A plan by communications minister Faith Muthambi to change legislation to remove parliamentary oversight of the SABC and concentrate it in her office has drawn scathing criticism from the Democratic Alliance.
A Sunday Times report at the weekend said that Muthambi intends stripping parliament of its power to fire members of the SABC’s board. She also wants to reduce the number of directors on the public broadcaster’s board from 12 to five, saying it’s too unwieldy and expensive in its current form.
“It is tough for us to do oversight on the SABC board,” she is quoted as saying. “There’s no provision on how to fire or reprimand a board member. It’s a tedious process in the sense that you will have to wait for quite some time [while] hell is breaking loose.”
The minister reportedly denied that her intention is to take oversight of the SABC away from parliament.
But the DA has slammed Muthambi’s remarks to the newspaper. The party’s Gavin Davis, an MP and shadow minister of communications, said Muthambi’s proposals “signal a desire to turn the public broadcaster into a party broadcaster”.
“Giving the minister absolute power to hire and fire the SABC board will make the board beholden to the governing party instead of to the people of South Africa,” Davis said. “A smaller board will also be easier for the minister to manipulate and control.”
He said that it was now clear that President Jacob Zuma had set up a “propaganda ministry” when he split the department of communications in two after the election, with a new department (taking on the old communications department’s name), taking responsibility for the SABC and government’s communication arm, GCIS, among other entities.
“It is now clearer than ever that President Zuma is setting up a propaganda ministry to force-feed South Africa a ‘good story’ that reflects positively on his record,” Davis said.
“Minister Muthambi has done little to dispel these fears, telling parliament last year that the ‘media continues to publish negative news on government, disregarding [its] good service delivery record’,” he said. “Just last week, she said her department would tell ‘the good stories that are not being told’.” — © 2014 NewsCentral Media