PROFILE: Heavy burden for new SABC boss Madoda Mxakwe
The public broadcaster’s new CEO will have to transform the state of its finances and content and turn the tide of public trust
Between helping the SA Broadcasting Corp (SABC) regain public trust and credibility, and coming up with new ways to improve its dire financial position in an increasingly competitive media sector, new CEO Madoda Mxakwe has his work cut out for him.
The SABC, hoping a new board and executive team will help it regain lost ground, recently announced the appointment of Mxakwe and Yolande van Biljon, who will take over as CFO. Chris Maroleng, named as COO earlier, completes the executive leadership team.
Before Mxakwe’s appointment, the SABC had not had a permanent CEO since the abrupt departure of Frans Matlala in Novem- ber 2015.
The SABC has had 12 CEOs since 2009. These include executives appointed in an acting capacity.
Appointed under a new political administration, and without the shadow cast by former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng, there is greater optimism that the new CEO will steer the SABC to stability.
Some questions, however, have been raised about his suitability for the job. The Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union says his appointment will bring stability, but it has concerns about his ability to manage an organisation the size of the SABC. (It has more than 3,800 employees.)
Mxakwe is a former department of public service & administration spokesperson and a former Nestlé executive.
SABC board chair Bongumusa Makhathini says Mxakwe brings "skills and expertise derived from senior executive positions in business, communications and public affairs in both the private and public sector".
Makhathini says he has business acumen, experience and decisive leadership skills in business turnarounds and transformation.
Mxakwe obtained an MA in global political economy from Sussex University in the UK. He also has executive leadership development certificates from London Business School and a diploma in business administration from the Gordon Institute of Business Science, among other qualifications.
Most of his career was spent at Nestlé. Most recently he was its country head responsible for Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho.
His immediate focus will be on improving the SABC’s financial position. The bulk of its revenue (85%) is derived from advertising, sponsorships and other commercial partnerships. However, this revenue stream has been dwindling in recent times — partly as a result of negative publicity, but also because the SABC has lost viewers to private channels.
It has been waiting for a R3bn government guarantee for about 18 months, but this has yet to be approved by national treasury.
It is looking at other ways to boost revenue. In November, it asked Icasa to conduct an urgent public review of regulations that allow pay-TV operators to carry its channels free of charge. Government has also signalled its intention to review the SABC’s funding model.
Mxakwe’s other priority will be to diversify the SABC’s content. Motsoeneng’s disastrous policy of enforcing a 90% local content quota (it was dropped last year) caused radio listeners and television viewers to go elsewhere.
The broadcaster, which has struggled to get its house in order under acting executives, will be hoping the permanent appointments will usher in an era of better leadership and long-lasting stability.