Hlengiwe Mkhize. Picture: SOWETAN
Hlengiwe Mkhize. Picture: SOWETAN

Parliament’s communications portfolio committee, which is in a race against time to fill vacant positions  on the SABC board, hopes to finalise the shortlisting process before the end of March.

Hlengiwe Mkhize, who chairs the committee , said on Tuesday they will from next week begin the process of shortlisting candidates to be interviewed to fill vacant positions of the boards of the SABC and of the Media Development and Diversity Agency.

“Although expected to be rigorous, the committee has undertaken to provide due diligence on the process and complete the interviews and recommendation of candidates before parliament rises officially at the end of March 2019,” said Mkhize.

The public broadcaster, which is in dire financial straits, sank into deeper crisis late in 2018 when  four directors resigned,  leaving the board without the quorum required to make decisions. The board 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 — veteran journalists Mathatha Tsedu and John Matisonn, business leader Khanyisile Kweyama and attorney Krish Naidoo — came as the SABC was planning to  retrench about 2,200 permanent and freelance staff — nearly 40% of its staff compliment — in an attempt to salvage its finances.

They quit after a scathing letter by communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams in which she accused the nonexecutive directors of not acting in the best interest of the public broadcaster as they pressed on with retrenchments.

The board already had four vacancies following the resignations earlier in 2018 of Rachel Kalidass, Febe Potgieter-Gqubule and Victor Rambau. Nomvuyiso Batyi was nominated by the portfolio committee but withdrew.

The SABC has since halted the retrenchments pending a skills audit.  However, it continues to struggle to pay its creditors and warned in November 2018 that it would not be able to pay some salaries unless it secured a R3bn government guarantee.

The public broadcaster spends more than R3bn a year on the salaries of its 3,000 permanent employees. It expects a net loss of R805m in the 2018/2019 financial year,  if cost-cutting measures  are not implemented.