This is an apt moment to reflect on the status of the troubled public broadcaster. The Broadcaster has undergone a welcome overhaul during the Interim Board’s tenure. It is common knowledge that the SABC had been run into the ground due to financial mismanagement in the form of undue bonuses, as well as poor editorial policy planning. Examples of this are former Chief Executive Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the ‘90% Local’ policy, which affected cash flow at the Broadcaster.
The Interim Board has gone as far as instituting disciplinary proceedings against staff responsible for fruitless and wasteful expenditure. It is worth mentioning that the Interim Board is currently consulting with the pension fund to use the pensions of former Chief Operations Officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng and former Chief Financial Officer, James Aguma. The Board is also trying to recoup an R11 million bonus paid to Motsoeneng. The cancellation of the ban on the airing of violent footage is another notable change. This alleviated tensions between the SABC and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). Various questionable contracts concluded under the old Board are also being reviewed.
The Interim Board was faced with no small feat and have risen to the challenge. The members laudably sacrificed their salaries and have worked tirelessly to right the SABC. Considering that they were given a mere six months to tackle numerous challenges, the work of the Interim Board has already produced results. The Interim Board has also done what many government departments are failing to do, and that is to conduct itself transparently and openly. The interview process for the new members was inclusive of the public, as were the consultations on its editorial policy.
Considering the above, as well as the approval of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigation into maladministration at the SABC, it is safe to say that this version of the public broadcaster is indeed well on its way to fulfilling its mandate and serving the public, not the personal interests of a handful of individuals. It is encouraging to see an example of good governance in the exercise of a public institution. Whilst cadre deployment has been raised as grounds for an objection to one of the incoming Board Members, we can only trust that the Portfolio Committee has done its due diligence. We cannot have a repeat occurrence of the SABC we had come to know.
By Rebecca Sibanda: Legal Assistant, Centre for Constitutional Rights