Cyril Ramaphosa appoints new SABC board members

The SABC's Auckland Park headquarters. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
The SABC's Auckland Park headquarters. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

President Cyril Ramaphosa has formally appointed eight non-executive directors to fill vacancies on the board of the SABC with immediate effect.

The new board members include erstwhile national consumer commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi, who will serve as deputy chair of the board; SA National Editors’ Forum founder member Mary Papayya; and controversial academic and psychologist Sathasivan Cooper.

The other new board members are: Jasmina Patel, Marcia Socikwa, Bernedette Muthien, David Maimela, and advocate Motshedi Benjamin Lekalakala.

Bongumusa Makhathini will continue serving as chair of the board.

“Viewed collectively, the board of the SABC is composed of people who possess qualifications, skills, experience, and expertise across a broad spectrum of relevant fields including, but not limited to, governance and business practice, law, broadcasting policy and regulation, journalism and communications, among others,” the presidency said in a statement issued on Friday.

DA MP and communications spokesperson Phumzile van Damme MP had previously raised concern about the inclusion of Cooper.

“The DA will be writing to President Cyril Ramaphosa to raise a serious objection to the inclusion of Prof Sathasivan Cooper on the list,” Van Damme said in March, after parliament finalised the shortlist of candidates.

“Cooper has no broadcasting experience and during his tenure as vice-chancellor of the [then] University of Durban-Westville, he was investigated for 11 governance issues. The investigator’s report to the education minister portrayed Cooper as ‘manipulative’ and prone to ‘surrounding himself with acolytes’.”

Van Damme said the DA believes Cooper will “destroy” the SABC board.

“During the interview process he came across as extremely arrogant and he will not be a team player ...  Cooper displayed disdain for members of the committee which is worrisome: this is the same committee he will be reporting to as a member of the board,” she said at the time.

The public broadcaster, which is in dire financial straits, sank deeper into crisis late in 2018 when four directors resigned, leaving the board without the quorum required to make decisions. Four other directors had resigned earlier that year. It is meant to have 12 members and needs nine, including the CEO, CFO and COO, to form a quorum.

The resignation of the four directors came as the SABC was planning to retrench about 2,200 permanent and freelance staff, nearly 40% of its staff complement, in an attempt to salvage its finances.

They quit after receiving a scathing letter from communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, in which she accused the nonexecutive directors of not acting in the best interest of the public broadcaster as they pressed on with retrenchments.

The SABC has since halted retrenchments pending a skills audit.  However, it continues to struggle to pay its creditors and warned in March that it may not be able to pay some salaries unless it secures a R6.8bn government guarantee.