SABC state help ‘depends on permanent executives’
Treasury sources say that without a permanent board and executives in place the public broadcaster lacks accountability
The Treasury will not advance the R3bn government guarantee that the SABC has requested until the public broadcaster deals with several issues, including the appointment of permanent executives.
Treasury sources said there was concern that without a permanent board and executives in place there would be no accountability at the SABC, increasing the likelihood of its turnaround plan failing.
The SABC, which is in the throes of its worst financial crisis, has been without a board since the term of the interim board expired in September. The broadcaster is being led by three acting executives, whose appointments were extended by Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo on Thursday.
The absence of a board and permanent executives has raised fears that the broadcaster could sink deeper into the red.
Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu has warned about the SABC’s going-concern status, noting it was commercially insolvent at the end of March.
Without a government guarantee, the SABC was unlikely to fully recover.
The "Treasury cannot give a guarantee to the SABC when there is no leadership and processes in place that will ensure the turnaround strategies to make it commercially viable are implemented and that the monies owed to lenders can be repaid," said a Treasury source who requested anonymity.
"There are no executives and there is no board. At this stage, who will be held accountable for the guarantee and the implementation of the turnaround plan? The other issue that the Treasury is concerned about is … no one on the proposed permanent board has a history of turning around companies," said the Treasury source.
The incoming board, yet to be approved by President Jacob Zuma, will have the task of appointing permanent SABC executives. This week, Dlodlo criticised the interim board for recommending "underqualified" candidates for the permanent senior executive positions.
The minister can approve or reject recommended candidates for the executive positions.
"I had to be circumspect when considering the SABC senior management appointments … some [of the proposed candidates] had no executive level experience. Some were [TV/radio] presenters," Dlodlo said in Parliament this week.
There have been strong suggestions that Zuma wants to gain control of the SABC by delaying the announcement of a new board, so that he and Dlodlo can place their preferred candidates in executive positions.
Other suggestions are that Zuma is unhappy with some of the proposed candidates, who are perceived as not pliable.
Dlodlo told MPs that the board was likely to be approved this week and permanent executives would be appointed by the end of January.
Mayihlome Tshwete, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s spokesman, said discussions were continuing between the Treasury and the Department of Communications.
"We note the hard work done by the minister of communications to address concerns raised by Treasury and continue to engage … we understand the importance of the SABC and we will work with them to ensure that the situation doesn’t get worse," Tshwete said. "The SABC has a track record of turning itself around.… It has taken a guarantee before and made commercially viable decisions."
Department of Communications spokesman Mava Scott said the department was not aware that the Treasury would withhold the guarantee. The "Treasury has not said that to us … as far as we are concerned we are waiting for the outcome of the [government] guarantee request," Scott said.
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said the broadcaster had not heard anything from the Treasury. "We need the guarantee … but we have been surviving and broadcasting without it. We are playing around with the little money we have and paying salaries. We still get money from advertising, although it’s little.
"For us, we cannot say we do not want the guarantee, but we are [carrying] on."