Tuesday, 24 January 2012

SABC in Ruins

26 September 2011

Since the ANC came to power, it has destroyed more institutions than it has built up. In its short history it has ruined even some of the good institutions the apartheid government has set up. One of its irretrievable disasters is the SABC. Its high-minded Board has been unable to transform the broadcaster as it sinks deeper and deeper into the mire and one wonders why they stay on. The programmes offered are shockingly mediocre. The news is biased in favour of the ruling party. Deputy Minister Malusi Gigaba has just had his 40th birthday party featured writ large on Top Billing last Tuesday and I shudder to think of the mutual schmoozing that went on to get his party on the box. No wonder the internet is alight with comments from people who refuse to pay their licences as an act of protest against a broadcaster that has shamelessly nailed its green, yellow and black colours to the mast. Increasingly people prefer to use their computers rather than watch TV or listen to SAFM for entertainment. Those who can afford DSTV acquire it. Worse, even SABC staff are bored by their own fare, so now their bosses have paid R102 000 for them to acquire MNet and DSTV. To add insult to injury, according to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the SABC also pays for their subscription bills.

According to reporter Thinus Ferreira, the SIU has uncovered “widespread corruption, wasteful expenditure, fraud, undeclared interests and a broad spectrum of unethical conduct”. The Unit revealed further that R150 million was spent on television programmes which were so beyond the pale that they were declared redundant and written off. As usual, kickbacks were also part of these deals. SABC staff has clearly learnt from Parliament how to defraud the nation. And so it continues. Remember when CEO Dali Mpofu got the ultimate golden handshake of some R11 million for plunging the broadcaster into disarray; similarly the chronically useless Solly Mokoetle received some R3.4 million payout for 12 months, inclusive of leave and other entitlements. How to Become an Instant Millionaire, ANC-style, would be a best seller based purely on the shenanigans of SABC officials. All one needs to do, is to run an organisation into the ground.

Numerous CEOs employed by the ANC in various parastatals, have since 1994 been handsomely rewarded for destroying crucial state organisations. Equally the turnover of Board members in the SABC in particular, has always been dramatic, which leaves those who remain behind highly suspect and Tony Benn’s contention that “broadcasting is really too important to leave to the broadcasters” rings true for our beleaguered SABC.

Last year sometime, board member, Pippa Green, lodged a complaint against me to the Ombudsman for a column I had written about Solly Mokoetle’s ineligibility for the post of CEO. Defending him as competent, she owes me several apologies for the Board’s subsequent admission that he left soon afterwards on the grounds of an “irretrievable breakdown between him and the board”. I wrote an approximately 43 page rebuttal of her complaint and to date I have had no feedback about the Ombudsman’s ruling, yet the board itself forced him out due to his inability to deliver a turnaround strategy for the corporation and based on a damning report from Gobodo Forensic and Investigating Accounting which declared him lacking appropriate corporate governance experience. In August 2011, the SABC yet again asked Parliament for a R6.9 billion bailout to keep the broadcaster alive yet it doles out gifts such as mirrors and Madiba T-shirts to staff. Wasteful expenditure, fraud and corruption do not abate and it is time the public demands the resignation of the Board for failing in its fiduciary duty. Financial controls and management are obviously lacking.

The SABC needs a fundamental overhaul. Band aid and patchwork will not transform it. 

The ANC has reduced the SABC to political rubble through Cadre Deployment and it is now reaping the fruits of this tactic. As municipalities increasingly become cauldrons of violent protests and as we slide dramatically down the scales of the Global Incompetence in education, health-care, unemployment, and the burden of disease, the ‘dumbing down’ of the nation through the public broadcaster further fuels the steady decline of a nation that can excel. 

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