ANC blamed for SABC woes

2009-06-24 07:27 Cape Town - The gloves came off on Tuesday as a furious SABC board blamed interference by the ANC as being the cause of the SABC’s current crisis.

Parliament, too, should “be ashamed” of itself for the manner in which the parliamentary portfolio committee for communication made itself useful to established factional concerns within the ANC. This effectively prevented serious issues, such as the SABC’s precarious financial position, from making it on to the agenda, board members claimed.

At the board’s meeting with the portfolio committee, Christine Qunta, Khanyi Mkhonza, Gloria Serobe and Pansy Tlakula argued fiercely that the ANC’s interference undermined the board’s authority, which effectively prevented them from doing their jobs.

“Right from the start we had no chance, no chance whatsoever. We didn’t have a chance because this specific committee were constantly trying to axe us,” said Mkhonza, ex-chair of the board.

ANC meddling

Qunta too said she was “amazed” by the level of the ANC’s interference in the SABC.

“Phone calls and demands made to board members … I was shocked by the ANC’s meddling,” she said after the sitting of the committee.

She referred to Blade Nzimande, secretary general of the SACP, who also interfered in the SABC’s business, but did not want to elaborate on the details. “I am an ANC supporter, but that was just too much and completely unacceptable.”

Tlakula said she had hoped to bring her experience as manager of an independent statutory body (the Independent Electoral Commission) to the board. “I rue the day I agreed to serve on this board. Now we’ll just have to be honest about the political meddling. We were in a difficult position from the start and constantly had to look over our shoulders.”

Mkhonza, Qunta and Tlakula’s complaints of political interference came after a rather heated debate lasting for over three hours. During that time the board made it clear that the committee’s investigation into the board’s operations is suspicious, that there’s an existing bias, and that the outcome of the investigation will be a pre-determined outcome.

Objections to investigation

Qunta read a statement on behalf of nine board members (herself, Mkhonza, Tlakula, Alison Gillwald, Gloria Serobe, Desmond Golding, Andile Mbeki, Fadiela Lagadien and Nadia Bulbulia) in which they object to the manner in which the investigation is being conducted. Three members (Bheki Khumalo, Peter Vundla and Ashwin Trikamjee) distanced themselves from the statement.

According to the board, they’re entitled to sufficient time to prepare for such an investigation, and should thus be allowed the chance to react to specific allegations.

Meanwhile, it seems as if the ANC will be accelerating the process. Eric Kholwane, ANC whip on the committee, said the party will consider closing the investigation on Wednesday based on the available proof, and will ask the National Assembly (NA) to disband the board.