NEWS & ANALYSIS

10 steps to saving the SABC - Marian Shinn

DA MP says best possible applicants should be appointed to vacant executive posts

10 Steps to Save the SABC

It is patently clear that Communications Minister, Dina Pule, has no plan in place to address the dire state of affairs at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). As such, I have put forward the following 10 steps to put an end to the ever-increasing chaos at the SABC.

I will be sending these proposals to Minister Pule and Communications Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Mr Eric Kholwane, and in addition will call for an urgent meeting of the Portfolio Committee where the Minister and SABC board must be summoned to discuss these proposals and present a plan to turn around the public broadcaster. 

1. President Zuma must accept the resignations of Misters Ngubane and Ka Plaatjie and appoint a resident interim chairperson and deputy to the board. The nine remaining members just make a quorum so attendance at all future board meetings must be made mandatory. 

2. Attempts to make the SABC ungovernable by absenteeism should be met with dismissal. It cannot be tolerated. Measures enabling a team from National Treasury and the Auditor General to oversee the management of the SABC in such an emergency should be considered.

3. Parliament's Portfolio Committee of Communications must urgently interview and appoint three new members to replace them and Dr Patricia Makesha, who recently resigned. Emphasis should be on appointing people with corporate governance experience and track records as company directors, lawyers or financial executives.

4. Increase National Treasury and Auditor General's involvement in turning the corporation around and adhering to the loan guarantee conditions. It is not good enough that the finances of the corporation are stable and that the loan has been paid back. 

5. The conditions that lead to the SABC's financial woes must be eliminated - and that means retrenching superfluous staff and focusing on retaining experienced and productive employees.

6. Implement an independent skills audit to determine exactly what categories of staff are required to productively contribute to the SABC's mandate as a financially sustainable public and commercial broadcaster. It is then necessary to act on its recommendations.

7. Urgently advertise for - and appoint - the best available applicants with the appropriate skills and experience - to vacant executive posts: Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Procurement Officer and Head of Human capital services. 

8. Lengthy negotiations whereby disgraced or incompetent executives hold out for golden handshakes should be radically dealt with to stop this strategy that cripples effective management of the corporation. The Minister of Communications should be prohibited from having the final say in executive appointments.

9. Pursue with vigour the Special Investigation Unit's efforts to identify and charge corrupt employees and manage properly procurement and management policies developed to identify and act on corrupt and improper activities by staff at all levels, and include any involvement of board members, their families and close associates in this.  

10. Parliament should hold public hearings into the necessity, future structure and regulatory framework of public broadcasting. Serious consideration must be given to selling the commercial television and radio stations; retaining a publicly funded public broadcaster with increased regional capabilities and making it a Chapter Nine institution to safeguard it from political interference.

For decades South Africans have been subject to a broadcasting regime that has been abused by governing political parties to entrench their power and manipulate the way the citizens should think. Because of its size and commercial potential the SABC has become a cash cow for the opportunistic and connected cronies. This is the main reason why the commercial stations should be sold off to make the size and scope of corruption less attractive. 

There is a role for public broadcasting which is informative, educative and entertaining without being beholden to commercial considerations, but there must be guarantees in place that it is not abused for political ends and has active involvement of the citizens its serves. 

Statement issued by Marian Shinn MP, DA Shadow Minister of Communications, March 12 2013

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