The Presidency's direct intervention in the appointment of the SABC Board shows that Thabo Mbeki is a long way from being a lame duck president, writes Business Day in an editorial.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â It also calls into question the independence of other institutions where he has had a hand in appointments.
For a man written off by many commentators as a lame duck, President Thabo MbekiÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s ability to arrange the new board of the SABC to his liking must have been an uncomfortable spectacle.
What else can he not do? His own succession, perhaps?
This newspaperÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s editorials have long warned against underestimating Mbeki. He may not have surrounded himself with the brightest bulbs in the party chandelier, but he has some pretty mean enforcers to call on when he needs them.
Smuts Ngonyama and Essop Pahad are among them and both played a key role in getting Mbeki loyalists on to the board, despite resistance from the parliamentary committee that was ostensibly meant to choose it.
But what is interesting about the SABC board is not that it is packed with Mbeki acolytes but that enforcement was necessary at all. It has really damaged Mbeki because if there was ever going to be an abiding reminder of him it was going to be his careful creation of legitimate and intellectually independent institutions in our democracy.
But knowing what we now do about the selection of the SABC board and the deep interference in it from both the Presidency and the party, we cannot say with conviction that this was an exception. It must call into question the independence of every institution the president has had a hand in. Sure thereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s pressure now, but people under pressure donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t act out of character. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s pressure that reveals character.
On the subject, it is hard to understand why Gloria Serobe has allowed herself to be selected to the board. Why, in the middle of growing a wonderful business, would she elect to associate with a group of people whose future actions will surely bring her nothing but pain?