Muthambi, Davis clash over SABC powers - TechCentral

Muthambi, Davis clash over SABC powers

Faith Muthambi

Faith Muthambi

Communications minister Faith Muthambi on Tuesday revindicated sweeping powers to hire and fire the SABC’s top staff and initiate the removal of board members.

Briefing MPs, she challenged the notion that the SABC was an independent public broadcaster, saying that in terms of the Companies Act of 2008 it was a state-owned enterprise, with her as government’s sole shareholder representative.

This, Muthambi said, meant she and her predecessor Dina Pule had been within their rights to amend a memorandum of incorporation to allow them to appoint the chief executive, operations and financial officers of the company and, where necessary, to suspend them.

Democratic Alliance MP Gavin Davis accused Muthambi of undermining parliamentary oversight of the broadcaster, and taking it back to the apartheid-era model.

“The SABC is not like Eskom, it is not like Transnet, it is an independent public broadcaster and it is governed by the Broadcasting Act… Section 11 of the act gives the board the power to control the affairs of the corporation.

“Now this is important because the board is made up of civilians selected by this portfolio committee.

“It is the board that gives life to the idea of public broadcasting, not state broadcasting. But what you are doing with this memorandum of incorporation, you are trying to turn the SABC from a public broadcaster to a state broadcaster.

“Now we had a state broadcaster during apartheid. Do we really want to go back to having a state broadcaster which is run by a minister?”

He added that changes to the memorandum made in February were not as Muthambi claimed, done mainly for the sake of correcting “grammatical errors”, but to allow her to tighten her hold over the broadcaster.

“The memorandum fundamentally changes the character of the SABC… The minister is now in charge.”

Muthambi responded that he was wrong to view the SABC as different to any other state-owned enterprise.

“I differ with you on that one. The Companies Act now covers the SABC. I don’t know who gave you that impression to say it is not a state-owned company,” Muthambi said.

Gavin Davis

Gavin Davis

She repeatedly invoked the act to counter Davis and suggested it trumped the Broadcasting Act when he challenged her power to appoint and suspend top officials, to change how an acting CEO was appointed, and to call for the removal of a board member.

Davis challenged her to name three board members she was allegedly trying to remove, but she evaded the question.

Regarding her prerogative to remove top officials, she said: “Myself as minister I am the sole shareholder, and I have the authority to appoint the group CEO, chief operating officer and chief financial officer.

“Therefore, under the circumstances, you also have the responsibility to discipline, or suspend.”

Davis said the extended powers meant that in future the minister could impose her preferred candidates, just as she did with Hlaudi Motsoeneng, adding that the failure to advertise his post or shortlist candidates had been illegal.

“And now she wants to put this into documents to make that look as if that’s okay.”

He added that by drafting regulations to appoint the SABC’s most senior official as acting CEO, the minister was paving the way to the top for Motsoeneng. She confirmed him as chief operations officer last year, despite the public protector’s finding that he had lied about passing matric.

Muthambi said this change was justified because the board had had problems in dealing with the post — which had been vacant for nine months.

“We have taken this route as the ministry to say that the most senior executive will act in this position and I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that.”

Motsoeneng then accused Davis of trying to incite staff at the SABC and wrongly describing R3m in irregular expenditure at the broadcaster as wasteful expenditure to create the impression that it had “chowed up” the money.

“We need to respect the honourable member, but first he needs to be honourable before we can accept him,” he concluded.

Davis countered that it was part of his job to speak to SABC journalists but one of those had her laptop seized by management in a bid to intimidate her and colleagues from talking to him.  — Sapa

8 Comments

  1. Dear Minister Muthambi,
    Please get some legal advisors worthy of the name. They are making you look foolish, debating whether the Companies Act trumps the Broadcasting Act.

    The Constitution is the supreme law of this our land. Section 192 reads in full:
    Independent Authority to Regulate Broadcasting
    192: Broadcasting Authority
    National legislation MUST establish an INDEPENDENT authority to regulate broadcasting in the PUBLIC INTEREST, and to ensure fairness and a DIVERSITY of views broadly representing South African SOCIETY. (My emphasis)

    The key words here are MUST – it’s not optional. The Broadcasting & ICASA Acts must exist
    INDEPENDENT – not under the control of a Minister, a political party, or a government
    PUBLIC INTEREST – not state interest
    DIVERSITY – not just the view of the ANC
    SOCIETY – all of us. Not just your government, your political party or your cronies.

    Oh, and in case you’re wondering, that independent authority is ICASA.

  2. Faith is 100% correct, we KNOW that the SABC is state owned and the state decides who gets fired and a hired, why do people think that a person like Hlaudi is still at the SABC. People working at the SABC knows that the sole “stakeholder” is Faith, so please Davis, you are wrong in this regard, we are back in Apartheid years, and stop complaining about it. Just don’t pay your TV licence and rather watch DSTV.

  3. No Chris, Faith is wrong. She and her buddies in the ANC want to control the SABC and make it a state broadcaster, but the comment by RegsWatcher above is correct. We as citizens must continue to fight the ANC’s attempts to oppress us and remove the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

  4. Mike, she already controls the SABC. We can say and we can want to believe, that its a public broadcaster, but the ANC controls the board and therefore the “good” news that comes from the SABC. Why are people like Thauldi in control at the SABC? He’s Zommers right hand man at the state owned entity.

  5. Mike for sure, but this story is all of a sudden in the news, and trust me this is not new news, its OLD news!
    People are responding to this story like its something nobody knew about, but we all know about it.