The SOS Coalition welcomes the Cabinet statement delivered by Minister Jeff Radebe concerning the ongoing crisis of principled leadership at the SABC. In his statement Minister Radebe made it clear that the reappointment of Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who has been at the centre of scandal and the destabilisation of the SABC, to a senior position demonstrated disrespect for the rule of law. Accordingly, and not a moment too soon, Cabinet has directed the Minister of Communications to address the matter urgently, and we hope it will result in the removal of Mr Motsoeneng from any and all executive positions at the SABC.
This being said, however, the Coalition continues to be concerned by the financial health of the SABC which is central to its successful delivery of its mandate to the people of South Africa, the overwhelming majority of whom are the Black working poor who depend on the SABC almost exclusively for their information services. The R411 million in losses reported by the SABC in the 2015/16 financial year the issuing of a sixth qualified audit by the Auditor General for the SABC’s persistent failure to comply fully with the Public Finance Management Act, as well as the reported R5 billion in irregular and unaccounted for expenditure is a testament to the complete erosion of good corporate and operational governance at the SABC. These losses, it must be noted, include irregular procurements and the exorbitant cumulative costs the SABC and its Board incurred defending, losing and having to settle an unprecedented number of indefensible labour disputes brought about by the abuse of power and purging of workers trying to discharge their duty of service to the people of South Africa in their jobs.
We find it utterly disgraceful that the Acting CEO and Mr Motsoeneng continue peddling the excuse of government’s failure to fund more than the present 3% of the SABC’s revenue as a smokescreen for the pathological crisis of corporate governance failure and apparent lack of proper financial controls at the SABC. We are also appalled by the continued defences made by Motsoeneng and his protectors that being a public broadcaster, the interest of the SABC is not to make profits. We want to dispel this pernicious misinformation by Motsoeneng, Aguma and members of the SABC Board. There are many examples of public broadcasters across the world which operate not as net-loss generating institutions, but going and sustainable concerns which turn profits that can be plowed back into the delivery of public broadcasting and information services to the people they are mandated to serve. Further to this, it beggars belief that, in the face of a stretched national fiscus and continued financial mismanagement at the SABC, that Motsoeneng, Aguma and the Board would seek to shift responsibility for the role they have each played in the decay of our national public broadcaster to Parliament and Treasury. This financial mismanagement has resulted in audit qualifications and disclaimers, and the consistent losses the SABC has been reporting since its financial collapse in 2009.
We call upon the SABC to urgently get corruption, irregular expenditure and financial mismanagement under control in order to beceom a credible candidate for increased public funding and increased TV-license revenue that is desperately needed for it to meet the diverse information and expression needs of the people of South Africa.
We, again, call upon the Portfolio Committee on Communications to undertake an urgent inquiry into why the SABC has been allowed to fall into this level of decay, and the role of successive Boards in this through their delinquency.
Further, we again call on the Committee to urgently dissolve and reconstitute the SABC Board in a principled and non-partisan manner in order for the people of South Africa to benefit from quality and credible information, education and entertainment services the people of South Africa want to see the appointment of an engaged, skilled and effective Board whose members see themselves as public servants and recognize their high duty of care for this critical public institution.
Lastly, we call upon the Minister of Communications to expedite the directive issued by Cabinet to consult with the Board so that Mr Motsoeneng exits the SABC for his role in the public broadcaster’s persistent dysfunctionality as a matter of urgency.
About SOS: The SOS Coalition represents a broad spectrum of civil society stakeholders committed to the broadcasting of quality, diverse, citizen-orientated public-interest programming aligned to the goals of the South African Constitution. The Coalition includes a number of trade union federations including COSATU and FEDUSA, a number of independent unions including BEMAWU and MWASA; independent film and TV production sector organisations including the South African Screen Federation (SASFED); a host of NGOs and CBOs including the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI), Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), SECTION27 and a number of academics and freedom of expression activists.
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