The SABC: Run worse than a spaza shop

Rhoda Kadalie says opposing corruption in govt is the highest obligation we have as patriots

For years I have been documenting the endemic corruption and mismanagement of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). Since 1994 it has had the highest turnovers of Board members, Board Chairs, CEOs, COOs, financial managers, senior managers, in fact, of the entire staff. This institution epitomizes affirmative action gone wrong - a euphemism for black incompetence. 

There were board members who covered up and attacked me in the media when the rot in the SABC was already septic and writ large all over the place. One of them, a seasoned journalist, now professor of journalism at some hapless university, has yet to respond to my dossier I sent to the press Ombudsman, in response to an accusation that I had misrepresented facts.

The point is this - even the so-called honourable members who sat on that board - were and still are complicit in perpetuating the shambles that continue unabated in that institution. All former ministers of Communication have been equally inept at disinfecting the broadcaster from its debilitating plague.

Current revelations of gross financial mismanagement make for shocking reading. The Auditor-General reported that R1.58 billion could not be accounted for as supporting documents were lacking; there is no evidence of R913.8 million in license fees; and R106.3 million had been classified as irregular spending.

Run worse than a spaza shop, the SABC fails as an employer and enterprise to adhere to performance management standards, to internal auditing procedures, to financial regulations and to reporting standards. Its own CEO, Lulama Mokhobo, admits that performance targets have not been met.

These are the very basic standards required to run a public enterprise, yet the SABC fails repeatedly to adhere to them. MWASA's general secretary, Tuwani Gumani, rightly accuses the SABC of prioritizing their ‘vanity projects' above public broadcasting priorities. The new Communication Minister, Yunus Carrim's attempts to clean it up, is commendable. His appointment of a multidisciplinary task team to help him clean out this cesspit of disastrous management is a desperate measure knowing he cannot do it alone. To explore the broadcaster's financial viability over the long term, the minister will have to use a scalpel to excise the rot, fire the corrupt and incompetent, and start the SABC all over again.

This of course will not happen, especially with an election coming up. Corrupt institutions can always find corrupt people to do government's bidding. That is how patronage and cronyism work and that is why the broadcaster trundles along. There is no political will to clean up this basket case and in the meantime those inside have learnt to milk the system, to exploit the loopholes, and to grease each other's palms.

If Minister Collins Chabane's recent Management and Performance report on public service failure amounting to billions of taxpayers' Rands being squandered, is the tip of the colossal iceberg of corruption, then the SABC gives substance to it. It is time to release the names of the "corruptors" and "corrupted", just as the Mail & Guardian has done with the crooks behind the Goldfields saga.

Like Ferial Haffajee, Nic Dawes, Stefaans Brummer, Jan Jan Joubert, Tim Du Plessis and many others, I am getting gatvol that honest taxpayers are being screwed to line the pockets of the vampires who rule us.

Opposing corruption in government is the highest obligation we have as patriots, regardless of the cost. Here, when billions of Rand are flushed down the drain, it means fewer clinics, fewer schools, and fewer jobs for the poor. The saying: "behind every fortune, there is a crime" is becoming increasingly true of SA's lumpen capitalists!

This article first appeared in Die Burger.

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