Bongumusa Makhathini. Picture: SUPPLIED
Bongumusa Makhathini. Picture: SUPPLIED

New SABC board chairman Bongumusa Makhathini says he is prepared to step down from the foundation of one of President Jacob Zuma’s wives if evidence is provided that there is a conflict of interest. Makhathini is the chairman of the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation‚ a nonprofit organisation that focuses on diabetes awareness.

After almost three weeks of dithering, the Presidency announced on Tuesday that 11 proposed members of the SABC board had been appointed for a period of five years.

But it was the appointment of Makhathini and Febe Potgieter-Gqubule as chairman and deputy chairwoman, respectively, that drew the ire of opposition parties and lobby groups.

Potgieter-Gqubule is a close ally and adviser to Zuma’s former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and during board interviews, indicated she was contemplating serving on the ANC’s national executive committee.

DA MP and communications spokeswoman Phumzile van Damme said the party noted with "grave concern" the appointment of Makhathini and Potgieter-Gqubule, both close allies of Zuma.

"It is obvious that the president wilfully delayed the appointment because he wanted certain individuals on the board to serve his own interests, not those of the South African public.... We will be keeping a hawk’s eye on the board’s work," said Van Damme.

Makhathini said he had mentioned during the board interviews that he was involved with the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation. Calls for him to step down from the foundation were unfair and opportunistic.

"The vetting was done by Parliament … why are my qualifications and track record now being overlooked because I am with the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation. I understand governance and ethics and if there is any evidence of conflict of interest, I am prepared to step down. I do not want to live under controversy," said Makhathini, who is also the head of legal and external affairs for British American Tobacco in Southern Africa.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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