The Portfolio Committee on Communications decided to finalise the filling of vacancies at the South African Broadcasting Corporation Board and Media Development and Diversity Agency Board before Parliament rises at the end of March 2019. Members noted the urgency of the task and underscored the importance of working together to meet the deadline.
The Committee emphasised that all candidates will be subjected to verification of qualifications, security clearance and public scrutiny.
The Committee further noted the 20-year imprisonment given to the ICASA Council Chairperson and the he was currently appealing the judgment. Members point out that a person is disqualified if he/ she is convicted according to the ICASA Act. The Committee was advised to consider the provisions of the Act to determine the eligibility of the ICASA Council Chairperson.
The Chairperson welcomed Members of the Parliament after the long holiday. She also reflected on the 107th Anniversary of the formation of African National Congress (ANC), which was celebrated on January 12, 2019.
The Chairperson apologised for failure to start the meeting as scheduled due to difficulty encountered with printing the agenda. She said the agenda of the meeting was to consider the filling of vacant board positions at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA).
Ms P Van Damme (DA) expressed displeasure at the apparent attempt by the ANC to cause deliberate delay in the meeting. She suggested that Members can use softcopies which were forwarded to their emails before the meeting. She also suggested an addendum to the agenda: the Committee should discuss the matter of the Independent Communications Authority of SA chairperson, Rubben Mohlaloga, who was been sentenced to 20 years in prison for fraud and money laundering.
The Chairperson interrupted Ms Van Damme and said she had spoken without having being recognised.
Ms Van Damme re-iterated that the agenda was attached to the notice of the meeting sent to Members beforehand. She stated that the SABC Board appointment ought to have been done in mid-January. According to her, Members made a commitment to ensure timeous recruitment of qualified candidates to the SABC Board. She complained that CVs of applicants have not been distributed to Members of Parliament since January. She advised Parliament to expedite action on the interviews so as to normalise the operation of the SABC Board.
Ms Van Damme informed the Committee that she had sent emails to the Chairperson on numerous occasions, which the Chairperson did not respond to. She insisted that the Chairperson give the Committee a definite timeframe of actions as further delays could be detrimental to the work of the Committee.
Mr M Kalako (ANC) supported Ms Van Damme’s view about the urgency of the matter. He noted that the agenda of the meeting was not printed at the right time due to the absence of the Committee Secretary, who was on sick leave. He advised the Chairperson to consult with her management team to know the current status of the matter so that the Committee can continue with the agenda for the day. He also advised the Chairperson to be tolerant of Ms Van Damme’s views.
A Member of the Committee decried the state of affairs, which had left most of the Members frustrated. He said it was important to get the detailed version of all relevant documents. The documents will help the Committee to know the current status of the matter and dispel all false accusations.
The Chairperson urged Members to be disciplined and avoid false accusations. False accusations do not portray Parliament in a good light. Members should carry out their duties with dignity that is expected from public representatives. She noted that the various vacant positions in SABC were advertised to give qualified candidates opportunities to fill the vacant positions.
The Chairperson apologised for the dysfunctional email system and promised to fix the challenges.
Mr Mbombo Maleka, Committee Content Advisor, stated that 323 applications were received; out of which 90 were disqualified because they were looking for internship positions. He noted that the first advertisement for nomination was published on October 16, 2018. The eighty shortlisted candidates could not be interviewed for various reasons. One of the reasons was that the email used to receive nomination became full and another email had to be created.
In December 2018, the Portfolio Committee received a letter from President Cyril Ramaphosa, as a referral from the Speaker of the National Assembly, in which he informed the National Assembly that he has, in terms of Section 15 (2) of the Broadcasting Act of 1999, accepted the resignations of the four non-executive Board members of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). The Committee extended the closing date for nomination of candidates to accommodate this new development. However, the 80 shortlisted candidates were told not to apply as they were already documented. The second advertisement attracted 153 nominations, bringing the total number of valid nominations to 233.
The Chairperson said that the Committee Secretary was in a better position to inform the Committee on the current status of the nominations. She assured Members that due process was followed in the nomination process.
She urged the Committee to work together to conclude the interviews, which she regarded as a tedious task. She reiterated that she spoke to the Legal advisor on practicable ways to resolve the problems encountered with the shortlisting and interviews.
Mr T Bongo (ANC) spoke about the importance of the interview process. He also spoke about security vetting, which is done by the Police. He requested the Chairperson to state the reason for the gap after the screening of CVs was done. Those responsible for screening the CVs must table a report to the Committee. He suggested that the Committee should devise a timetable for the shortlisting and interviews, even if this will require an extension of time. He, however, cautioned that the Committee would need to reconvene if extension becomes necessary.
Mr Maleka said that the screening has been done. The security clearance can only be done after candidates are shortlisted. As far as the interview process is concerned, there are eight vacant positions in the SABC Board. A minimum of three candidates will be interviewed for each position, which makes the number of candidates to be interviewed 24. Each interview takes between forty-five minutes to an hour, depending on the candidate. The interviews will consume considerable time. He, however, said that the interviews can be concluded on time if Committee Members are available.
Mr R Tseli (ANC) said that the Committee should the appointments for the SABC and MDDA Boards as urgent matters, even if this will cost Members time beyond their normal schedules. The Committee Secretary should be able to inform and guide the Committee on the current situation with the recruitment process into the SABC Board and pave the way forward. The same process that applies to SABC Board could be used to fast-track recruitment for the MDDA. This will help to address the urgency of the matter. He proposed that the Committee should shortlist candidates next week. Interviews should follow as soon as the security clearance is completed. He suggested that the Committee should condense the process, in every way possible, so as to meet up with the time. He requested the Management team to come up with a definite timetable to guide the Committee and relevant entities through the shortlisting, security vetting and interview processes in a timeous manner. The same timetable and programme should guide the Committee through the processes required to recruit candidates for MDDA.
Ms Van Damme expressed displeasure about the information gap that occurs within the Committee. According to her, it is embarrassing that the Chairperson blamed the Legal Advisor and Committee Secretary for lapses that occurred in the Committee. She urged the Chairperson to take responsibility for whatever happens in the Committee.
Ms Van Damme suggested that all Members should have copies of the summary and CVs by February 20, 2019. This will equip Members to shortlist and interview candidates before it is too late. Members must ensure the completion of the process no matter the challenges that may be encountered, especially in terms of time and other political commitment. She urged the Chairperson to consult with the Committee on how to finalise the process. Shortlisting and interviews have been done by the Committee a number of times and there is no complexity in the process. She sought clarity on why the Chairperson needed to consult with the Legal Advisor. Were there complex matters regarding the shortlisting and interview processes?
The Chairperson promised to contact the Committee Secretary on the timeframe for the shortlisting and interviews. She said the Secretary interprets and analyses the data associated with the nomination process. Regarding consultation with the Legal Advisor, she indicated that she does consult with the Chair of Chairs, Chief Whip and the Legal Department on pertinent issues. She said Members of the Committee must have a positive mindset to ensure smooth operations within the Committee. There is a prospect of concluding the current task provided all Committee Members work together.
A member cautioned the Committee about the time constraint associated with the recruitment process. He urged the Committee and all officials involved to expedite action in order to conclude the shortlisting and interviews on time. He noted that both processes will commence on February 26, 2019.
The Chairperson assured the Committee that the CVs and finalised summaries will be made available as soon as possible.
Ms V Van Dyk (ANC) spoke about the importance and urgency of the recruitment for the MDDA. Are the mandates for the SABC and MDDA different? Can the interviews be done the same day if the mandates for both entities are close?
Ms Van Damme said that the Committee does not need to wait for the Committee Secretary to determine the next line of action. The Chairperson can call the Secretary to know where the CVs and summaries are and the Committee can continue from there. She urged the Chairperson to accommodate individual differences within the Committee in order to achieve positive results. The Chairperson should welcome constructive criticism and devise means to move the Committee in the right direction. Unprofessional words like “stupid and embarrassing” should be avoided. All members should be treated respectfully no matter the political affiliation.
The Chairperson said Ms Van Damme’s concern, regarding the role of the Secretary, has already been answered. She urged Ms Van Damme not to cause confusion within the Committee.
Mr Kalako said that the Committee has vast experience in dealing with the current matter. He reminded the Committee of the 20-year imprisonment given to the ICASA Council Chairperson. He noted that the Chairperson is currently appealing the judgment. Regarding the shortlisting and interviews, he said the process can be timeously completed, provided the Committee and the Office of the Speaker work together effectively.
The Chairperson confirmed that the ICASA Council Chairperson is trying to appeal the judgment. She said a person can only be removed from office if he/ she is convicted of a grievous offense.
Ms Van Damme said a person is disqualified if he/ she is convicted according to the Act. The Committee has the power to remove the official and then send its recommendations to the National Assembly for approval. The decision about the convicted person does not have to be a long process. All that is needed is a resolution, drawn up by the Committee, to show that the person is convicted. The National Assembly goes through the resolution and makes the right decision.
Ms M Matshoba (ANC) urged Members to avoid antagonistic behaviours during meetings. Members should behave in a dignified manner that put the Committee in a good light.
Mr Bongo was in agreement with Mr Kalako and Ms Van Damme. He urged the Committee to consider the provisions of the Act to determine the eligibility of the ICASA Council Chairperson.
The Chairperson assured the Committee that the process leading to the finalisation of the appointment is fair and credible, despite all challenges that made some people to become suspicious. She urged the different parties to work together to ensure a functional and effective Committee. Committee Members must maintain sanity during meetings in order to achieve set goals.
Ms Van Damme asked the Chairperson to make a commitment in terms of when the CVs and summaries will get to Members. This will allow Members to plan their time and have successful shortlisting and interview.
The Chairperson said that the CVs and summaries will get to Members as soon as possible.
The Chairperson undertook to avail Members of all necessary documents as soon as possible.
The meeting was adjourned.
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