Joe Makhafola
Joe Makhafola

The minister and the law

Ignorance of the law excuses no man; not that all men know the law; but
because ’tis an excuse every man will plead, and no man can tell how to
*confute him, so said John Selden (1584-1654), posthumously published in
Table Talk, 1689.

There are four fundamental pieces of the law that set the boundaries for
the Minister of Communications’ relations with the SABC. First is the
Constitution of the Republic, which is the highest law in the land.

Secondly it is the Broadcasting Act of 1999 as well as the Broadcasting
Charter. Thirdly, it is the Companies Act which states the role of the
Shareholder in any company.

Lastly, the Articles of Association, which state the processes by which
the top executive should be appointed. The articles state that the board
controls the affairs of the corporation in accordance with the
provisions of the Statutes.

None of these allow political intervention.

The Broadcasting Act is unequivocal about the role of the minister. It
declares the public broadcaster that should be free from political
intervention, be credible, independent in mind and in action.

In carrying out its mandate, the SABC takes cognizance of the values and
principles set out in the Constitution. It must carry out these
principles without fear, favour or prejudice and it must be accountable.

The views and analysis presented in last week’s papers give a false
sense of the story and create the impression that journalists knew with
conviction what they were talking about. The “truth” as presented, was
presented as nothing but the truth.

They drew links where there should be none. Simply because the minister
is from the Free State, was a premier in the province and Motsoeneng
knew her very well, then therefore, this has made him to be a law unto
himself given his so–called connections.

Journalism of such nature especially based on hearsay in the corridors
of newsrooms is not only harmful but also degrading to the persons
concerned when such utter nonsensical stories are written.

Such sloppy journalism may sell the papers but destroys our society.

The reports have been ill–informed. Journalists never took the trouble
to read the Broadcasting Act of 1999 to check to what extent the
Minister can intervene in the internal affairs of the SABC, and what
would have happened given the limited role she can play.

The minister does from time to time get letters of complaints from
concerned employees of enterprises falling under her department as well
as the SABC. In her supervisory role as the minister, she refers the
complaints to the chairperson of the enterprise concerned and copy the
Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Motsoeneng’s letter, as well as signed
letters from several of his colleagues, was no exception.

These were also referred to the chairperson of the board. The perception
that Minister intervened should be dismissed with the contempt it
deserves.

To set the record straight, the minister noted with sadness the decision of
the board to suspend the Group CEO of the SABC, Dali Mpofu. There
appears from the briefing she received, that no link seems to exist
between the suspension of the CEO and that of the Head of News,
Snuki Zikalala as has been widely speculated. In dealing with these
matters, it is our concern that due processes are followed by the Board
and management.

The board’s reasons appear to deal with issues of governance and attempt
to avoid a crisis developing in the entity. Their concerns centre around
issues of the budget, sports rights, staff problems at executive level
and the impact that all these have on the business of the SABC.

The minister has not as yet received the Group CEO’s response to these
allegations for her to have an impartial view. The Minister has noted
the interim steps taken by the board to ensure management of the entity
continues under capable hands and reiterates her call to management and
staff to continue with work to deliver on the mandate and special
projects of the SABC.

It’s important that the public remain calm, and the media to avoid
speculation and incorrect reporting that further damage the image of a
national entity that belongs to all of us as a nation.