Last vestige of independence about to be stripped from SABC

Phumzile van Damme says the DA is deeply opposed to proposed amendments to the Broadcasting Act

Broadcasting Amendment Act is bad news for South Africa

The Democratic Alliance (DA)  is deeply opposed to proposed amendments to the Broadcasting Act, which were approved by Cabinet earlier this month and are set to come before Parliament. The amendments would see the last vestige of independence removed from the SABC, paving the way for it to become nothing more than an ANC propaganda tool directed by the Minister of Communications, Faith Muthambi.

The DA will therefore be using all available mechanisms in Parliament to prevent the Bill from passing. The independence of the public broadcaster and our constitutional freedoms must be upheld.

It is quite telling that that the South African Communist Party (SACP), a party obsessed with state control, has come out against their ANC allies by publically opposing the amendments. Its vocal opposition speaks volumes not only into the objectionable content of this Bill, but to the sorry state of the tripartite alliance and the disunity amongst key political figures.

In opposing the Bill, the SABC cited amendments that will give the Minister of Communications direct control of the broadcaster. The SACP further noted amendments that would see the SABC controlled through the Companies Act, turning it into a "corporate" instead of a public broadcaster.

Moreover, the amendments are set to remove Parliament’s oversight role over the SABC – in essence ensuring that the public broadcaster is wholly controlled by President Zuma’s Executive. The Bill also includes amendments that provide for the appointment of a “nomination committee” to make recommendations to the Minister for the appointment of non-executive members of the board – again removing Parliament from the process.

While the DA has always opposed the Bill, the willingness of the SACP to challenge the ANC over it emphasises just how disastrous it would be for our democratic freedoms. Minister Muthambi has always denied that she was deployed to set up an ANC propaganda machine in government. However a Bill of this nature is truly indicative of Muthambi’s desire to exert narrow political control over the SABC, turning into a state sponsored ANC spin machine.

Our message to Minister Muthambi is clear: The SABC is not the ANC’s public broadcaster; the SABC is not government’s public broadcaster. The DA will continue to fight so that the independence of the SABC is not eroded any further. The SABC must serve the public, free from political interference. 

Issued by Phumzile Van Damme, DA Shadow Minister of Communications, 23 November 2015