Parliament hurries to finalise SABC board next month

20 February 2019 - 08:55
By Bekezela Phakathito
SABC board has been hit by a wave of resignations.
Image: Waldo Swiegers SABC board has been hit by a wave of resignations.

Parliament's communications portfolio committee, which is in a race against time to fill vacant positions on the SABC board, hopes to finalise the short-listing process before the end of next month.

Hlengiwe Mkhize, who chairs the portfolio committee on communications, said yesterday the committee would begin from next week the process of short-listing candidates to be interviewed to fill vacant positions at the boards of the SABC and of the Media Development and Diversity Agency.

"Although expected to be rigorous, the committee has undertaken to provide due diligence on the process and complete the interviews and recommendation of candidates before parliament rises officially at the end of March 2019," said Mkhize.

The broadcaster, which is in dire financial straits, sank into deeper crisis late last year following the resignation of four directors, which left its board without the quorum required to make decisions.

The board is meant to have 12 members and needs nine, including a CEO, CFO and COO, to form a quorum.

The board already had four vacancies following the resignations

The resignation of the four directors - veteran journalists Mathatha Tsedu and John Matisonn, business leader Khanyisile Kweyama and attorney Krish Naidoo - came as the SABC was planning to cut about 2,200 permanent and freelance staff, nearly 40% of its total staff, in an attempt to salvage its finances.

Their resignations came in the wake of a scathing letter by communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams to the board in which she accused the nonexecutive directors of not acting in the best interest of the public broadcaster as they pressed on with retrenchments. The board already had four vacancies following the resignations earlier in 2018 of Rachel Kalidass, Febe Potgieter-Gqubule and Victor Rambau.

Nomvuyiso Batyi was nominated by the portfolio committee on communications but withdrew her application.

The broadcaster has since halted the retrenchment process pending a skills audit.

However, it continues to struggle to pay its creditors and warned in November that it would not be able to pay some salaries in the months ahead unless a R3bn guarantee was secured from the government.

The SABC spends more than R3bn a year on the salaries of its 3,000 permanent employees. It expects a net loss of R805m in the 2018/2019 financial year, should cost-cutting measures fail to be implemented.