Broadcasting Amendment Bill totalitarian - EFF

Fighters say draft legislation demonstrates an uncontrollable desire by ANC govt to answer to no one


07 December 2015

The EFF rejects the Broadcasting Amendment Bill which seeks to change the responsibility of recommendation for appointment of the SABC board to be the sole responsibility of the Minister as an anti-democratic totalitarian move. In the Bill, it is proposed that section 13 of the Act must be amended to completely eliminate the role of parliament in the appointment of the SABC board and that the number of board members be reduced from 12 to 9. The Bill states that:

“The [twelve] nine non-executive members of the Board must be appointed by the President on the advice of the [National Assembly] Minister."

"(2A) (a) Subject to subsection (2), the Minister must appoint a nomination committee to make recommendations to the Minister for the appointment of non-executive members of the Board contemplated in subsection (1)."

This proposal demonstrates an uncontrollable desire by the ANC government to totalitarianism and be accountable to no one. The significant thing of any totalitarian government is total control of public broadcasting services coupled with suppression of all media freedom. With the ANC this is signified by this Amendment Bill and the revived proposals for a media tribunal. These are all effort to create a government that cannot be criticised or held accountable by both parliament and the people through journalistic independence and freedom.

The wisdom of the appointment process of the SABC board being in the hands of parliament in the first place because of the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers. This is because the Minister is part of the same body as the President - the cabinet. Proposed appointment of the board by the minister who then recommends to the president is therefore internal to the cabinet itself, a futile repetition masquerading as efficiency and a direct assault to the constitutional principle of separation of powers.

Parliament, even if it is one party dominated, has a principled distance in terms of the doctrine of the separation of powers, from the cabinet. This body, parliament, is so crucial that it is also constitutionally responsible for the election of the President. To have the president, alternatively the cabinet, to be the sole advisory and appointment body transforms the public broadcaster into a state broadcaster, and thus a totalitarian move. What guarantees the identity of the SABC as a public broadcaster is that the appointment of those who preside over it lies in the two arms of the state who keep checks and balances on each other - parliament and the cabinet.

The significance of a parliament advice is also that it goes through a large body of democratically elected representatives who at all levels ensure that individuals recommended have been subjected to due process. This is unlike the new proposal which lies in the hands of just two individuals; the president and minister. As things stand, the Act allow the president the necessary grounds to guarantee the constitutional requirement of Freedom of expression and the journalistic, creative and programming independence by not being the sole appointer of those who run the public broadcaster.

This independence of the SABC is precisely about being independent from the cabinet, above all else.  Otherwise, if those who preside over the SABC depend solely on cabinet to be appointed, cabinet can suppress criticism, particularly journalistic, creative and programming criticism on its role in society by simply appointing those who agree with it.

Without the public broadcaster, held accountable by both parliament and cabinet, society only depends on corporate private broadcasters to hold politicians accountable. This bill is therefore an apartheid move, a fascist totalitarianism seeking to monopolise the running of the people’s broadcasting services to government. It represents a regression of transformation of the industry in terms of pubic access and its independence, a key democratic gain from the murderous apartheid regime. It is evidence that ANC is again selling out the Freedom Charter which states that "all people shall be entitled to take part in the administration of the country".

The removal of parliament must be seen as consistent with the general hatred the ANC possesses for accountability. It is the final pin in the coffin of state owned and controlled propaganda machinery alongside the Gupta owned media platforms that all sell government agenda with the aim to collapse the difference between the state and the party.

The EFF rejects this Bill and it will challenge it up to the highest court in the land. We call on all the people of South Africa to reject the ANC which is conspiring to amend the Broadcasting Act so that it can also steal local government elections by suppressing all reporting of its electoral crimes on SABC platforms. It must be rejected because without parliament, people like Hlaudi Motsoeneng who are unqualified to hold positions they occupy, will be increased in the leadership of the SABC solely because they want to kill independent journalism within the pubic broadcaster and stop all criticism on the government of the day.

Statement issued by the Economic Freedom Fighters, 7 December 2015