Newly appointed SABC chairman Bongumusa Makhathini must immediately resign from his position as chairperson of one of the President Jacob Zuma’s wives’ foundation — that of Bongi Ngema-Zuma — or he will be seen as “massively compromised”.

This is according to William Bird of Media Monitoring Africa‚ who expressed relief that Zuma had finally appointed a board for the state broadcaster. Bird said Media Monitoring Africa had been in the process of launching a High Court application to compel the president to appoint the board. The application was to be heard next Tuesday, however‚ it has now been abandoned.

“Obviously, we are delighted. That said‚ the fact that we are relieved the right thing has been done shouldn’t distract that it has now been three weeks that the SABC has been without a board‚ which means it took [Zuma] six weeks to make the decision‚” Bird said. “As much as we welcome, with great relief, this decision‚ it’s three weeks too late.”

Bird expressed concern over Makhathini’s link to the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation‚ which is a non-profit organisation focusing on diabetes awareness.

“He needs to resign from that position immediately‚ otherwise he will be seen as massively compromised. This is the best chance to restore the credibility of the public broadcaster. Therefore he must resign‚ otherwise it will almost be like setting them up to fail.”

EFF leader Julius Malema has also voiced concern about the new board. He called the appointment of Makhathini as chairman and Febe Potgieter-Gqubule as deputy chairperson “a direct reversal of the stability built by the interim board in the SABC”.

Malema said they were “stooges” of Zuma and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, pointing to Makhathini’s chairmanship of the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation and that Potgieter-Gqubule was Dlamini-Zuma’s chief of staff when she was still chairwoman of the African Union.

“Under these circumstance we should not be shocked if characters like Hlaudi Motsoeneng are brought back to the SABC.”

He added that the EFF had confidence in the majority of the new board members and they would monitor Makhathini and Potgieter-Gqubule closely.

During board interviews in Parliament‚ DA MP Gavin Davis had asked Makhathini whether he would be prepared to resign from the foundation should he make it to the board.

Makhathini responded by saying that his career in the corporate sector had taught him that whenever there is potential of conflict of interest “you’ve got to take steps to mitigate that ... sitting on an SABC board, for me, is important to benefit the country. So‚ if there is a proven conflict of me serving on the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation [board] and serving on the SABC board‚ and this requires me to mitigate and resign as a solution‚ I will consider that.”

The DA’s Phumzile van Damme quizzed Makhathini on his relationships with Zuma and his wife, and whether he had met Zuma. “Basically, I’ve met him when we have functions as a foundation‚ the president sometimes attends and I will meet him like that‚” Makhathini said.

He also said that there was no conflict in his other role as a board member for cigarette company British American Tobacco‚ saying that‚ in line with the law‚ the cigarette producer did not place adverts on the SABC.

Makhathini holds qualifications from Harvard Business School and a master’s degree in business management and economics from the University of Johannesburg, and was appointed the head of corporate affairs at SAB Miller, last year.

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