SABC Turnaround Plan (meeting postponed)

NCOP Public Enterprises and Communication

12 October 2022
Chairperson: Mr Z Mkiva (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The meeting was cancelled by the Select Committee as the Communications and Digital Technologies Ministry was not represented. The Select Committee was irate at the continued non attendance at meetings by either the Minister or Deputy Minister. The Chairperson said the Committee needed to proceed with the meeting as it was the last time that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board delegation would be present as the SABC board term ends on 15 October 2022. Despite the Chairperson's robust attempt to continue with the meeting, he had no option as the majority of the Members moved for the meeting to be adjourned.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the SABC delegation. He queried if there was any representation from the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, the Minister, Deputy Minister or anyone from the Department. The purpose of the meeting was a briefing by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on its turn-around plan that had been in action since the previous year. This was to ensure, in particular, that the national broadcaster is sustainable and profitable, inclusive of a report on the handover to the new board. It was noted that the meeting was quorate and the majority of Members were present.

The Committee Secretary extended an apology for the absence of Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Ms Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, and Deputy Minister, Mr Philly Mapulane.

Mr M Nhanha (DA) raised concern that there was no representation of the Minister or the Deputy Minister despite the importance of the meeting where the SABC is to present. A further concern was that the Chairperson enquired if there was any representation from the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies itself. The Committee cannot continue to condone the absence of the Ministry from the meetings. He proposed the meeting be adjourned.

The Chairperson understood the issue raised about the Minister's non attendance. However, with the SABC board term ending on 15 October, he appealed to Members to continue with the meeting. They did not want to miss the opportunity of the outgoing Board's presentation. He proposed to escalate the concerns directly with the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies in the same manner in which he engaged with another Minister.

Ms W Ngwenga (ANC) understood the reasoning behind the Chairperson’s request to continue with the meeting as the SABC board was present. However she felt that the Minister and Deputy Minister disrespected and undermined the Select Committee by not attending the meeting.

Ms M Mokause (EFF) was unhappy with the Chairperson wanting to continue with the meeting in the absence of the political heads. Her concerns were that the Chairperson’s actions were not aligned with the Committee rules and it was unconstitutional to engage in a meeting when the political heads were not present. The Minister must account to the Committee. It is the Minister’s obligation to report to the Select Committee, not the other way around. There has been a long standing battle to get the Ministers to account to the Members of the Select Committee and they are being ignored. It has been noted that Chairpersons of Select Committees ignore the Members' concerns. The Chairpersons protect their own party. The Members also have an obligation to report back to their own parties. The political heads must find the time in their schedule and report to the Select Committee. She moved that the meeting be adjourned until the political heads and the SABC delegates are available.

Ms T Modise (ANC) did not agree with the proposal to adjourn the meeting. The Minister was currently in a Cabinet meeting and corrected Members saying that the Deputy Minister did attend a previous meeting. As both Minister and Deputy Minister had extended an apology, she requested that Members allow the meeting to continue as the SABC delegates were present. This will allow everyone to have insight into the SABC Board's five-year term and will alleviate any future criticisms. She proposed that the Select Committee allow the meeting to continue.

Mr M De Bruyn (FF+) could not recall when the Minister had attended a meeting. There were always excuses for the Minister's non attendance. He proposed the meeting be rescheduled for another day to accommodate the Ministry as both the Minister and Deputy Minister were in other meetings. He agreed with other Committee members to adjourn the meeting.

The Chairperson stated that there are two motions: a request for the meeting to be postponed and a request that the meeting continue. The other matter noted is that the Minister accounts to the Select Committee, which everyone is aware of. He suggested that the two could be separated. One did not want to miss the opportunity of specifically this entity accounting to the Committee as there are so many entities that account to the Committee. The SABC Board, in particular, was about to conclude its tenure of five years. He requested Members allow him to address the non attendance of the Ministry with them directly, taking into account that the SABC Board will be concluding its tenure.

The Chairperson made a humble appeal to continue with the meeting as the SABC delegates were present and it would be in the Select Committee's favour to hear directly from the existing board. However, if the Members insist on adjourning, he will have to take the majority ruling as the Chairperson.

Mr Nhanha corrected himself saying he used the incorrect word 'postpone' however Ms Mokause had said the meeting must be adjourned. They have come prepared for the meeting and would like to listen to the SABC delegates and wish the outgoing board good luck in their future endeavours. However the reality is that they cannot continue if the political head is not present. There are questions directed to the Minister or Deputy Minister to which the SABC Board would not be in a position to respond. He suggested the meeting reconvene at a later time such as 11h00 and the Chairperson locate the Minister or Deputy Minister to attend the meeting.

The Chairperson replied that Mr Nhanha's suggestion was not feasible. Everyone was aware that Cabinet meetings are held on Wednesdays hence it is impossible for ministers to attend the Select Committee meeting as well. It is also impractical to adjourn the meeting for the latter part of the day. He wanted the existing SABC delegates to present at this meeting and there was no reason to wait for the new SABC board appointments starting in November.

The Chairperson requested permission from Members if he could raise the concerns on their behalf via his office. He reminded them that he had previously addressed concerns to the Minister of Public Enterprises. He reiterated his role and stated that he is not the bodyguard for any Minister. Therefore Members should not have reservations about his role. He had engaged with the Minister however he did not receive any feedback.

Ms Mokause advised that the Chairperson cannot assume various roles – Chairperson of the Select Committee, Spokesperson of the SABC Board and Spokesperson of the Ministry. He cannot assume the roles singlehandedly as his contribution as a Chairperson is then one of suspicion to Members. She emphasised that it is the Chairperson’s constitutional right not to hold meetings on the same day as the Cabinet meetings. It is unfitting for the Chairperson to continue with the meeting in the absence of the political head. The Chairperson’s indecisive decision-making will be detrimental to their respective parties. The logistics and administrative work mentioned by the Chairperson should be conducted by the back office. She reminded the Chairperson to be objective and not represent his own party or the political head appointed by his own party. He is the Chairperson of the Select Committee. As a representative of the Economic Freedom Fighters, they will not be party to any irregular actions.

The Chairperson acknowledged her concerns but pointed out that some of her statements were out of line and he would not respond to the allegations. As a Chairperson, he has taken a balanced view.

Mr A Arnold (EFF) could not understand the reason for the Ministry not attending the meeting as it is responsible for appointing the SABC board members therefore the Ministry should be present. He suggested that the Chairperson reschedule the meeting for later in the day so that the Ministry could attend once they finished their Cabinet meeting.

The Chairperson advised that it was not practical to reschedule the meeting for later in the day.

Ms Ngwenya thanked Members for their united front to adjourn the meeting. Her view is to adjourn the meeting as it is the Minister's habit not to attend.

The Chairperson said he had no option but to agree with the majority of the Members of the Select Committee to adjourn the meeting until the political head attends and leads the delegation. He placed on record that the SABC term ends on Saturday 15 October 2022. He thanked the SABC delegates for their attendance, apologised for the inconvenience caused and explained again why the meeting was postponed. He thanked the Members of the Select Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.


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