Drama at SABC over new chief

SABC new rumoured chief operating officer Chris Maroleng.
SABC new rumoured chief operating officer Chris Maroleng.

The future of Chris Maroleng - a frontrunner for the SABC chief operating officer (COO) post - now hangs in the balance.

This after Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said yesterday she had "no knowledge of [Maroleng's] appointment" and it would have to go through a cabinet process first.

Maroleng, former MTN group executive for corporate affairs, had apparently impressed the newly appointed SABC board to succeed Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

However, after his imminent appointment was leaked, Kubayi-Ngubane, apparently relying on an interim order issued on December 6 by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, demanded to be consulted first.

The minister had appealed the October North Gauteng High Court judgment, which had given the board full powers to appoint the three top executives at the SABC without her approval. She may now have the final say on who becomes the new COO.

Kubayi-Ngubane's spokeswoman Mmatlou Magwai told Sowetan yesterday: "The minister has appealed the October judgment, and there's currently an interim order by the North Gauteng High Court which warrants that the minister be consulted on any appointment of executives at the SABC. The minister hasn't been made aware of any appointment."

An insider at the public broadcaster confirmed that although Maroleng was a firm favourite, the SABC still had to first sort out "certain issues".

Kubayi-Ngubane appealed the court ruling which had curbed her powers.

"It is the minister's responsibility to present any appointment of executives of the state-owned entities under the Department of Communications through cabinet processes," Kubayi-Ngubane said in a statement yesterday.

William Bird, executive director at Media Monitoring Africa, said Maroleng had "no cloud hanging over his head" and his appointment should be welcomed by everyone. Bird said it seemed the interim order was being misinterpreted by Kubayi-Ngubane and he hoped the board would stand its ground.

"For the minister to suggest that this [appointment] has to go through cabinet, it undermines the board and it goes against the interim court order," Bird said, adding that it only called for the minister to be made aware of the appointment of executives.

Approached for comment yesterday, SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said: "We still maintain that the process of finalising the appointment is under way and we will announce to the public as soon as it is completed."

Maroleng said: "For all issues relating to [this] appointment at SABC, I recommend you speak to the board chairperson. I'm not authorised to speak on such."