New SABC board under fire

Parliament's communications portfolio committee was under fire last night after announcing the names of the four nominees to fill the vacant positions on the SABC board. by Lee Ronganger

Controversy raged particularly around the nomination of Media Development and Diversity Agency CEO Lumke Mtimde, who last year came out in support for the government’s contentious media appeals tribunal proposal.

Other nominees to the board were Safcol senior executive Sethe Makesha, businessman John Danana and advocate Cawekazi Mahlati.

The vacancies on the board came after four members resigned last year after falling out with board chairman Ben Ngubane.

While the nominations were welcomed by the SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition, opposition parties were outraged.

The DA attacked the appointment of Mtimde, saying he was “greatly supported by the ANC Youth League and steamrolled into this nomination by the ANC despite strong objection”.

“The ANC is firming up its stranglehold on the public broadcaster,” Cope communications spokeswoman Juli Kilian said yesterday. “Three of the four nominees have straight links to the ANC, while two of the three were nominated right from Luthuli House by a person who is now the PA to the minister of communications. This flies in the face of the principle and the spirit of the Broadcasting Act and also the constitutional provision that the public broadcaster should be fiercely independent,” Kilian said.

The SOS coalition said it appreciated the “new skills and experience that these board members collectively bring to the SABC”.

But it said it was concerned that much of the existing programming work that was put out to tender in mid-2010 had been stalled owing to budget cuts. The coalition also noted the bias of programming by the SABC towards middle-class audiences.