no more than 11 other members,” the department said.
Muthambi is set to appear in Parliament tomorrow, to iron out the matter before the Portfolio Committee of Communications, as requested by the DA.
It seems Muthambi and her department are confusing interference with intervention.
The SABC’s board and the recent shenanigans at the broadcaster have criticised by all of the main parties; in fact, the notion that the SABC’s leadership is making a mess of things is one of the few things the ANC, DA and EFF agree on.
Furthermore, the fact the DOC has released this statement after months of being silent on the matter is rather telling – especially since it comes less than 24 hours before it’s dragged to parliament for urgent intervention. The Communications Department’s responsibility to step in and find a constructive way forward; Muthambi and the DOC should have acted months ago.
What this demonstrates, is an unwillingness on Muthambi’s part to take responsibility for the mess created by Motsoeneng and a silent condoning of his actions to date.
How is it that the current state of affairs at the SABC is beyond her influence? Remember, that when the Public Protector and the courts found the Motsoeneng’s appointment to his current position was irregular, Muthambi was able to intervene in the process, constantly defending him.
Faith Muthambi needs to stop ducking and diving away from this and face the music once and for all. Parliament also has the responsibility to reign her in and make sure she steps up to the plate.