SABC board is misleading the public - Phumzile Van Damme

DA MP says interim board failed to conduct thorough due diligence before recommending candidates for Ministerial approval

The SABC board is misleading the public

The DA had hoped that for the SABC board, Rachel Kalidass’s resignation would have been a moment of introspection, an opportunity to admit error and a commitment to do better.

It is disappointing that the board has instead chosen to mislead the public.

At the press conference yesterday evening, the SABC board claimed that the verification of candidates’ credentials was still underway, and no decision had been taken about its preferred candidate for GCEO.

Correspondence provided to all SABC board members between the interim board and the former Communications Minister, Ayanda Dlodlo, points to the exact opposite. So do the events and decisions taken by the new board subsequent to this.

The correspondence points to an interview and verification process completed from the board’s side, merely awaiting approval from the Minister of Communications. It also shows that the interim board had failed to conduct thorough due diligence before recommending the candidates for Ministerial approval.

Similarly, when presented with the three names, and information pointing to red flags regarding Alan Mukoki, the new board failed to do the same, and instead took the word of the members of the interim board as gospel, only further interviewing Mukoki, and not the other two candidates as well, and supporting his appointment as GCEO.

In fact, so much were the new board members willing to overlook red flags about Mukoki, a “cleaning up committee” of board members was appointed to deal with the bad PR that would result from Mukoki’s appointment, as per Kalidass’s resignation letter. The board has not disputed the existence of this “cleaning up committee”.

Kalidass was completely right to inform MPs, and indeed the public about the irregularities and glaring problems around the appointment, the bodies to which she first and foremost owes a duty.

We commend her for being a whistleblower against poor judgment and possibly saving the public broadcaster from another completely unsuitable top executive.

The rest of the board members must hang their heads in shame for their failure to properly apply their minds and discharge of their duties and; victimising a fellow board member for daring to speak out and having a different opinion. This was the same problematic conduct exhibited by the previous board.

The DA is in full support of the SABC board’s independence and its right to conduct its own business.

We will however never shy away from conducting thorough oversight of the board, without fear or favour, as we are required by the Constitution.

The SABC board must quite simply, pull up its socks. It is capable of much better than this.

We look forward to meeting with the board next Friday.

The correspondence and timeline of events:

18 August 2017: The former Chairperson of the Interim board, Khanyisile Kwyama writes to the then Minister of Communications Ayanda Dloldlo, recommending three candidates for appointment as Group CEO of the SABC. Kweyama requests that Dlodlo make the appointment urgently. At no stage does the board indicate that it is still busy with the verification of candidates’ credentials.

11 September 2017: Dlodlo writes back to Kweyama indicating that she cannot approve the recommended candidates until she receives full information about one candidate, Alan Mukoki, given some identified issues about him. She requests the audit report from the Land Bank during his tenure as the CEO of the Land Bank; a reference check from the Land Bank, as well as clarification about a matter relating to amounts owed to the City of Johannesburg.

21 September 2017, Kweyama writes back, indicating that it had mandated a recruitment agency to conduct a reference checks. She also indicates that she is in possession of a draft forensic audit report by Deloittle. She states that the final report has not been made public. She writes: “…the interim board is of the view that it has exhausted all available avenues to obtain the information without success and leave for the Minister’s determination. Again, at no stage is it indicated that verification is still underway. Kweyama’s response indicates that the board has no further information to contribute and the Minister must just now decide.

30 October 2017: The new board meets for a handover meeting. On the agenda is the appointment of a new GCEO and COO. Board members are provided with board packs with all correspondence, including information about red flags around Mukoki. The board decides to only interview the interim board’s first choice candidates, of which Mukoki is for GCEO.

31 October 2017: The new Board interviews CEO and COO candidates at the offices of the recruitment agency, Talent Africa. As per Kalidass, and not disputed by the board, “Despite the CEO candidate having allegations of fraud and corruption levelled against him during his previous employment, as well as a conflict of interest with a significant SABC content service provider, the majority of board members were in favour of having him [Mukoki] appointed as the SABC CEO.

Statement issued by Phumzile Van Damme MP, DA Shadow Minister of Communications, 17 November 2017