The Portfolio Committee on Communications met to firstly deliberate on the nominations for the vacancies on the board of the South African Broadcasting Corporation and to receive a briefing on the progress of the Department of Communications and its entities. The Minister of Communications attended the entire meeting, but did not participate in the deliberations on the nominations for the SABC board.
The interviews for board members had been completed the previous week. Although there were two adjournments during the meeting for caucuses between political parties, consensus could not be reached. There were two issues of contention between the ANC on one hand and the DA and EFF on the other hand. The ANC nominated eight candidates, as required, five of whom were women and three men. The DA and the EFF objected very strongly to two of the male candidates, one of whom had had issues when managing a tertiary institution. The then Minister of Education had issued a report that was apparently scathing about, inter alia, the candidate’s management style. The opposition members also accused him of extreme arrogance towards Committee Members in the interviews. The second objection was to a gentleman involved in actively promoting the ANC on social media and who had said that he believed that it was his right to do so, even if he were a board member.
The second issue of contention was that of gender equity. There were already four males on the SABC board, which meant that, with the additional three males nominated, the board would be male-dominated. The Opposition parties asked that there be at least gender equity on the board and pointed to the names of two females whom they considered to be of outstanding calibre and who would have much to offer the SABC board.
The ANC refused to consider both requests and the original list presented by the ANC was accepted by the Committee, with objections from the DA and the EFF.
The Minister was pleased that the process of appointing members to the SABC board was progressing well. She introduced the Department of Communication reports, reflecting on the fact that there had been a moratorium on filling posts in the Department and its entities since November 2018 in anticipation of the merging of the Departments of Communications, Telecommunications and Post Office and the Government Communications and Information Service. The Minister and her staff were no longer paid from the budget of the Department of Communications, meaning that there would be an underspend in Employee Compensation and those monies would have to be returned to the fiscus.
The Department of Communications had achieved 36 out of 49 targets, a 73% achievement. One of the remedies to improve the attainment of targets would be to introduce a fast track mechanism to accelerate implementation of the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting by prioritising areas with 800 MHz spectrum. The draft White Paper on Audio-Visual and Digital Content Policy for South Africa together with other Bills would be rationalised and presented in the 2019/20 APP to accommodate the reconfiguration of the Departments of Communications, Telecommunications and Postal Services. Several Bills and Papers had not been completed.
The Department had responded to the 4IR in various ways, including the Broadcasting Amendment Act, the Broadcasting Digital Migration Programme and Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises and Enterprise Development, and was working towards a convergence of technologies or disruptive technologies in the print media sector transformation.
Concerning the digital migration process, one million out of 4.7 million indigent households had been registered for a subsidy and 507 000 households had been connected to a digital signal by 28 February 2019. The analogue switch-off date was planned for the end of July 2020. Installers would be appointed at local level and the Department was hoping to identify 800 MHz spectrum that could be released early. The Department was recommending a 100% voucher to indigent households that would cover the cost of set-top box, aerial and installation to avoid delays in waiting for households to purchase aerials.
In terms of finances, the Department had underspent on goods and services but that related to the digital migration process and the purchase of set-top boxes, aerials and installation. The Department was preparing detailed plans for implementation so that it could ask for a roll-over of those funds. Virements would be done to balance the over-expenditure in capital expenses.
The Department of Communications presented a report on the 11 entities that fell under the umbrella of the Department. There were concerns about the underfunding of ICASA and its plans to monitor the elections. ICASA governance matters had not been resolved and councillors were reluctant to sign performance agreements. Brand South Africa had incurred irregular expenditure of R13.1 million due to non-compliance with supply chain management policies as well as non-adherence to National Treasury Instruction Notes. In a separate matter, the CFO had been suspended. Consideration was being given to reducing the number of Brand South Africa board members from 15 to ten members.
The final report was a briefing on the merger and reconfiguration of the Departments. After the President had made the announcement of the merger of the Ministries of Telecommunications and Postal Services and Communication as well as Government Communications and Information Services into a single Ministry of Communications, work had begun on how to implement the decision after the May elections. Project stream 1 was working on the merger, and project stream 2 was dealing with the 4IR Country Blueprint and the role of the Department.
Members asked if the proposal for the Brand South Africa board to be reduced from 15 to ten members was following the correct protocol. Would the change not impact on its mandate? Why had it taken so long to deal with the matter of the CFO? Members were concerned about the irregular expenditure of R31 million. What had the money been spent on?
Members also expressed concern about coverage of the upcoming elections. When was the Committee going to receive the plans for the election coverage by ICASA and the SABC? Did the problems at ICASA not constitute a threat to broadcasts covering elections? Was there the draft Media Transformation and Diversity Charter available for Members? Did the new plans of the project streams fall into the category of integration and were those projects planning for a new department? The Department had said that a number of provinces had been put on trial with set-top boxes. Were the set-top boxes working? Why was it only the Free State that was ready to switch off? What was wrong with the other provinces? Members also noted the reluctance of the Media Diversity and Development Agency councillors to sign performance agreements. What were the issues there? Why was there a stand-off? Why was the Annual Performance Plan of the Agency not fully funded?
The Chairperson opened the meeting and welcomed the Members, the Department, the media and civil society.
Ms P Van Damme (DA) asked the Chairperson if she knew why Dr M Ndlozi (EFF) was not at the meeting.
The Chairperson asked the whip if he was aware of a reason for Dr Ndlozi’s absence.
Mr M Kalako (ANC) stated that he was not the chief whip of the EFF so he did not know where he was but everyone had received notification of the meeting so he suggested that the meeting should go ahead.
At that moment, Dr Ndlozi arrived.
The Chairperson stated that there were two items on the agenda. The first item was deliberations on the South African Broadcasting Board (SABC) and the second was a briefing by the Minister on the state of the Department and its entities.
Mr Kalako asked if the parties could meet for a few minutes to compare names for the board.
Ms Van Damme asked the Chairperson whether the vetting process had been completed.
The Chairperson replied that she would give feedback in the course of the meeting, but vetting was almost complete.
Ms Van Damme asked for assurance that vetting would be completed by Monday 17 March 2019 as she assumed that the report would be tabled in the House on Tuesday 18 March 2018. That would allow time for the Committee to meet so that if any changes were necessary, they could be made.
The Chairperson agreed to adjourn the meeting for 15 minutes to allow parties to discuss their nominations.
Deliberations on interviews of candidates for the SABC Board
The Chairperson stated that the first item on the agenda was the deliberations on interviews of candidates for the SABC Board. She asked for guidance on how the Committee wished to proceed.
Mr R Tseli (ANC) said that when the meeting had adjourned, Members had consulted with each other on the names suggested by their parties as their nominations for the SABC board. He suggested that parties should present their names and then the Committee could see if it could reach consensus.
The Chairperson asked if the procedure was acceptable to the meeting.
Ms Van Damme referred to the deliberations held outside of the meeting. The parties had discussed the nominations but there had been no willingness on the part of the ANC to make concessions and to include any candidates suggested by the opposition parties. No consensus had been reached. The ANC Members were not willing to budge and so the Committee would be presented with an ANC list which had candidates with whom she and Dr Ndlozi had serious problems. That was how the cookie crumbled when there was a majority, so Mr Kalako could read his list and then the Members could talk about the candidates.
The Chairperson noted that there were two proposals, so she would allow parties to read out the proposed lists and then the Members could talk to the names. It had also been suggested that the ANC read out its list.
Mr N Xaba (ANC) said that everyone was in a Portfolio Committee meeting. Members would be presenting names as a Member of a Portfolio Committee. Unless they were in an ANC meeting, Members would be presenting the names as Members of the Portfolio Committee.
Ms Van Damme told Mr Xaba that there were times when it was okay to keep quiet, totally quiet. Mr Kalako had made it very clear during the deliberations that it was a political issue and representatives of political parties would be presenting their lists. She reminded him that there were times when it was best to keep quiet.
The Chairperson asked the representatives to present their names. She reminded everyone that some Members of the Committee had not been in the caucus and did not know who had been selected or why. Those who were not in the caucus should not be deprived of that information.
Mr Tseli said when the Members had left the venue the previous week, the matter had been very clear that they would go back to their caucuses to consult and so the lists came from the caucuses. Each party could present their list.
Dr Ndlozi wanted to know if the Blue Crane had been short-listed.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Tseli for reminding the Committee that there had been a decision to consult, so the Committee was clear where the lists were coming from.
Ms Van Damme expressed her disapproval with the Chairperson as, in her media statement, she had given the impression that it was Ms Van Damme’s proposal that Members consulted with their caucuses. Although it was a process of Parliament and the way it was always done, it had seemed that only she had wanted to consult with her caucus. Mr Kalako, the whip of the ANC, had agreed that that was the process. In fact, caucuses were held on a Thursday and the Committee had determined to meet on the Tuesday. Caucuses were being held at that very moment. It was the Chairperson who had changed the date from Tuesday to Thursday. She asked that she not be misrepresented as the only Member who had wanted to caucus. The Chairperson had dragged her name through the mud unnecessarily.
The Chairperson responded to Ms Van Damme. If her understanding was correct, Ms Van Damme had made a proposal and other Members had concurred. She had thought that the proposal had come from Ms Van Damme and that there had been consensus. Otherwise, the Committee would have gone ahead with finalising the list of names at that time.
Mr Xaba said that Ms Van Damme always like to present herself as singular. Other Members told her that they were acting as a Committee. Now perhaps the media would write about her, so she should listen to them. By doing their work, they were acting as a Committee. The Chairperson was correct in the way that she had understood events.
The Chairperson noted that sometimes one agreed to something in a meeting, only to find that it was unrealistic and did not meet the requirements of the Programming Committee. The Programming Committee could not schedule something that it did not have in front of the Members. That had been the difficulty. That had been the reason for shortening the consultation period between Members and their parties. At least the Programming Committee would have something in front of it, so that the presentation of the list of names could be scheduled for the following week. If the Committee had only met the following Tuesday, it would have been too late to get it on the agenda of the House by Wednesday.
The Chairperson asked Mr Kalako if he had a proposal.
Mr Kalako said that he wanted to get beyond the peripheral matters to the real matter which was going into the list of names.
Ms Van Damme asked that he read slowly.
Mr Kalako began reading his list of names.
Dr Ndlozi asked that Mr Kalako motivate why he had suggested the names.
Mr Kalako said that the ANC’s proposed names for the filling of the vacancies, having considered gender, age, geography, and what was needed on the board were as follows:
-Ms Mary Papayya: she had acquitted herself well in the interview, had experience as a journalist in the community and in television and had talked about how changes could be made to the SABC. She was independent and strong.
-Ms Jasmina Patel was experienced in different fields. Her CV and the interview revealed expertise around Accounting, and she had the necessary qualifications and experience as she had led the internal audit team in various companies.
-Dr Marcia Socikwa had displayed her expertise and her leadership in various spheres. She knew the sector well.
-Ms Mamoduphi Mohlal-Mulaudizi was an outstanding candidate, involved in crafting policy that even now governed the sector. She was very independent and had clashed with many principals.
-Bernadette Muthien: experienced in community issues and would make an indelible contribution around issues of community. The SABC had a duty to ensure unity of the nation and she could steer the Board to make sure the SABC could deal with issues
-Adv Motshedi Benjamin Lekalakala: experienced and had qualifications in broadcasting and telecommunications. He had never been found to have done wrong in his duties. There was no proof of him doing wrong in his work. He was independent and experienced.
-Prof Saths Cooper: people who knew him would know that he would not do things that were wrong. He was independent, scholarly, credible, experienced in the sector, and not a walk-over, which was why he had crossed swords with people.
-Mr David Maimela: a young fellow who had a bright future and potential, done lots of research and written papers. He was not a person who was headed up by ideologies, could drive the government’s policies to implementation and he could ensure that there would be adherence to government policies.
Mr Kalako added that the ANC wanted people who could stand fast and could not be used to interfere in the SABC nor would want to make the SABC partisan to anyone or any party.
The Chairperson asked if he had received the requested letter from Dr Socikwa.
Mr Kalako stated that everyone on the Committee had received a copy of the letter from Dr Socikwa.
Ms Van Damme stated that she was in agreement with Ms Mary Papayya, who was a dedicated journalist, that had integrity, had acquitted herself well in the interview, was experienced in television and had talked through how changes could be made. She had a fearless spirit and so was supported.
Mr Tseli said that Ms Van Damme should present her list from the DA. She should first present a list and then come up with motivations and not do as she was doing at the moment because she was jumping the gun.
Ms Van Damme said she would conduct herself as she wished. The ANC had said that it was not going to concede so she was going to talk to the list in front of her.
Mr Xaba rose on a point of order. He supported Mr Tseli. The discussion was based upon the Committee participating fully. In as much as the ANC had presented its list, other parties had to motivate their lists so that if someone was accepted, the other parties could not come back and say that the people were failing.
Dr Ndlozi interjected that it was not a point of order. The guy was deliberating. He asked the Chairperson to take control of the meeting. He was not rising on a point of order.
Mr Xaba stated that he was not just a guy, he was an honourable guy. He added that he was actually an honourable Member.
The last comment resulted in a hullaballoo in the room.
The Chairperson asked Members to allow other Members to engage so that the Committee could see where there was consensus. Obviously Ms Van Damme would say where there was consensus and then she would carry on. The Committee needed to know where there was consensus on names.
Ms Van Damme did not know why Members were interrupting her. She asked that the ANC sit quietly and listen. She would not be told by them how to behave in the Committee. She asked the Chairperson to take control of the meeting and not to allow any further interruptions. The Chairperson had to protect her and allow her to speak.
Ms Van Damme continued:
Mary Papayya had conducted herself well; she was experienced in media and would be a great asset to the board.
Jasmina Patel had great audit skills but Ms Van Damme believed that she did not have a fearless independence nor what it would take to survive the board, but, given her qualifications, she would support her. She hoped that Ms Patel would develop the skills to survive the board.
Dr Marcia Socikwa was a good candidate. There was the issue of the allegations of racism and that she had inappropriately appointed a Minister’s son, but she had been exonerated following an investigation, so Ms van Damme supported her.
Ms Mamoduphi Mohlal-Mulaudizi had experience and knowledge of the sector but Ms Van Damme was concerned about her temper and whether she could work with a team. There had been concerns that she was toxic but generally people did not like those who stood their ground, especially women who stood by their views. Ms Van Damme stated that she would not fight that name.
Ms Van Damme stated that:
Bernadette Muthien did not bring anything new or fresh. There were better candidates than her. She could be a walk-over. Ms Van Damme did not support her.
Adv Motshedi Benjamin Lekalakala was not supported. He had served as secretary to the Council in the City of Johannesburg during the times of intense corruption, but he had not spoken up and she did not believe that he would speak up if there was something wrong in the SABC. He would be a push-over.
Prof Saths Cooper: Ms Van Damme expressed her objection in the most serious, serious terms. He had been arrogant and belittling of Members of the Committee and was not a person who would feel that he should be held accountable by the Committee. There was a ministerial report which had found him to be a person who surrounded himself with acolytes and who made irregular appointments. There was another report that he had said that people who did online dating were retarded. That statement went to the kind of person he was. A report had found him guilty of serious, serious transgressions. Dr Marcia Socikwa had provided the Committee with documentation stating that she had been exonerated of allegations against her. Prof Cooper had not challenged the report against him and had given no evidence to the contrary. He was absolutely unsuitable for the SABC. She had heard rumours that he was to become chairperson of the board, but the DA would fight against Prof Cooper being on the SABC board. He would destroy the board. People would resign under him because of his manner and his arrogance. He reminded her of Ben Ngubane who, when chairing the SABC board, had thought that he was an executive director, not a non-executive director. “Saths Cooper – hell no!”
David Maimela: Ms Van Damme was very much in favour of young people on the board, but young people who had experience and qualifications in broadcasting. She was quite sure that there were young people out there with experience and qualifications in broadcasting, and those she would support. David Maimela’s experience was in the ANC. He was on social media campaigning for the ANC. There were plenty of young people who should be given the opportunity. In fact, there were a lot of young people who could not get a job because they did not have ANC links. She did not support Mr Maimela.
Who would she have preferred to see on the board? Ms Van Damme reminded the Committee that it had been very, very clear at the time of advertising the vacancies that the Committee wanted people who were qualified Chartered Accountants (CAs) on the board. There was no CA on the list provided. Only one CA was interviewed and that was Mr Rowan Nicholls. The Committee needed a CA on the list.
Nokuzola Ehrens had displayed great knowledge of the sector and great knowledge of the very famed and little understood Fourth Industrial Revolution. She was an excellent candidate. She should be on the board.
Mr Tsiesi Itani had experience in the SABC. He had stood up to Hlaudi Motsoeneng, and had had the SSA spying on him, so he had courage. If he were appointed to the board, he would hit the ground running. The Committee did not need people who still had to learn the ropes. Mr Maimela, Prof Cooper and Adv Lekalakala had no broadcasting experience so they would have to learn the ropes. There was no time for that. The Committee needed people who would get there and could get to work.
The current list had no CA, people with no broadcasting experience, and people, such as Saths Cooper who had been found to have conducted himself irregularly, who was known to surround himself with acolytes and who even in the interviews had presented himself as a very arrogant person. Saths Cooper, no!
The Chairperson thanked Ms Van Damme and noted that there was consensus between two parties on four names. That was a good start.
Dr Ndlozi expressed his disappointment with the way that the interviews had gone. A lot of Members on the panel had not displayed the required knowledge to interrogate candidates. The Members were not experienced in interviewing and some of the questions were so embarrassing that they had brought the Committee into disrepute. It had also cast a shadow of doubt on whether those Members were able to deliberate, as part of the Committee, on what was needed and whether they could understand the kind of people who had to walk through that eye of the needle. Their judgement was concerning and that was going to make the conversation very hard. The Committee had been in that position many, many times and it had always worked through consensus, understanding that the SABC needed the necessary space and independence and the board members needed to be able to work together.
Dr Ndlozi had warned the Committee that it was the most toxic time in politics to try and constitute the leadership of the institution when everyone was campaigning. That was the second thing that was happening there. Members of the Committee had tried to campaign for their political parties instead of prioritising the interviews of the SABC board. Mr Kalako had not put it on the record, but it was, for the first time in the Fifth Democratic Parliament, going to be hard to find consensus. The SABC board was going to be decided with a majoritarianism type of approach.
Furthermore, Dr Ndlozi noted that the best of the best in the sector had not applied. The Committee was generally dealing with a weak pool of candidates. The people had plenty of experience in other things in life but no evidence of any passion for broadcasting. If one had never shown any passion for broadcasting in one’s whole life, how could one want to be on the board? The accountant had not even known that M-NET did not belong to SABC. He had no interest in the sector. People had not even known about the Fourth Industrial Revolution. They had no interest in the sector at all or in technological developments. For most candidates, it was like they had just found religion and went into the church looking for the bishop’s seat.
Dr Ndlozi stated that some of the selected candidates had never shown any interest in broadcasting. David Maila was supposed to be an intellectual but what was he writing about? It had nothing to do with broadcasting or the SABC or its problems. He was a president of COSAS so there was an education aspect to him. But what did that have to do with the SABC? He could not hit the ground running. He was an ANC activist and was on Facebook telling people to vote for the ANC. He was not planning to stop his activism. He had said that he had the right to be openly political, so he did not understand the position. It was tragic that he was on the ANC list.
Saths Cooper: the entire industry would be seriously, seriously insulted and undermined by that candidate. Dr Ndlozi had no idea what the ANC saw in the candidate. He was self-obsessed and beat his chest with his medals. He had an entitlement syndrome because he had somehow struggled when he was young. His record in the post-democratic era was that he had been a bad leader at a university. He had failed dismally to run the University of Durban-Westville. He would bring that failure to the SABC. He had no broadcasting experience and never shown interest. There was demonstrable evidence of his bad management style. Saths Copper had to withdraw from the position of Vice Chancellor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal once Kader Asmal’s report had been released. The report on him was damning. Ask the student movement and activists of those days. Dr Ndlozi knew that majoritarianism was going to defeat him, but he wanted to ask Saths Cooper, who was undoubtedly listening, a question about cheating in an examination as a student, following which his parents had to negotiate for him to continue his studies. Dr Ndlozi had received such information.
Dr Ndlozi noted that Adv Lekalakala and Ms Bernadette Muthien had no broadcasting experience.
He was concerned about the predominance of males. There were already four males on the board and there were another three males on the shortlist. The ANC Members had said that they had looked at gender equity, but they had not looked at who was already there. There would be too much masculinity. He asked Mr Kalako to look at the gender issue again.
Dr Ndlozi agreed with Dr Marcia Socikwa who had been at ICASA. If the ANC had wanted someone who could hit the ground running, they should have put Mr Itani on the board. He had been a Risk Compliance Officer at the SABC and had compiled a report that had shown the losses would be made. He was part of the liberation struggle against Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Why had Nokuzola Ehrens not been nominated? No one, other than Dr Socikwa, came close to her. She had come through the ranks in the sector. She had been tried and tested. Why had they had not looked at Lulama Mokhobo who understood the institution? They were people who would not have to be workshopped about the SABC. No one could lie to them as they understood the sector and the institution.
The only name Dr Ndlozi could agree with was that of Marcia Socikwa. But he wished to state on the record that he could not have Prof Cooper and Mr Maimela. The Committee should take out those two men and include two women. Nokuzola Ehrens was an impressive candidate. The DA agreed that she was an outstanding candidate. Dr Ndlozi recalled that at the tea break everyone had been very impressed with her. He suggested that the Committee debate Lulama Mokhobo. If the ANC did genuinely believe in gender equity, they would agree to replace two men with two women. In any case, Saths Cooper was a tragedy.
The Chairperson noted that there were four (five) women on the short-list. She was only looking at the process that they were in.
Ms Van Damme had a proposal about Saths Cooper. There had been questions about Dr Socikwa, and she had sent a report which repudiated the allegations. Before the Committee Members agreed finally, they had to see that report as it was a damning report and Members needed to apply their minds to it. Prof Cooper thought that, because he had been a struggle hero, he did not have to account to anyone. He had been name-dropping about all the presidents he knew. She wanted to see the report. Fair was fair.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee had received names from everyone.
Mr Kalako said that the Committee had consensus on some names but to come to the issue of Saths Cooper. What had angered the opposition was his forthrightness. The opposition Members accused him of arrogance, but he had not seen any arrogance. The Committee had not asked Saths Cooper to table a report. The opposition parties should have presented the report that they were complaining about. Dr Ndlozi had to go outside of the parliamentary precinct and state that Prof Cooper had cheated. He challenged Dr Ndlozi to go outside and make that accusation. Saths Cooper would answer for himself. He alleged that the opposition Members did not like Saths Cooper because they would not be able to manipulate him in the way that they manipulated other board members.
Mr Xaba asked where the report was.
Mr Kalako said that no report had been circulated. Ms Van Damme just wanted to create a hullabaloo. When Saths Cooper had taken her on, she had deemed him arrogant. The opposition was obsessed with the gossip that the ANC wanted to make Saths Cooper the Chairperson when there was already a Chairperson of the board. Ms Van Damme was repeating what she could not push through. When issues were raised about Johannesburg, they had nothing to say. That obsession with those people was because they could not manipulate them. There was nothing wrong with David Maimela being upfront as an ANC member. He was a South African and he could be an ANC member and a member of any structure. There was nothing wrong with that. The DA did not want Mr Maimela because the party had been in conflict with him over social media. The DA could not behave like that because they did not want him. There had to be a plurality of views. When people were put in positions of dealing with South Africans, the DA had to put their issues aside. The ANC had nominated strong candidates who could not be manipulated: Saths Cooper and Benjamin Lekalakala.
Mr Kalako said that the ANC could talk about other things such as gender. They were adding five females when there had been none there before.
Mr Tseli wanted to correct a few issues. The ANC had presented a list with five females and three males. It was correct that in the past that Members had agreed on names but if the opposition was not ready to be persuaded to change names, then the democratic process had to follow. It was not the place of the Committee to be looking for a chairperson and deputy. That was the prerogative of the President. The positions for board members had been advertised twice. People with CAs had not applied, and that did not matter. It could not only be CA’s. The ANC list had a balance of people with legal and financial skills and they wanted people with experience in governance but did not want people who did not have the time to give attention to SABC board because they were on too many boards. The ANC wanted a balance of some experience, but not those who were too involved in other boards. The ANC was impressed with the names on their list. It could be proved by the fact that people who had viewed the interviews had texted and agreed that those were good candidates. It was a list of people who could stabilise SABC. He agreed that there were views around one or two people but, ultimately, democracy would have to prevail.
Mr Xaba said that it was fair to acknowledge everyone who had applied and who had confidence to face the Committee and to offer a service to the country. Members should not ridicule the applicants as they were prepared to serve their country.
Mr Xaba turned his attention to the candidates. Prof Cooper was the right candidate. He had shown that he had no contracts in government, and was ready to be a team player and that was symbolised in his experience locally, nationally and internationally. He had served on other boards, and that was experience that was needed. He believed in local content. Prof Cooper had stabilised the University of Durban-Westville.
Mr Xaba noted that David Maimela was young, but he had twenty years’ experience in the public policy space. Members could not pressurise him for being young and not having experience on a board. The country needed young blood. Mr Robson (Rowan Nicholls) was an old man who had a challenge around transformation. The future of SABC rests with the young blood.
Mr Xaba said that the ANC did not want Lulama Mokhobo because it did not want a settling of scores of the past. They did not want people who would create more problems around Hlaudi Motsoeneng. There were controversies around Mr Titani in respect of the brown envelopes when he had been in the SABC. It was worrisome that he had been involved in such a culture.
Mr Xaba said that Nokuzola Ehrens had resigned from previous SETAs, but the conflict of interest came to the fore. He stood by the names put forward. In respect of Bernadette Muthien, who was a poet, he believed that she had responded well on issues that needed to be in the SABC, such as education and human rights. She believed that people had to pay TV licences and had given a good example of Scandinavian practices. She was strong on issues of social development and had 20 years of good governance. He supported the list presented by Mr Kalako. He was saying no to Robson, Lulama Mokhobo and Nokuzola Ehrens.
The Chairperson noted that Mr Xaba had not been persuaded and the Committee had not yet reached consensus.
Dr Ndlozi asked who “Robson” (Rowan Nicholls) was. There was no such name on the list. He made it clear that he and the EFF had never followed Maimela on social media. There had never been a social media battle with David Maimela. He found it tragic for the ANC to say that it was not wrong for people on the SABC board to openly campaign for a political party.
Dr Ndlozi added that it was not correct to say that there had not been reference to the report on Saths Cooper. He had put the report to Prof Cooper during the interview and had asked him why he had not challenged the report. The ANC could watch the interviews. Maybe the ANC had been in a different interview. He had raised the matter of the Kader Asmal Report and also the issue of Prof Cooper’s appointment to the medical council. He had asked about Prof Ntuli and some of the lecturers. That had been in the report. Mr Xaba should not misrepresent reports and forget what had happened in interviews. He would not challenge what others were doing so that they had not heard Members asking questions about the report. He would not degenerate to that level.
Dr Ndlozi was not against young people, but he was scared that David did not understand the board as he was confused about openly campaigning. He had even given him a chance to see and rectify his error. He had asked whether a judge should openly campaign for a political party. He did not say that one should not favour a party, the point was not that one should not vote or campaign, etc. but in a board one had to be seen to be fair. Public servants supported parties but did not openly campaign. Public servants would tell one that it would cause difficulties if one openly campaigned. The situation was even worse as the main function of the SABC was broadcasting. It was not right to openly campaign when one was a member of a particular structure. Mr Tseli was wrong. In court, Mr Tseli would lose 10-0.
Dr Ndlozi addressed the gender question. He had earlier given Mr Kalako a chance to unpack what he meant when he spoke about gender. He was saying they should remove two males and put two more women on the list. Surely, even the ANC could agree that a male-dominated board was reactionary in this day and age. He accepted that democracy would prevail but to have a board of seven men against five women was wrong. To have a male majority on the board was not proper. If there was an imbalance, let it be seven to five on the other side. If they had to agree, Nokuzola Ehrens was talent, tried and tested talent. She was very, very good. He could not be assured that Saths Cooper would not succumb to corruption. Many people who had been sent to Robben Island did very, very bad things, such as one who had run the country for a very long time. Even the report by the SSA was damning on Robben Islanders.
Ms Van Damme said that Members did not have a copy of the damning report against Saths Cooper, but he had acknowledged the report in his interview. The Portfolio Committee ought to have the right to request the report from the Department of Higher Education in the same way that the other report had been requested. She was adamant that there was a need for a qualified Chartered Accountant on the Board. She proposed a break and suggested that the Committee try to enable constitutionalism to triumph over majoritarianism. She did not know if the ANC was open to negotiations, but she would like to try and reach a compromise.
Ms Van Damme stated that she had a serious, serious objection to the Minister mumbling “shut up” to Dr Ndlozi when he had been speaking. It was unbecoming behaviour for a Minister. She could not speak like that to a Member of the Committee that had oversight over her. It was shameful and Ms Van Damme expected the Minister to apologise, not only to Dr Ndlozi, but to the entire Committee. It was really, really unbecoming.
The Chairperson indicated that Ms Matshoba had been waiting to speak.
Mr Kalako said he had no problem giving the Opposition a last chance to be persuaded to support what he was presenting. He wanted to clarify one issue: the issue of David Maimela being a member of ANC and campaigning for the ANC. There was nothing wrong. He saw nothing wrong in him being a member of the board. The ANC was not saying that he was supposed to push party politics on the board. The opposition could not say that he would not be professional on the board. The ANC had no problem in engaging for five minutes.
Ms Van Damme stated that everyone had made up their minds.
Mr Xaba commented that Ms Van Damme could not speak whenever she wished. She had to allow people to fairly participate.
Ms Matshoba reminded the Members of the time when Dr Ndlozi had been insulted by Ms Van Damme during the interviews. It had been a serious insult, but the Chairperson had respected both of them and not taken sides. Her behaviour had been bad and as Members of the Committee they should respect each other. Ms Van Damme had been very rude to Dr Ndlozi. Ms Matshoba knew that because she had been seated between the two of them. Today they were sitting together so that the two of them could ridicule and rubbish the names of candidates.
Dr Ndlozi offered to sit next to her.
Ms Van Damme said that she and Dr Ndlozi fought like siblings.
Calling Ms Van Damme, Princess Honourable, Ms Matshoba said that she was speaking, and Ms Van Damme was not her boss. She might be the boss in the DA, but she was not the boss of the ANC. Ms Matshoba supported the names on Mr Kalako’s list. The Members had interviewed the candidates and they had chosen accordingly. She read out the eight names and said that she supported all of them.
Ms Van Damme objected to being called a princess. She admitted that she was young but at 35, she did not qualify to be called a princess. She would prefer to be a queen as she was a grown woman.
The Chairperson called for order as Members engaged in a dialogue. The Chairperson adjourned the meeting for ten minutes so that the parties could negotiate.
The Chairperson reconvened ten minutes later and asked if there was a list of nominations.
Mr Tseli read out the list: Ms Mary Papayya, Ms Jasmina Patel, Dr Marcia Socikwa, Ms Mamoduphi Mohlal-Mulaudizi, Bernadette Muthien, Adv Motshedi Benjamin Lekalakala, Prof Saths Cooper, Mr David Maimela.
He stated that, despite the caucus, there was no movement and the ANC could not persuade the opposition to change their lists.
Ms Van Damme confirmed that the parties could not agree. There was no point in further discussion. She would see them in the House.
Dr Ndlozi said that the meeting had adjourned for the Members to speak about the gender composition, but the ANC had resisted any efforts to seek a gender balance and to include women who were more gifted, more talented than all of the men combined. It was sad that the ANC was rejecting gender equity.
The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary to read the report for the National Assembly.
Committee Report on SABC Board Recommendations
The Committee Secretary read the Final Report of the Portfolio Committee on Communications on filling the eight vacancies in the SABC Board dated 14 March 2019. Having considered the request of the Minister of Communications and the President of the Republic of South Africa to recommend candidates for the SABC Board, the Committee reported as follows:
Following a series of resignations, the Committee eventually had to fill eight positions. Two advertisement processes took place and a total of 203 applications had been received. 24 candidates had been shortlisted and interviewed.
The Committee interviewed 24 candidates on 5, 6 and 7 March 2019 at Parliament. On 14 March 2019, the Committee met to deliberate on the interviews and recommended that the following eight candidates be appointed to the SABC Board: Ms Mary Papayya, Ms Jasmina Patel, Dr Marcia Socikwa, Ms Mamodupi Mohlala-Molaudzi, Ms Bernedette Muthien, Adv Benjamin Motshedi Lekalakala, Prof Sathasivan Cooper and Mr David Maimela.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) objected to the report.
Ms Van Damme said that she had to leave because she was on sick leave that week. As it was the last meeting, she remarked that Members had worked well together, especially those Members who had been in the Committee from the beginning and she thanked them. The Committee Members had had some good victories together and she appreciated the hard work. She thanked the Committee Secretary who had been available at all times. She appreciated the work of each member of the Committee staff.
Dr Ndlozi also left the meeting and only ANC members remained in the meeting to engage with the Minister and the Department on the Department of Communications Performance Reports.
Presentation by the Department of Communications
Introduction by the Minister
Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams thanked Members of the Portfolio Committee for its hard work, but especially for the task that it had just concluded as she had been patiently waiting for it to be finalised. She had expected that the process that day would be a smooth one, but she had seen the differences between Members. Nevertheless, she thanked them for completing the work. The shareholder would come out with a clear plan on the way forward.
The Minister stated that she was accompanied by the Acting DG of Communications, Mr Robert Nkuma, DDG, Ms Thulisile Manzini and Acting DDG of Entities Oversight, Mr Omega Shelembe. The Department would make various presentations. The focus was on the performance of the Department and the Acting DG would present the Quarterly Reports. The Committee would be briefed on the Department’s Annual Performance Plan (APP) in line with Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and progress regarding the Broadcasting Digital Migration process. The team would also talk to the 3% that had not been spent and other financial information. The Human Resources report would reflect the vacant posts such as the DG, DDG and others which the Department did not intend to fill as the Department was waiting for the merger to see which posts would need to be filled. The Acting DDG would brief the Committee on the State of the Entities in the Communication Portfolio, and the DG or whoever he mandated would take the Committee through the processes of the Merged Ministry of Communications and Telecommunications and Postal Services and the Government Communications and Information Services (GCIS).
Presentation by the Department of Communications
Mr Nkuma stated that the Department had consolidated Quarters 1, 2 and 3. He asked Kedibone Phetla, Director of Strategic Planning and Performance Management, to commence the presentation.
Overall performance at the end of the Quarter 3
Ms Phetla stated that the Department had achieved 36 out of 49 targets, a 73% achievement. One of the remedies to achieve more targets would be to introduce a fast track mechanism to accelerate implementation by prioritising areas with 800 MHz spectrum. The draft White Paper on Audio-Visual and Digital Content Policy for South Africa together with other Bills would be rationalised and presented in the 2019/20 Annual Performance Plan (APP) to accommodate the reconfiguration of the Departments of Communications, Telecommunications and Postal Services. Other Bills and Papers were also not completed.
In the area of Industry and Capacity Development, the roll-out from analogue to digital broadcasting had continued rapidly and a delivery model for implementing the Broadcasting Digital Migration Programmes had been approved by Cabinet in October 2018. Further fast-track mechanisms were under consideration, while the revised inclusive delivery model had been put in place. The change in Accounting Officer had impacted on various processes with the Department of Communications entities.
The Department of Communications responses to the 4IR
Ms Phetla informed the Committee that the Department had responded to the 4IR in various ways, including the Broadcasting Amendment Act, the Broadcasting Digital Migration Programme and Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises and Enterprise Development. The Department was working towards a convergence of technologies or disruptive technologies in the print media sector transformation.
Broadcasting Digital Migration
One million out of 4.7 million indigent households had been registered for a subsidy and 507 000 households had been connected to a digital signal by 28 February 2019. The analogue switch-off date was planned for the end of July 2010. Installers would be appointed at local level and the Department was working with the CSIR to identify 800 MHz spectrum that could be released early. The Department was recommending a 100% voucher to indigent households that would cover the cost of set-top box, aerial and installation.
Resources: Budget versus Expenditure as at 08 March 2019
Ms Dikeledi Thindisa, CFO, presented the report on the finances of the Department. Underspending in the category of Compensation of Employees was largely as a result of the Department only paying for the Deputy Minister as the Minister and her staff were being paid by the Department of Telecommunications, and other posts had not been filled. That money would be returned to the fiscus. Expenditure in Programme 3 was at 35% and that was as a result of the difficulties in rolling out the digital migration, but there were plans in place to speed up expenditure in that area. That would result in plans being put in place for funds to be committed so that the Department could ask for the money to be rolled over. Virements would be done to balance the over-expenditure in capital expenses.
State of the Entities
Mr Shelembe briefed the Committee on the state of the entities under the Department of Communications. The Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) had not attained all targets as some had not been funded and there had been a short-term suspension of filling vacancies. An Acting CEO had been seconded from GCIS and his term of secondment would be extended beyond March until the situation was finalised. There had been allegations of fraud in awarding funding for community projects, resulting in irregular expenditure. The Director of Broadcast Projects had been suspended on allegations of fraud. The MDDA board had not been meeting as it had found difficulties in forming a quorum. All five board members were needed to quorate. The Department had requested the board to engage in teleconferences.
ICASA was facing severe funding pressures due to budget cuts. Challenges in the supply change management had resulted in an inability to pay within 30 days. ICASA governance matters had not been resolved and councillors were reluctant to sign performance agreements. A moratorium had been placed on the filling of all vacancies.
The Film and Publication Board had achieved 68% of all targets but remained in a healthy financial position. The contract of the interim CEO had been extended until August 2019 and a moratorium had been placed on the filling of all vacancies.
Brand South Africa had incurred irregular expenditure of R13.1 million due to non-compliance with supply chain management policies as well as non-adherence to National Treasury Instruction Notes. The CFO had been suspended. Consideration was being given to reducing the number of board members from 15 to 10 members.
Ms Manzini briefed the Committee on the merger and reconfiguration of the Departments. After the President had made the announcement of the merger of the Ministries of Telecommunications and Postal Services and Communication as well as GCIS into a single Ministry of Communications, work had begun on how to implement the decision after the May elections. Project stream 1 was working on the merger and project stream 2 was dealing with the 4IR Country Blueprint and the role of the Department.
The Chairperson was impressed with the succinct presentation of a lot of information.
Mr Xaba asked about the Brand SA board where there was a proposal for it to be reduced from 15 to ten members. The proposal would be made to the Minister. Was that the right mandate? With reference to ICASA, he said that the Committee was still waiting for the SABC plans about covering the elections. Had the SABC been engaged? Did the problems at ICASA not constitute a threat to broadcasts covering elections?
Could the Department flag those programmes likely to be completed so that the money was not returned to the fiscus? He wished that the money could be redeployed somewhere. Did the new plans of the project streams fall into the category of integration? Were those projects planning for a new department? Where in Free State had the Department had its training for young film makers? He would like to talk about where the Department had touched base. Was there a draft available of the Media Transformation and Diversity Charter? Committee Members did not have copy of draft.
Mr Tsedi welcomed the presentation. He noted that there was no report on entities that reported to Telecommunications. He had thought that there would be a presentation on those other entities. MDDA had achieved 22% in performance in terms of targets for the year. If the Department continued to set targets on funds not confirmed, would there not be challenges going forward? One could not say that proposals by the community radio had been rejected by the Department because it was now giving the necessary support.
Mr Kalako referred to the board of Brand SA wanting to amend the number of members. Had they forwarded proposals about what they wanted amended? The Board was constituted differently. Would the change not impact on its mandate? Why had it taken so long to deal with the matter of the CFO? He was concerned about the irregular expenditure of R31 million. What had the money been spent on? What about the old issue of a problem between the Post Office and SASSA and the suppliers of services and the cards? What was the status now?
Mr Kalako noted that the Department had reported that a number of provinces had been put on trial with set-top boxes. Were the set-top boxes working? Why was it only Free State that was ready to switch off? What was wrong with other provinces? The Department said that Cabinet had adopted a programme to fast track migration, but the Committee had never had a report or presentation on the issue, nor had the Committee been told what they were actually doing and what their ideas and proposals were regarding migration. The human resource problem and with the board and executive at MDDA was an old issue. Were things stable now?
The Chairperson asked about the reluctance of the MDDA councillors to sign performance agreements. What were the issues there? Why was there a stand-off? Why was the APP not fully funded? Could the Department elaborate?
The Chairperson had not seen the spectrum policy. There had been a lot of discussion about how it would happen but where was the policy? Where were the policy guidelines? She saw that the Department had been creating awareness around digital migration but what was the Department actually doing? What was happening about the manufacturing of the set-top boxes? The Committee required information, otherwise people speculated on what was happening
The Minister explained that she would respond to some of the questions and the officials would answer the remaining questions. She responded to the question about the trustee amendment in the MDDA. The board was appointed by the President and so her office had referred the matter to the President.
The Minister explained that the Digital Economy summit outcomes and the terms of reference had provided a platform for a dialogue so that everyone was involved in the dialogue of 4IR in South Africa and where it was going so that the Department could come up with a country plan with sector plans for all sectors involved, including, government, civil society, etc. The sector plans would emanate from the country plan.
In respect of the entities reporting to Telecommunications, the Minister explained that only the Ministry was a single entity at that stage and that only after elections would the Departments merge to become one Department.
The suspended CFO was not back at work. He had been suspended and had fought the case. He had won the case, but further charges had been added to the first one and all charges had been re-established. He had reached out to the Minister who had heard him and had asked the board to respond and she was waiting for a report.
The CEO was back at work after the Public Protector’s report which had found that the funds had to be recouped. Expenditure would be recovered in respect of some of the expenditure related to the appointment of the Company Secretary. Money expended had to be recouped from the board. The CEO had gone to the Labour Court where he had lost his case and R1.3 m had to be recovered from him.
The problem with the set-top boxes was that the fault was often in the installation. The Department was trying to ask how it could go local with installation and how that would happen where repairs were needed. The Department had used the post office at the local level. The programme was operative in the Free State because the Department had to check the impact of the signals on broadcasting signals of neighbouring countries. In the Free State, cross-border checks had been made. The provinces currently involved were the Free State, Limpopo and North West. At Senekal in the Free State, tests had been undertaken. The Free State was ready to be switch off, but the boxes were not available to the unsubsidised clients and government had to protect the public. Government paid R200 m per year for distribution of SABC via Sentech. There were lots of challenges in digital migration and the country had spent more than ten years talking about the process. Government had to re-consider decisions it had taken previously, especially in terms of subsidies. Around R4.9 billion was required to provide subsidised set-top boxes to indigent households. The government did not have that R4.9 billion so the Department had to take into consideration the changes in the digital space and see how things could be done differently. There was a draft report on digital migration and the Department would provide the Committee with that information.
Regarding the merger of Departments, the Minister stated that there had been a moratorium on all posts so that the merging could take place. After the merger, there would not be a need for three DGs, etc. There were questions to be asked, such as whether the Department needed all 11 entities linked to the Department. The Department understood the challenges of MDDA but if a board was appointed, it could be a waste of money. BrandSA had asked for an acting CEO to replace the one who had been acting as that CEO had been injured and as BrandSA had no CFO, a CEO was essential. There were lots of people at the Department of Communications who could fill the vacancies. The Department would use Service Level Agreements to utilise officials wherever they were needed. The moratorium had begun in November 2019.
The Minister reminded the Committee that the spectrum policy process did not go to Parliament as it was a departmental process and there would be consultations with the industry and the public. The policy had been published the previous year, but the matter had ended up in court.
The Minister explained that currently, there were about 300 000 set-top boxes in various post offices but 300 000 was nowhere near the number needed for the government to be ready to switch off. There was also a crisis with a lack of spectrum and officials were looking at where they could release spectrum. The Department would present to Parliament when there was clarity. The message would remain the same but until things were resolved, it was not a robust campaign
The Acting DG stated that two entities were important to the elections and that was the SABC as the public broadcaster and ICASA which had to monitor the broadcaster’s election coverage. The SABC had presented a single slide the previous week on the election campaign, showing how they would cover all provinces. The details of the planned coverage would be presented when the SABC reported to Parliament the following week. The Department was expediting the discussion on the processes in relation to the inauguration of the President, but the details of the remainder of the election coverage would be dealt with when the SABC briefed the Committee the following week.
Regarding the digital migration, the Acting DG stated that the Department would commit to what it would be doing in the digital migration so that the Department could apply for a roll-over of funds intended for digital migration so that the Department did not lose the money that they needed. The integration of the 4IR was being addressed in a workstream and it would be included in the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework for implementation going forward.
The Acting DG stated that ICASA had a number of things that it had wanted to do in terms of its Annual Performance Plans but could not because of the budget cuts. However, the Department had advised ICASA that when it came to elections, it should find money by prioritising the elections. The entity had had advance notice of the elections. However, when it came to the processes relating to the spectrum licensing, the Department had promised to assist with costs relating to spectrum processes. The Minister had to issue policy directives for the Department to issue the funding and for ICASA to begin licensing spectrum.
Regarding the set-top boxes, the Acting DG explained that the Department had piloted in the Free State as it had had to pilot somewhere and in the Free State, technicians had been able to check interference in the signals of neighbouring countries. The fast-track system being introduced would attend to issues of local repairs and problems with signal interference. The Department wanted to run with the project by prioritising areas for implementation. The process brought stimulus to the area and that had been specifically requested by the President. The Department was keen to finalise the process so that public could see that it was delivering.
Mr Shelembe, explained that as far as Brand SA was concerned, there were two distinct matters regarding irregular expenditure at MDDA. The CFO suspension was one; the Department awaited a decision from the board on that one. The other case was the irregular expenditure which had extended back over a number of years and which had been reported to the Committee through the presentation of the Annual Report. The Department received regular updates on the matter.
Mr Shelembe addressed the 22% achievement of key targets in the performance of MDDA, the decisions in terms of which projects to fund was a governance arrangement. In other words, the decision on which projects to fund, had to be taken by the board. However, that decision was not taken in time and MDDA could not fund projects in the APP. It was not a lack of funding. MDDA had funds but had not yet decided which projects to fund.
He added that the last point he needed to clarify was the issue of performance agreements at ICASA. Councillors were required to enter into agreements between the board and the Minister. The key question was what was in the law that the councillors were required to do, and a way had to be found that the Department could be assured that those imperatives were adhered to without interference of the Department in board matters. The situation was ongoing as it was a fundamental issue that had to be resolved and there were deeper matters to explore.
Mr Shelembe addressed the lack of funding at ICASA. As the Acting DG had said, in 2019/20 there would be no funding for ICASA. The entity was trying to do many things, but had no funding. The entity had to prioritise activities so that the APP, as approved by the Minister, could be funded.
The Acting DG said that those who had not signed performance agreements, would not get increases or adjustments to salaries, other than cost of living increases. There was a political dimension to the matter so he could not discuss it further.
The Chairperson appreciated the progress made in merging the Departments.
The Chairperson stated that that was the last sitting of the Committee, unless issues came back to them. She thanked everyone for the work done that day. It was necessary to adjourn as the House sitting was at 14:00. The Chairperson thanked the Committee staff for all the support that they had provided to the Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
- SABC Board interviews: deliberations & recommendations; Department & reporting entities state, with Minister 2
- SABC Board interviews: deliberations & recommendations; Department & reporting entities state, with Minister 1
- SABC Board interviews: deliberations & recommendations; Department & reporting entities state, with Minister 3
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