Right thing for Zikalala to leave SABC - DA

But Dene Smuts gives credit to news chief for more fair recent election coverage

Departure of Snuki Zikalala from SABC: it's the right thing to do

The DA believes the SABC Board's decision not to renew Dr Snuki Zikalala's contract is, to use its own marketing language, the right thing to do.

We would like to acknowledge that SABC News and Current Affairs which he heads, has fulfilled its statutory mandate throughout the election period just concluded. Opposition parties have not received such fair coverage in many years, and the SABC served democracy and the freedom of expression well in hosting so many debates on both TV and radio. We know that the sitting SABC Board created the climate in which this was encouraged and made possible, but it would be churlish to deny Dr Zikalala credit. 

However, he became synonymous during many years at the SABC with the inhibition of journalistic freedom, most recently by curtailing the exposure of certain commentators in what a Commission of Inquiry called an "arbitrary" fashion, resulting in the "impermissible narrowing of the range of views available to South Africans".

It is therefore a good idea to call it a day. We welcome the fact that the SABC board is headhunting a new Head of News as we welcome the fact that it is extending its deadline for finding a new CEO. These two posts are pivotal to the success of the public broadcaster. In addition, it is an excellent idea to approach the acting Minister to reconsider the previous recommendation for COO. The submissions of the names of the top three executives to Cabinet is a relic of pre-1994 convention relating to parastatals, but it is wholly unsuitable in the case of the SABC which is based on media freedom and is no ordinary parastatal. The appointments (and dismissals) should be - and mostly are - made solely by the Board, which represents the public and for that reason is itself appointed by Parliament and not government.

We further welcome the closing down of foreign bureaux which we have argued are unaffordable, and the Board's insistence that it will correct its financial position.

Statement issued by Dene Smuts, Democratic Alliance spokesperson on communications, April 29 2009

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