The SABC office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
The SABC office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

On Tuesday, Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane came under fire from opposition MPs, who accused her of wanting to interfere in the appointment of executives at the SABC.

The minister appeared before Parliament’s communications portfolio committee to discuss the appointments of executives at the public broadcaster.

It emerged earlier in January that the SABC was set to hire MTN group CEO for corporate affairs Chris Maroleng pending vetting by the State Security Agency, despite claims by the minister that she was not consulted.

The broadcaster has also re-advertised the positions of CEO and chief financial officer. A court order in December required the board to make any permanent or interim appointment of any executive member "only after consultation with the minister of communications".

EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the court order had made it clear that the appointment of executives was the sole prerogative of the board. The board was not bound by the minister’s views on proposed candidates, he said.

After reading out a media statement that Kubayi-Ngubane distributed last week, Ndlozi said it was clear that the minister wanted to interfere in the appointment of executives, which would violate the court order.

In the statement Kubayi-Ngubane stated that all appointments of CEOs, chief operating officers and chief financial officers of "state-owned entities (SOEs) are done through Cabinet processes and therefore the announcements of the outcome are made by the Cabinet".

"It is the minister’s responsibility to present any appointment of executives of the SOEs under the Department of Communications through Cabinet processes," she said.

Ndlozi said the SABC was a public, not a state broadcaster, and therefore it followed that the board must take the lead in appointing executives, not the minister or the Cabinet. "The board must stand very firm on this," Ndlozi said.

DA MP Phumzile Van Damme said there was a "trust deficit" and MPs had been "scarred" by the handling of previous executive appointments at the public broadcaster and the political interference. "As a committee we have to be absolutely vigilant," she said.

However, Kubayi-Ngubane said she had no intention of interfering or bullying the SABC board.

"I have a responsibility as a shareholder representative … due process has to be followed … and, I repeat, the court order says I should be consulted …. The priority is to ensure that executives are appointed and the finances are stabilised. The finance minister is stringent on [appointment of executives]. There is emphasis that the right people should be appointed."

SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini said the board was consulting with the minister "every step of the way".