Profession adds its voice to concerns over SABC Board

October 24th, 2016

By Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele

The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) issued a press release early last month adding its voice to the calls for an investigation into the fitness of the Board members of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to hold office in the public interest.

This came after the SABC appointed its former Chief Operations Officer (COO), Hlaudi Motsoeneng, as its Group Executive of Corporate Affairs. The decision by the SABC came a few days after the Supreme Court of Appeal had dismissed, with costs, the application for leave to appeal against the Western Cape High Court decision. The High Court decision set aside as invalid Mr Motsoeneng’s appointment as the public broadcaster’s COO.

In the press release, LSSA Co-chairpersons Jan van Rensburg and Mvuzo Notyesi, said: ‘We believe that the arrogant and irrational actions by the SABC Board in appointing Hlaudi Motsoeneng to another position within the SABC, disregard the remedial action recommended by the Public Protector. The findings by the Public Protector against Mr Motsoeneng remain binding until such time as they are challenged in and set aside by a court of law. This has not been done yet and the SABC Board is breaching its fiduciary duties in addition to appearing to be contemptuous to the rule of law, as well as of the Constitutional Court judgment in the case of Economic Freedom Fighters v Speaker, National Assembly and Others 2016 (3) SA 580 (CC).’

The LSSA also noted, ‘with serious concern, that Communications Minister, Faith Muthambi, has been silent and has taken a back seat throughout this controversy in the face of the contemptuous behaviour by the SABC Board.’ The LSSA has called on the Minister to show leadership and to take the appropriate decisive action in accordance with her political responsibilities. ‘We will further engage with both the Minister and with the relevant state functionaries on the matter. A credible public broadcaster is key to our constitutional democracy as is the underlying principle of transparency,’ said Mr Van Rensburg and Mr Notyesi.

The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) also issued a press release stating that it was ‘extremely displeased with the decision by the SABC …’. NADEL added: ‘The actions of the SABC amount to a continual dragging of its name into the mud and shows that the public broadcaster has no respect for the rule of law, the Constitution and the principles of good corporate governance.’

NADEL stated that the public broadcaster plays a pivotal role in the promotion of democracy in South Africa and that it must be treated with the seriousness required, and called on the SABC to take itself seriously as ‘it has lost the public’s trust’.

NADEL urged the Minister of Communications to conduct an inquiry on the fitness of the SABC Board to continue with the functions assigned to it.

Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele, Communications Officer, Law Society of South Africa,

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2016 (Nov) DR 23.