SABC television studios in Auckland Park. Picture: KEVIN SUTHERLAND
SABC television studios in Auckland Park. Picture: KEVIN SUTHERLAND

Parliament’s communications portfolio committee, which is in a race against time to fill eight vacant board positions at the troubled SABC, adopted the final list of proposed candidates on Thursday, despite objections by opposition parties.

The list will be forwarded to the National Assembly for adoption. The proposed candidates include erstwhile national consumer commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi; SA National Editors’ Forum founder member Mary Papayya; and controversial academic and psychologist Sathasivan Cooper.

The other names on the list are: Jasmina Patel, Marcia Socikwa, Bernedette Muthien, David Maimela, and Adv Motshedi Benjamin Lekalakala.

DA MP and communications spokespeson Phumzile Van Damme MP raised concern about the inclusion of Cooper.

“The DA will be writing to President Cyril Ramaphosa to raise a serious objection to the inclusion of Prof Sathasivan Cooper on the list,” said Van Damme. “Cooper has no broadcasting experience and during his tenure as vice-chancellor of the [then] University of Durban-Westville, he was investigated for 11 governance issues. The investigator’s report to the education minister portrayed Cooper as ‘manipulative’ and prone to ‘surrounding himself with acolytes’.”

Van Damme said the DA believes Cooper will “destroy” the SABC board.

“During the interview process he came across as extremely arrogant and he will not be a team player ...  Cooper displayed disdain for members of the committee which is worrisome: this is the same committee he will be reporting to as a member of the board.” 

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. Four other directors had resigned earlier that year. 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 came as the SABC was planning to retrench about 2,200 permanent and freelance staff, nearly 40% of its staff complement, 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 non-executive 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 this week that it may not be able to pay some salaries at the end of March unless it secures a R6.8bn government guarantee.