The Portfolio Committee on Communications received a briefing from the Parliamentary Committee support staff on the filling of board vacancies at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA). The 2018 third term Committee Programme for the period 14 August to 14 September 2018 was also presented and adopted.
The Committee was told that the MDDA was a statutory development agency for promoting and ensuring media development and diversity. A letter dated 23 May 2018 had been received by the Committee from the Minister of Communications informing the National Assembly that four vacancies had arisen in the MDDA Board following the resignations of Ms Palesa Kadi and Mr Ronald Lamola, and the expiry of the terms of office of Ms Phelisa Nkomo and Ms Louise Vale. The letter had requested the National Assembly to initiate a process of filling the four vacancies. The President had to appoint one of the members as chairperson of the Board. Members were appointed on a non-executive basis. The Committee had advertised and had received 35 nominations, of which 31 were men and four were women.
The Committee requested the MDDA Board to address the implementation of the recommendations of the Impact Study, to finalise the appointment of a permanent Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer, to ensure that the impasse between staff and management was resolved, and to finalise the forensic audit and ensure that its recommendations were implemented.
On 5 October 2016, the Committee had resolved that an inquiry into the fitness of the SABC Board to hold office in terms of Section 15A of the Broadcasting Act was necessary. Subsequent to the resolution of the Committee, on 3 November 2016 the National Assembly had established an Ad Hoc Committee to inquire inter alia into the fitness of the SABC Board to discharge its duties as prescribed in the Broadcasting Act, and any other applicable legislation. Consequently, on 14 February 2017, the Ad Hoc Committee had resolved to dissolve the SABC Board, and that the National Assembly should appoint an interim Board. The National Assembly had adopted this resolution on 7 March 2017.
Members said the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) should explain why professional soccer matches had not been aired on SABC radio earlier in the month, and why for at least a year‚ there had been no broadcasting rights contract between the two organisations, only a verbal agreement. They asked for a review of the details of the agreement reached between the two organisations that had led to the resumption of the radio broadcasts.
Committee’s study tour
The Chairperson invited the Committee Secretary to give a briefing on the plans for the Committee’s international study tour to the United Kingdom (UK) House of Commons, focusing on digital migration.
Mr Thembinkosi Ngoma, Committee Secretary, said that the Members could not travel in July as had earlier been planned because the House of Commons had been on recess at the time. He added that it would be back from recess as from 9 October 2018, after which the international study tour could commence.
The Chairperson clarified that only eight Members would be allowed to go on the study tour -- five from the ANC, two from the DA, and one from the smaller parties combined. This was in addition to two staff members who would be accompanying the Members.
Mr N Xaba (ANC) commented that if the Members were not to travel for the international study tour in October, the trip would likely not happen because the dates after October were bound to be very busy in light of the looming election period.
Ms M Matshoba (ANC) agreed that October was the best time to go for the tour, because November and December would be dedicated to election matters.
Third Term Committee Programme
Mr Mbo Maleka, Committee Content Adviser, outlined the amended third term draft Committee programme for the period 14 August 2018 to 14 September 2018.
As part of the programme, the Committee would shortlist candidates for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) boards at the next session on Thursday, 16 August 2018. This would be followed by a briefing by the Minister of Communications and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Board on the turnaround strategy for the public broadcaster, sports rights, the non-payment of independent producers, as well as responses on the issues raised with the Committee by the unions.
Interviews for candidates for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Board would be conducted on Tuesday, 28 August, and interviews for candidates for the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) Board, on the following day. These activities would then culminate with the adoption of reports recommending candidates for appointment to the SABC and MDDA Boards.
At the last Committee sitting of the third term on Tuesday, 4 September, there would be a briefing by the Department of Communications (DoC) on its amended Annual Performance Plan. At the same session, the report on the oversight visit to Gauteng Province would be adopted, as well as all outstanding minutes.
Between 11 September 2018 and 14 September 2018, the Committee would undertake an oversight visit to the Eastern Cape. The constituency period break would then commence between 17 September 2018 and 8 October 2018.
Filling of Board vacancies at the SABC
Mr Maleka said that on 5 October 2016, the Committee had resolved that an inquiry into the fitness of the SABC Board to hold office in terms of Section 15A of the Broadcasting Act, 4 of 1999 was necessary. Subsequent to the resolution of the Committee, on 3 November 2016, the National Assembly had established an ad hoc Committee to inquire inter alia into the fitness of the SABC Board to discharge its duties as prescribed in the Broadcasting Act No 4 of 1999, and any other applicable legislation.
Consequently, on 14 February 2017, the Ad Hoc Committee had resolved to dissolve the SABC Board and that the National Assembly should appoint an interim Board. The National Assembly had adopted this resolution on 7 March 2017. The Committee had deliberated on the names and had resolved that the following candidates be recommended for appointment to the Interim Board of the SABC:
- Mr John Matisonn
- Mr Mathatha Tsedu
- Mrs Febbe Potgieter-Gqubule
- Ms Khanyisile Kweyama
- Mr Krish Naidoo.
The twelve non-executive members of the Board must be appointed by the President on the advice of the National Assembly. The President must designate one of the members of the Board as the Chairperson and another member as Deputy Chairperson, both of whom must be non-executive members of the Board.
After a rigorous process, with the Committee advertising from 2 June 2017 until 30 June 2017 for nominations to the Board, 363 nominations were received, and 12 had been appointed to the Board. Two members had resigned, and one had declined the appointment. A second call for nominations was thus advertised by the Committee to fill the three vacant slots. This had been closed on 15 June 2018 after receiving 80 nominations.
Another letter from the Minister dated 11 July 2018 had been received informing of one other resignation, and had requested the National Assembly to fill the vacant position. The recruitment process could be summarised as follows:
- Qualification verification check
- State security consultation
- Public participation
- Interview process
- Deliberations process
- National Assembly adoption.
To conduct the process, the Committee required a Content Advisor and Researcher to develop a schematic overview of areas of interest for Member questions for the interviews; a Committee Secretary to commence the security clearance process related to shortlisted candidates, as well as the verification of candidates’ qualifications; and a Committee Assistant to prepare travel logistics for shortlisted candidates, Members and support staff during the interview process.
The Chairperson asked the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) to explain why professional soccer matches had not been aired on SABC radio earlier in the month. He announced that in the following week, the Minister would brief the Members on the status of the SABC Board and its turnaround strategy, as well as deal with the matters raised by the Members.
Mr M Kalako (ANC) asked that the Committee be allowed to review the agreement reached between the SABC and the PSL which had led to the resumption of the radio broadcasts.
The Chairperson queried why for at least a year‚ there had been no broadcasting rights contract between SABC and PSL, only a verbal agreement. He commented that the SABC may have been in the wrong because of this. He said the Department of Communications (DoC) had said the PSL would commence a process with the SABC to finalise all pertinent issues relating to agreements governing the relationship between the two parties, and that he had held an urgent meeting with the SABC board after the announcement was made.
Mr Kalako advised that on 21 August 2018, there would be a scheduled afternoon Parliamentary sitting which might interfere with the tentative Committee schedule presented.
The Chairperson confirmed that there indeed was a scheduled Parliamentary sitting on 21 August, but that the tentative Committee schedule would remain unchanged for now. He suggested that the Committee should scrutinise other similar contracts that the SABC had entered into with other entities. He added that the Committee should get a full briefing on the issue of the dismissals at the SABC.
Ms P van Damme (DA) commented that while it was of paramount importance for South Africans to have access to radio broadcasts of PSL and Bafana Bafana games‚ it was just as important to follow proper procedures. She added that she did not understand how the Ministers were involved in what was essentially an issue between the PSL and the SABC, and thought it constituted political interference and overstepping of their mandate.
She queried how the SABC was “broke,” but after a meeting could suddenly afford PSL broadcast rights. She suggested that there were a lot of grey areas that needed to be filled in‚ including what the agreement was between the Ministers and the PSL. She suspected “some sort of buttering,” because the SABC simply did not have the money to buy the PSL rights. An invitation should also be extended to the PSL to explain their side of the story with regard to the agreements with the SABC on the broadcast rights contracts.
Mr Xaba moved for the adoption of the schedule report.
Mr R Tseli (ANC) seconded the approval of the programme.
Ms Van Damme asked the Chairperson whether there had been any feedback on the Board member who had been found to have falsified his thesis by having someone else write the thesis for him.
The Chairperson responded that no feedback had been received, but that the matter would be raised when the Board appeared before the Committee. The Chairperson adopted the schedule report.
He said that the PSL may also be called to give its side of the story‚ although its appearance would depend on the availability of the sports portfolio committee‚ to which sporting bodies account. He committed to meeting with his sports counterpart‚ Ms Beauty Dlulane‚ to ensure a joint meeting of the two Committees.
Filling of Board vacancies at the MDDA
Mr Maleka said that a letter dated 23 May 2018 had been received by the Committee from the Minister of Communications, informing the National Assembly that four vacancies had arisen in the Media Development and Diversity Agency Board following the resignations of Ms Palesa Kadi and Mr Ronald Lamola, and the expiry of terms of office of Ms Phelisa Nkomo and Ms Louise Vale. The letter had also requested the National Assembly to initiate a process of filling the four vacancies in terms of section 4 of the Media Development and Diversity Agency Act, 2002 (Act No 14 of 2002).
The Board consist of nine members, six of whom must be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the National Assembly. This was in accordance with the following principles:
- Participation by the public in the nomination process;
- Transparency and openness; and
- The publication of a shortlist of candidates for appointment with due regard to subsection (4) and section 5.
The President had to appoint one of the members as chairperson of the Board. Members were appointed on a non-executive basis. A person may not be appointed as a member if he or she was not a South African citizen and ordinarily resident in the Republic; was an unrehabilitated insolvent; was a member of Parliament, any provincial legislature or any municipal council; or was an office-bearer or employee of any party, movement organisation of a party-political nature; had at any time been convicted of theft, fraud, perjury, an offence under the Corrupt Act, 1992 (Act No. 94 of 1992), or any other offence involving dishonesty; had been convicted after the commencement of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1993 (Act No. 200 of 1993) of a crime specified in Schedule 1 to the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act No. 51 of 1997) and had been sentenced to a period of imprisonment of not less than one year without the option of a fine; had, as a result of improper conduct, been removed from an office of trust; or had been declared by a court to be mentally ill or disordered.
A member must, before performing his or her functions, take an oath or affirmation that he or she is committed to: fairness, freedom of expression, openness and accountability; and upholding and protecting the Constitution and the other laws of the Republic of South Africa.
The recruitment process was the same as that for the SABC board.
The Auditor-General must audit the financial statements of the Agency. Funds of the Agency consist of the following:
- money appropriated by Parliament;
- money received in terms of agreements contemplated in section 21;
- domestic and foreign grants:
- interest derived from any investments; or
- money lawfully accruing from any other source.
Mr Tseli asked whether the public participation process should have already started, or if it was to start later. He added that the advertising of the positions should be stretched beyond the Parliamentary media, and be communicated through community radio stations.
Mr Kalako asked the Committee to seek legal advice on the advertising and shortlisting of candidates to avoid challenges being lodged on the process at a later date.
The Chairperson agreed, and said the Committee had already taken a decision but would check with their legal advisors and the Office of the Speaker.
Mr Maleka replied that the background processes started as soon as there were shortlisted candidates, but other processes such as public participation were beyond their control in terms of when members of the public chose to give their views and comments.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) asked the Committee to make enquiries on the disciplinary actions being taken over a year late.
The Chairperson responded that the issue was outside of what the Committee was dealing with at the time, but that the matter would be raised when the Minister and the Board appeared before the Members.
Ms Van der Merwe added that the reason she was raising the matter was because one of the individuals involved in the disciplinary action had been shortlisted, instead of being disqualified from the process.
Mr Ngoma responded that the secretariat would endeavour to publish the names of the shortlisted candidates through the community radio stations and the general media, but because of the time constraints, this may not be as successful as the Members would wish.
The Chairperson proposed that if the Committee circulate a press statement to the media on the shortlisted candidates. The Committee would not be charged or pay any fees, as it would not be an advertisement.
Mr Maleka wondered how the feedback would be structured to get back to the Committee.
The Chairperson said that the Department must update the Committee on the status of the filling of vacancies at the Department. He requested the MDDA Board to address the implementation of recommendations of the Impact Study -- these were contained in chapter 7 of the MDDA Impact Study)-- to finalise the appointment of a permanent Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO), to ensure that the impasse between staff and management was resolved, and to finalise the forensic audit and ensure that its recommendations are implemented.
Ms Van der Merwe clarified that the lady under disciplinary action that she had spoken about, was in the Human Resources (HR) Department. She had in her possession a letter proving she was under disciplinary action, but when she was interviewed by the Committee, she had lied to the Members and other members of her delegation had backed up her lie. She was now sitting on the Electrical Contractors Association of South Africa (ECASA) Board.
Mr Kalako agreed with Ms Van der Merwe, but wanted it dealt with as a separate matter on the programme when the Board appeared before the Committee. He proposed that it be placed on the agenda as a separate matter.
The Chairperson asked Ms Van der Merwe to furnish copies of the documents, the evidence and the letter she had in her possession to the Committee Secretary, who would circulate them to the Members.
Ms Van der Merwe agreed to do so after the meeting.
The Chairperson clarified that the Committee would shortlist 12 individuals and interview for four vacancies at the SABC. He added that the public would be given seven working days to comment on the shortlisted candidates who would be interviewed.
The meeting was adjourned.
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