Lobby groups in legal bid to force Zuma’s hand on SABC board appointment
Media Monitoring Africa and the SOS — Support Public Broadcasting Coalition argue Zuma has a duty to act fast in appointing a permanent board
Two lobby groups have launched a court bid to compel President Jacob Zuma to urgently appoint the permanent board for the SABC.
In a joint application filed in the High Court in Pretoria, the organisations, Media Monitoring Africa and the SOS — Support Public Broadcasting Coalition (SOS), argue that Zuma has a duty not only to act, but to act without delay in appointing the permanent board.
The SABC, which is facing 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 last week.
There have been suggestions 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, such as Khanyisile Kweyama, Mathatha Tsedu and Michael Markovitz, who are perceived as not pliable.
The absence of a board and permanent executives has raised fear that the broadcaster could sink deeper into the red. Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu has warned about the SABC’s going-concern status, saying that it was commercially insolvent at the end of March.
The EFF has also indicated that it will launch a court challenge to compel Zuma to appoint the board.
In their joint application, Media Monitoring Africa and the SOS coalition argue that "the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act recognises that unwarranted dilatory behaviour, where a decision maker is obliged to take a decision and delays in doing so, constitutes ground for review.
"An incidence of the principle of legality is that constitutional and statutory duties must be performed with alacrity … section 237 of the Constitution recognises this, providing that such obligations must be performed diligently and without delay," the groups say.
For as long as the SABC remains without leadership, its work and mandate was imperilled, they argue. "It is imperative the SABC is controlled by a lawful board in order that its affairs will be properly managed and there is no uncertainty regarding the lawfulness of the decisions taken.
Presidency spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.