Former presidential spokesperson Bheki Khumalo, currently an SABC board
member, has ignited a flurry of agitation for changes to the
controversial board since becoming acting spokesperson for the
Department of Minerals and Energy,  writes Chiara Carter in the Sunday Tribune.

President Thabo Mbeki appointed the board after the change of guard in ANC leadership at the end of last year, in the face of unhappiness within the ANC, its alliance partners, opposition parties and civil society.

Cosatu is preparing a court challenge to the board's composition, but is set to discuss the issue with the ANC's new leadership, which is keen to see the standoff resolved.

Behind the scenes, it is understood, ANC leaders have been exploring whether some board members could be prevailed on to step down to make way for individuals more representative of labour and media.

But so far none of the board members, not all of whom enjoyed the support of ANC MPs in parliament's communications portfolio committee, has indicated they will give way.

Those understood to have been "foisted" by the former ANC leadership on the ANC MPs who interviewed candidates include board deputy chairperson Christine Qunta, top businesswoman Gloria Serobe and former board member Andile Mbeki.

But Khumalo's position is in the spotlight after this week's announcement that for the short-term he has joined the Department of Minerals and Energy as acting spokesperson.

This might be manna for the ANC, which wants to find space on the board to accommodate Cosatu's concerns.

At issue is the question of Khumalo's real and perceived independence from the government – since the new ANC top brass have indicated they do not want the broadcaster to be a mouthpiece for party leaders.

This weekend, MPs on the communications portfolio committee expressed concern. ANC caucus spokesperson Khotso Khumalo, who is whip in the communications committee, said there seemed to be a "serious problem".

He said Khumalo had not been a government spokesperson when interviewed and selected for the board.

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