Removal of Hlaudi Motsoeneng necessary but not sufficient - COSATU

Federation says COO must not become sole scapegoat for structural and systemic problems at SABC

COSATU response to Public Protector's report on SABC

In the Congress of South African Trade Unions' submission to the SABC on its review of editorial policies, we argued that the public broadcaster's shortcomings in complying with its editorial policy objectives could not be isolated from the seemingly intractable financial problems and governance crises at the level of the Board and management.

"Since 2007, we said, "there have been seven years of corporate governance crises during which the SABC has had three Boards of Directors, two interim boards, six CEOs, resignations by board members, serious allegations of corruption and waste of resources... It is therefore impossible to isolate editorial issues from these structural problems."

An organisation in such a chronic state of crisis could hardly be expected to focus on producing all the kind of programmes it is mandated to broadcast.

The report by the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela - "When Governance and Ethics Fail" - has powerfully vindicated our view. She has exposed systemic corporate governance deficiencies, financial mismanagement, fraudulent practices, abuse of power and irregular appointments.

She has revealed the difficult conditions under which the SABC workers have been struggling to produce quality programmes. These workers deserve the maximum credit for the good work they have continued to perform and the programmes they have produced in spite of being led by corrupt and incompetent managers and directors.

COSATU fully agrees with the SOS (Save our SABC) Coalition that: "The Public Protector's findings... give detail to the gross maladministration and systemic corporate governance breaches in the SABC that the SOS Coalition has been campaigning against since its inception in 2008. The findings give merit to the SOS Coalition's position that the SABC has been and remains in crisis.

"Indeed, the Coalition agrees with her observation of a series of ‘pathological corporate governance failures by the SABC'. These findings, read together with last year's audit disclaimer by the Auditor General of South Africa, the damning SABC Skills Audit report as well as the recent resignation of Ms Lulama Mokhobo as GCEO points to an organization that completely lacks leadership and, further, in many instances operates outside of the law.

"It is apparent that promises of stability, clean governance and good effective administration made by successive SABC Boards are far from bearing fruit."

COSATU demands that the Minister of Communications, Comrade Yunus Carrim, Parliament's Joint Committee on Ethics and Members' interests, Parliament's Communications Portfolio Committee and the SABC Board all move quickly and decisively to implement all the Public Protector's recommendations to take what she defines as "appropriate remedial action" on her findings.

It is important however that, although the report focuses, quite rightly, on the conduct of one particular individual - the SABC's Acting Chief Operating Officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng - he should not become the sole scapegoat for what are structural and systemic problems for which many others must share the blame. Simply removing and replacing one individual - necessary as that is - will not resolve these underlying problems.

In particular the Public protector has identified major problems with the SABC Board and we agree with her strong recommendation that "in future there is strict and collective responsibility by the SABC Board members through working as a collective and not against each other, in compliance with the relevant legislation, policies and prescripts that govern the National Broadcaster".

Then, and only then, can our public broadcaster knuckle down to the implementation of its mandate to reflect South African attitudes, opinions, ideas, values, artistic creativity, our rich cultural heritage and provide a voice to South Africans to participate in a democratic dispensation and act as a platform for community involvement, debate, education and entertainment.

Statement issued by Patrick Craven, COSATU national spokesperson, February 19 2014

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter