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

The Communications Workers Union (CWU), which represents more than 44,000 workers in the communications industry, has expressed concern about the shortlisting process for the SABC board, saying it was shocked to learn there was no labour candidate among the 24 names on the shortlist.

Last week, parliament’s portfolio committee on communications drew up the shortlist of candidates who will be interviewed to fill eight vacancies on the troubled broadcaster’s board. Interviews are scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

Aubrey Tshabalala, the general secretary of CWU, said at the weekend the union would write to the portfolio committee chair to register its displeasure at the shortlisting process.

“To include labour is not a favour but part of the Broadcasting Act requirements and the advert. We are therefore not pleased that labour has no representative. It is important that, in these trying times, the board of the SABC comprises expertise from all sectors of our society,” said Tshabalala.

“We are disappointed by the committee. We are going to write a letter to parliament expressing our disapproval of this shortlisting. The labour representative on [the] governance board is a critical part of social dialogue, and is a practice that is successful in Germany, Japan and other [countries]. This will bridge the communication gap, contribute on strategies, expose corruption and poor governance.

“The undermining of labour cannot be accepted, especially now that there are threats of dismissing workers in massive numbers.”

The shortlist includes erstwhile SABC CEO Lulama Mokhobo and Gift Buthelezi, a former deputy director-general in the department of telecommunications & postal services. The other candidates are:  Motshedi Benjamin Lekalakala,  Nkosana Mbokane, Mathews Mofokeng, Mamodupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi,  Bernedette Muthien,  Jasmina Patel,   Nakedi Ribane,  Marcia Socikwa, Siphile Buthelezi, Sathasivan Cooper, David Maimela, Mpiyakhe Mkholo, Lufuno Nevondwe ,  Mary Papaya, Chief Livhuwani Matsila,  Sembie Danana,  Itani Tseisi, Rowan Nicholls,  Mfanozelwe Shozi, Nokuzola Ehrens,  Mmabatho Ramagoshi  and William Malema Ramoshaba.

The ANC, meanwhile, welcomed the shortlist and urged the public to participate in the process by “commenting on the shortlisted candidates to ensure that the outcome of this process is transparent and in line with our participatory democracy”.

The public broadcaster, which is in dire financial straits, sank deeper into crisis late in 2018 when four directors resigned,  leaving the board without the quorum required to make decisions. It is meant to have 12 members and needs nine, including the CEO, CFO and COO, to form a quorum.

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 retrench about 2,200 permanent and freelance staff, nearly 40% of its staff compliment, in an attempt to salvage its finances.

They quit after receiving a scathing letter from communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, 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 SABC has since halted retrenchments 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 unless it secured a R6bn government guarantee.