Update: What’s going on at SABC? #4

Friday 8 September 2017

SABC Western Cape. Image: Richard Tanswell/Creative Commons

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Since our last update in June the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has been dealing with a crisis that unfolded just over a year ago, due to repeated censorship allegations and malpractice within the organisation. 

After a series of resignations and trials, the South African broadcaster has to now deal with a thorny financial situation and designate a new board of directors. This is what happened in the last few months:

The financial state of the SABC continues to be critical, with estimated losses of R1.1 billion for 2016/2017 and, to date, there is still no official confirmation about the measures required to tackle this crisis.

After being dismissed in early June for “gross misconduct that brought the SABC into disrepute”, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, former Chief Operation Officer said he would challenge the decision legally and take it to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

At the beginning of July, TV Channel head Maijang Mpherwane resigned from the public broadcaster. He supervised the management of SABC 1,2,3, Encore and TV Bouquet.

The South African broadcaster asked the public to participate in the review of six of its policies that have been in place since 2004. The six policies were about local content, language, religion, universal service, programming and news editorial. The review is due to a decision by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to nullify SABC’s editorial policies of 2016 (which included banning footage covering violent protests). The broadcaster has since re-adopted its 2004 editorial policy. Khanyisile Khweyama, SABC interim chairperson, said the board was still looking to repeal the 90% local content policy implemented by Motsoeneng.

The suspended acting-CEO James Aguma resigned and the SABC dropped the 10 charges against him. Aguma was previously suspended in May for cases of misconduct.

The SABC has also filled new managerial roles. Nomsa Philiso was appointed as acting SABC CEO, replacing James Aguma. Bessie Tugwana was appointed as Chief Operations Officer and Thabile Dlamini as acting Chief Financial Officer. These are all interim positions that will last until October 2017.

The new interim board is set to sue the licence fee collection agency LornaVisionafter the court ruled that its contracting to the SABC was awarded irregularly. The contract with the fee collection agency was dismissed after LornaVesion attempted to make SABC liable for outstanding payments.  

After a long wait, President’s Jacob Zuma signed a proclamation to investigate the SABC.  The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) was setup to investigate the public broadcaster for misconduct allegations.

Now the Broadcast Electronic Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) has asked Hhlaudi Motsoeneng, along with acting head of news James Aguma and the public broadcaster to share equally the legal costs that took place during the dismissal of eight journalists (SABC8) who were dismissed in 2016.

The broadcaster is also on its way to get a new board of directors. Parliament’s communications committee recently selected 12 names that will have to be approved by the National Assembly on Thursday.  The current interim board term, lasting six months, ends on September 26.


PMA will continue to follow and update on the most recent developments at South Africa’s state public broadcaster.