DA to lay criminal charges against Faith Muthambi for political interference in the editorial policies of the SABC

Following the release today of the report into Political Interference at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) revealing the interference of the then Communications Minister, Faith Muthambi in SABC editorial decisions, the Democratic Alliance (DA) will be laying criminal charges against Muthambi.

The Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Interference in the Decision-making in the Newsroom of the South African Broadcasting Corporation reveals that with regards to Muthambi:

  • “…evidence shows that from the year 2012 up until the year 2017, SABC Executives took instructions from people with no authority in the newsroom, for example, members of the SABC Board (Ellen Tshabalala) and the Minister for Communication (Faith Muthambi).

An example of Muthambi interference in the SABC’s editorial decisions includes how she insisted that her Constituency work for the ANC be covered. Evidence revealed how she insulted SABC crew members:

“When the crew caught up Muthambi told them to be fast – ‘or I will fire you, I will really fire you’. Then she picked on this young lady and told her she looked fat and that she wasn’t dressed appropriately. The journalist was wearing a nice shirt and a nice skirt.”

The findings of the Commission of Inquiry therefore indicate Muthambi not only violated the Broadcasting Act which establishes the SABC as an independent institution, but also that she misled Parliament during the SABC Inquiry in 2016. During her testimony she explicitly said she “never” interfered in the editorial decision of the public broadcaster.

Her misleading of Parliament is in direct contravention of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliaments and Provincial Legislatures Act, specifically with regards to Section 17(2) which states that a person who:

  • commits an offence […] is liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months or to both the fine and the imprisonment:
    • (2) (b) (ii) to give false evidence before a House or Committee; and,
    • (e) (ii) whether or not during examination under Section 15, willfully furnishes a House or committee with information, or makes a statement before it, which is false or misleading.

The findings in today’s report strengthens the findings made by Parliamentary Legal Services in August 2017 that she has “tried to mislead Parliament”.

The DA has laid a complaint with the Ethics Committee with regards to such violations by Muthambi while in office and her unsuitability to hold public office.

Given the fresh finding in today’s report, the DA will be laying criminal charges against Muthambi for her violation of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities Act for misleading Parliament during the SABC Inquiry.

The report also revealed that the ANC has “hovered” over the decisions made at the SABC. The DA believes that the current Board of the SABC must continue to enforce its independence. The report must serve as a stern warning to the ANC not to engage in political interference at the SABC.

The DA will continue to fight to ensure that public interests always come first and that the SABC remains a public broadcaster, and not a platform for ANC corruption and wrongdoing. A fully independent SABC is in the interests of all South Africans.

Ramaphosa kowtowing to Magashule faction on SABC board appointments

Please find attached a soundbite by Phumzile Van Damme, the DA Shadow Minister of Communications.

It has been 21 days since the National Assembly approved candidates to fill vacancies on the SABC board and President Cyril Ramaphosa is yet to formally appoint the board members as he is required to do by the Broadcasting Act.

President Ramaphosa wrote to the Speaker of Parliament in December indicating that the filling of the vacancies was “urgent” and yet he appears to be stalling.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has been reliably informed that ANC Secretary General, Ace Magashule’s faction is fighting against the appointment of National Assembly approved candidates to fill the 8 vacancies on the SABC board to keep the board inquorate and to allow the ANC to infringe on the SABC’s editorial independence.

From the beginning, the Magashule faction did not want the vacancies to be filled and preferred for the board to be dissolved and an interim board appointed which would be at Luthuli House’s beck and call for the election season.

The divisions within the ANC were clearly visible during deliberations on filling the vacancies in the board in the Portfolio Committee on Communications.

It was only after sustained pressure from the DA and civil society that the ANC was forced to begin the process of filling the vacancies.

It’s clear that Ramaphosa is not in charge of the ANC. As indicated in media reports this weekend, Magashule is firmly in control of the ANC and is consolidating the fight-back campaign against President Ramaphosa.

Magashule even boldly stated in public last month that “[i]t is amazing because our friends throughout the world are asking us a question: how are you governing? Why do you call yourself the governing alliance when you are not in charge of the public broadcaster?

It is patently clear that Ramaphosa is a President without backbone and is not in control of the ANC. He will no doubt be “shocked” at his own failure to do his duty as is required in the Broadcasting Act.

We have noted that SOS Coalition is considering legal action to force President Ramaphosa to appoint the board. We hope that unlike during the Zuma Presidency, President Ramaphosa will not have to be forced by the courts to do his job.

Halting of SABC retrenchments welcomed

Please find attached a soundbite in English by Phumzile Van Damme MP.

The DA welcomes the move by the SABC for placing in abeyance the planned retrenchment of more than 2200 workers. The public broadcaster recently made the announcement, saying it reached an agreement with creditors.

We now reiterate our call for an independent skills and salary audit to be conducted, as we have done consistently in the past. It’s imperative that this takes place, so that critical posts are not simply abandoned and they remain filled. Retrenchments must be conducted in a responsible manner and a skills audit is critical to that process.

The DA is also requesting the details of the agreement with creditors and what the long-term plans are to turn the SABC around. The retrenchments might be in abeyance, but after elections the public broadcaster’s financial woes might continue should the SABC’s agreement only cover them until the elections. Therefore this issue is likely to return if the ANC government is still at the helm of the crisis. It’s important for voters to get details of the turn-around strategy before going to the polls later this year.

I further demand the ANC to prioritise the filling of the 8 vacancies on the SABC board. Despite an undertaking by the Portfolio Committee of Communications last year that the process of filling the 8 vacancies would begin in early January 2019, this has not happened.

It is in the best interest of the SABC that these vacancies be filled urgently. We need the board to return to its full capacity and for stability to return to struggling SABC.

With four resignations, vacancies on SABC board must be filled urgently

Please find attached an English soundbite by Phumzile Van Damme MP.

The DA notes that President Cyril Ramaphosa has accepted the resignations of four South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) members, Khanyisile Kweyama, John Mattison, Krish Naidoo and now Mathatha Tsedu.

The resignation of these board members, all who were part of the SABC’s interim board and instrumental in steering the SABC to calm waters following the disastrous Hlaudi Motsoeneng era is highly unfortunate.

It would have been desirable for all board members to stay on and work together to fix the dire financial crisis facing the SABC which has now been exacerbated by the illegal interference of the new Minister of Communications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

We are aware of the interim board members’ implication in the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) investigation into the awarding of a security tender, which was found to have been awarded irregularly. There was financial misconduct in contravention of the PFMA and we await the final report anticipated to be released in March 2019.

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Communications, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize must now approve the immediate advertising of the four new vacancies in order to allow Parliament to fill what are now eight vacancies on the SABC board with urgency.

The filling of four vacancies that existed due to the resignations of Rachel Kalidass, Victor Rambau, Febbe Potgieter-Gqubule and the withdrawal of Nomvuyiso Batyi has been advertised. Another advertisement must now be issued with the same deadlines of nominations closing on 21 December 2018, so that the committee can interview for all eight vacancies in January 2019.

The DA will write to the Chairperson to request that this happen as a matter of urgency in order to allow for the SABC board to continue with its work.

The Minister can’t tell the SABC what to do

Please find attached a soundbite in English by DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile Van Damme MP

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is in possession of a letter to the SABC board Chairperson, Bongumusa Makhathini, by the new Communications Minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, and its contents are cause for serious concern.

At first instance, while the Communications Minister does indeed have an oversight role over the SABC, she does not, however, have the power to give instructions to the board. The fact that she has decided to “desist from all engagements with the SABC board” because it refused to take her instruction to halt retrenchments is puerile and in violation of the SABC’s independence.

Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams must continue discharge of her oversight role as shareholder and cannot decide not to do so because the board will not take her instructions and “…is no longer acting in the interests of the company, shareholder, and Parliament…” as stated in her letter. If she is not up to the task, she is welcome to resign.

The current SABC board has done well to enforce its independence and stand up to political interference by former communications ministers and it is evident it is doing the same with the current one.

That being said, the SABC board reports to and is accountable to Parliament and has not covered itself in glory regarding its proposed plan to retrench 2200 staff.

The DA has consistently said that the board must conduct an independent skills and salary audit before considering retrenchments, a view that was shared by the rest of the Communications Portfolio Committee when the board appeared before it last week. The committee also requested that the board present a clear strategic plan that will see the board self-sustain by cutting costs and exploring new revenue streams and funding models. The board has thus far done neither.

The SABC has until January to present both the results of an independent skills and salary audit, as well as a clear strategic plan to Parliament or face the risk of being axed. In terms of Section 15A of the Broadcasting Act, Parliament can dissolve the SABC board for the inability to perform its duties “efficiently.”

The DA is not blind to the politics at play. The SABC board has been adamant about enforcing its independence and this is not a situation Luthuli House would be happy with going into an election.

It has in the past had the SABC under its control and made sure that the public broadcaster was its mouthpiece and portrayed the ANC in a positive light to the electorate. The dissolving of the current board would allow for Parliament to appoint an interim board which could quite likely be filled with ANC-friendly individuals who would be at Luthuli House’s beck and call.

The ball is ultimately in the SABC board’s court. It must in January not give the Communications Committee reason to dissolve it, by presenting the results of an independent skills and salary audit and a clear strategic plan.

The DA is serious about rebuilding the SABC, protecting its independence after years of financial mismanagement, corruption and political interference by the ANC. We are also serious about protecting SABC staff against unjust retrenchment, we will not allow SABC staff to lose their jobs without just cause. We wait for the SABC board and management to redeem itself, and we hope it will do so.

SABC retrenchments: DA unsatisfied with SABC cost-cutting and retrenchment plans

Please find attached a soundbite by the DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile Van Damme MP.

Today the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) appeared before the Communications Portfolio Committee to present its plan regarding the implementation of Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act – the retrenchment of staff.

Instead of presenting a plan detailing how extensive cost-cutting has been implemented, the SABC told Parliament of cosmetic savings such as:

    • Restricting purchases of refreshments
    • No catering for meetings
    • No hiring of venues
    • Limiting attendance of conferences and workshops
    • Limit printing of documents
    • Containment of consulting fees

The SABC currently needs R3 billion in order to stay above water, and we would have expected the presentation of extensive, innovative cost-cutting measures which would not only steer the public broadcaster to calm waters, but also save the jobs of the estimated 2 200 staff it intends retrenching by 1 February 2019.

Instead of saving itself, the SABC seems to be shooting itself in the foot by restricting profit generating services. As an example the production of content has been reduced. It is the production and purchase of quality content which draws audiences and in turn, advertisers, the SABC’s main source of revenue.

The DA has been very clear that we will not support the retrenchment of staff unless it is a last resort after all cost-cutting measures have been exhausted and an independent skills and salary audit conducted.

The SABC’s GCEO, Madoda Maxakwe today indicated that the SABC would not be conducting an independent skills and would be relying on PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PWC) skills audit conducted in 2013. This audit is outdated and much has changed at the SABC, for the worse. The last five years saw intensified financial mismanagement, irregular appointments and salary increases. Furthermore, the PWC audit only focused on an audit of skills and qualification and not salaries. A fresh, independently conducted audit assessing skills, salaries and qualifications is needed before the SABC considers retrenchment. In its plans today, it was clear that the SABC did not have clear direction regarding which staff would be retained and retrenched, and on what basis. An audit is needed to generate that information.

The DA is equally bewildered by the apparent blatant lie told by the SABC Head of HR, Jonathan Thekiso, who vehemently denied being sent a letter informing him that the picket by SABC staff last Friday would be peaceful and during their lunch hour, to which he responded with a threat of disciplinary action against any staff participating in the picket, a constitutional right they are entitled to, especially if it is during their lunch break not during work hours. We will lay charges against Mr Thekiso in terms of the Powers and Privileges Act for misleading Parliament should he not withdraw his apparent fib, and set the record straight.

The DA is committed to not only re-building the SABC after years of mismanagement, but also preventing unnecessary job losses.

The SABC has it within its powers and brain trust to prevent this. We trust that the board along with management with further apply their minds to further cut costs and conduct the audit as requested.

SABC staff threatened with disciplinary action for engaging in peaceful lunchtime protest against retrenchments

Please find attached a soundbite by the DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile Van Damme MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has seen a letter sent by SABC management indicating that disciplinary action will be taken against staff protesting peacefully during their lunchtime against retrenchments.

In the letter written by the SABC’s Group Executive of HR, Jonathan Thekiso, the SABC indicates:

“The SABC wishes to reiterate that the planned ‘total shutdown and or so-called peaceful demonstration’ during lunchtime on Friday, 09 November 2018 is not in compliance with legislation…and employees participating in such action will be subjected to disciplinary action.”

It is not the SABC’s business what its staff do during their lunchtime, and it is well within their rights to engage in protest.

We have been informed by staff that no ‘total shutdown’ is planned, and it was a falsehood spread by the SABC that one was planned.

The SABC’s response to the protest is indicative of an authoritarian creep in an SABC that is bungling its retrenchment process.

We maintain that a full-scale skill and salary audit should have been conducted to prevent arbitrary job losses at the public broadcaster.

The board and management are due to appear before the Communications Committee next week Tuesday and the DA will not hesitate to take on the SABC for its insensitive, arrogant and poor management of its retrenchment process.

DA looks forward to engaging with SABC board regarding retrenchments as committee resolves it appear before Parliament as top priority

Please find attached a soundbite by the DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile Van Damme MP

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications has today resolved as a matter of top priority, that the SABC board must appear before Parliament on Tuesday, 13 October 2018, to update the committee on the retrenchment process at the public broadcaster.

Last week, the Democratic Alliance (DA) called for an urgent briefing by the SABC board to provide a full update on its retrenchment process.

The DA is of the view that the SABC has not handled the process of the possible retrenchment of up to 2200 staff adequately. The fact that a proper independent skill and salary audit has not been conducted does not inspire confidence.

The DA will not allow for hardworking SABC staffers to lose their jobs without proper basis. A skills audit would reveal which skills and jobs at the SABC need to be retained and which not, and must be undertaken before retrenchments are considered.

Staff members and indeed the public deserves to be taken into the confidence of the SABC leadership.

It is evident that the SABC board has a lot to answer for and the DA looks forward to using the opportunity on Tuesday to hold the board accountable.

SABC board a bungling disaster waiting to happen

Please find attached an English soundbite by DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile Van Damme MP.

Today, Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, revealed in Parliament the remuneration packages of the SABC’s top three executives. She revealed that the salaries of the CEO, COO and CFO are R5.1 million, R4 million and R3 million respectively. The total remuneration for executive packages thus stands at R12.1 million.

This is but a marginal R1.2 million decrease compared to the highly inflated R13.3 million paid to top management last financial year, largely as a result of huge yearly increases during the Hlaudi Motsoeneng era.

The SABC was therefore misleading the public when they indicated that the salaries of “the executive management have been significantly reduced”.

It is also a pity that the Minister had to reveal these figures today. The DA has continuously asked SABC board to reveal the salaries of their top management, which they repeatedly refused to do, even when asked in Parliament.

All we asked was for the board to play open cards with the public, which they refused to do.

We today also found out in a reply that the SABC has not conducted a skills audit before considering staff retrenchments. The DA is of the view that the SABC should have instituted a proper skills and salary audit before staff who should not lose their jobs end up doing so.

The SABC board is simply not inspiring confidence and their attitude towards accountability needs to be set straight. We will not allow for a slide towards Hlaudi-esque arrogance. It must be nipped in the bud.

The DA will now write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of Communications to request an urgent briefing by the SABC Board to account for their secrecy and the seeming bungling disaster waiting to happen that will be their retrenchment process.

SABC should conduct a proper independent staff and salary audit before considering retrenchments

Please find attached a soundbite in English by DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile Van Damme MP.

The Democratic Alliance is in possession of a memorandum sent to SABC staff indicating that the public broadcaster is considering retrenching up to 2200 staff effective on 1 February 2019.

Of serious concern is that this is to take place without the SABC having conducted a proper employee audit, which means staff who should not lose their jobs might end up doing so.

The DA is reliably informed that SABC management simply went from office to office asking managers if there were staff in their units that could be retrenched.

Before considering retrenching staff, the SABC ought to have conducted a proper independent skills audit to asses which staff it still needs, and those that are no longer needed, similar to the one conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the SABC in 2013.

Similarly, a salary audit would have revealed where inflated salaries that need to be reduced exist, which would have resulted in savings, particularly at mid- and top-level management level.

To date, the SABC refuses to reveal how much its new top management earns, creating the impression of fat cats earning massive salaries while planning to retrench 2200 subordinates. The retrenchment process also appears haphazard and illogical. As an example, the SABC has resolved to end the contracts it has with approximately 1200 freelance employees. Some of its freelance employees include drawcard and popular anchors such as Sakina Kamwendo, Redi Thlabi and Robert Marwara. Furthermore, while having placed a moratorium on the advertising of new positions the SABC continues to do so.

This does not inspire confidence of management well-informed of its staff component and conducting retrenchments with sound basis.

The DA will not allow the SABC to play Russian Roulette with the jobs of its staff.

Therefore, we will be writing to the SABC’s CEO requesting that an independent HR audit be conducted, and the results thereof tabled in Parliament and made public.

Parliament, the public, and indeed SABC staff need to see and understand the sound rationale behind these retrenchments.

As no final decision has been taken regarding retrenchments, we trust that a full audit will be conducted before a bigger mess is created at the SABC.