The ACDP, like many others, is particularly interested in the state of the SABC. This given the very important role the public broadcaster plays in providing information, news for viewers and listeners across the whole of South Africa.
It was also this reason the prompted us to participate in the ad hoc Committee on the SABC – which followed widespread concern from the public about the SABC’s ability to discharge its mandate as a public broadcaster, as well as the fitness of the remaining SABC Board members to discharge their duties. There was more than sufficient evidence at that stage that the SABC’s primary mandate as a national public broadcaster had been compromised by a lapse of governance and management within the SABC, which ultimately contributed to the Board’s inability to discharge its fiduciary responsibilities.
We welcomed the appointment of the interim and permanent Boards and have followed with interest the progress that the new Board has made in implementing the ad hoc committee’s recommendations.
Of particular interest to us is the progress that the Special Investigating Unit has made in investigating procurement, irregular, unauthorised or wasteful expenditure, maladministration and improper relationships with service providers.
While we welcome the progress report provided by the SIU as to its ongoing investigations into various controversial contracts including the Lornavision R62 million and Multichoice R460 million contracts, we are concerned that the SIU is not investigating the Gupta-related ANN7 contract. The reason given is that the Public Protector had indicated that she would be investigating this issue as part two of its state capture investigation. It appears however, that part two has not yet commenced – and may be severely compromised due to capacity constraints at the PP’s office. We do however trust that the Zondo Commission of Inquiry, will also investigate the ANN7 contracts. This is important as the evidence was that the SABC came very close to being completely taken over or captured by ANN7.
We are also concerned about allegations that the NPA is reluctant to take the SIU’s referral cases to court for criminal prosecutions. We share the view expressed by committee members that individuals who looted public institutions should not be allowed to resign or be dismissed without further action being taken. I would urge the Minister and committee members to consider approaching the Justice Minister and Justice Committee should concerns persist that the NPA is not pursuing these cases with sufficient vigour.
In addition, the ACDP recommends those former board members who recklessly breached their fiduciary duties be declared delinquent directors in terms of section 162 of the Companies Act. This will act as a deterrent and prevent such former directors from moving from one SOE to the next and causing further damage.
It is also important to remember that the ad hoc committee found that “Parliament may have relinquished its constitutional duty to hold the Executive and consecutive SABC boards to account. This may have rendered Parliament complicit in the gradual decline of good governance, accountability and commitment to public broadcasting at the SABC.” It is crucial therefore that the Committee ensures as part of its oversight that all recommendations of the ad hoc committee are fully complied with.
Additionally, has the recommendation that MPs “should receive adequate training and support to enable them to exercise their oversight responsibility competently. Such capacity-building should include general training on legislative oversight and on ethics and corporate governance, and specific training to assist them in their respective portfolios.”
Also have any amendments been proposed to the Broadcasting Act and possibly to the Companies Act to strengthen laws governing the SABC? Members will also recall the perceived uncertainty as to whether the Broadcasting Act trumped the Companies Act. Has there been any need to clarify this through a possible amendment?
Whilst the ACDP welcomes the steps taken by the Board to address most of the recommendations of the ad hoc committee, one of the pressing recommendations related to “ensuring that an environment free of fear and intimidation or abuse of power prevails at the SABC.” This followed widespread allegations of victimisation at the broadcaster.
We remain concerned about these allegations. I even heard today that while Motsoeneng has been fired from the SABC, certain so-called enforcers are still there. This is unacceptable. We would urge any staff members who feel threatened or intimidated in any manner to report such incidents to the SAPS, and should no action be taken, to report it to us in Parliament.
Let us not forget that a heavy price was paid in getting rid of the rot at the SABC. One of the SABC 8 senior journalists, Suna Venter, died in June last year as a direct result of the stress induced by continued intimidation, victimisation and death threats. We cannot fail her and other journalists who have taken a stand to ensure an independent and professional public broadcaster.
SPEECH BY: STEVE SWART MP
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 3: Communications
10 May 2018