The SABC boad's recent actions, including the decision to suspend CEP Dali Mpofu,  were motivated by the need to deal with serious problems in the corporation's management, writes board chair Khany Mkhonza in The Star.  While the body respects parliament, it disagrees with its decision to pass a vote of no confidence in the board.

SABC Board chair Khanyi Mkhonza writes in The Star:

Members of the public deserve to know that the board of directors of an institution of the SABC's importance are discharging their role with dedication and due regard to effective fulfilment of their mandate.

As a public institution, it is our responsibility to keep the public informed about how this institution is run.

Unlike other commercial media, which need only account formally to their shareholders, the SABC has no such luxury.

This state of existence for us however does not preclude us from governance prescripts as dictated by corporate governance articulated by, among others, the King Report on Corporate Governance.

It is my considered view that in the furore that has erupted over the last few weeks and indeed since this new board was appointed, there are some in society who believe that the SABC is above such prescripts … it is not.

A new board of directors has come into office via a well-considered and legitimate process and has in a united fashion determined a culture of governance that may not be a cup of tea for many … a consultative culture that also understands what role this broadcaster has in the public discourse.

The memorandum that was unfortunately leaked to the media a few weeks ago was a product of a perfectly natural and normal process of oversight role that the SABC board has and continues to exercise.

Such an oversight role cannot be second- guessed by those who are not charged with the immediate responsibility and must be allowed to take its course if the organisation has to be run in an orderly fashion.

It is regrettable that the contents of such a memorandum were made public in a devious manner by whoever thought the leak would serve their purpose.

It however does not change the concerns that I certainly have about the SABC. Coincidentally Parliament's portfolio committee on communications share similar concerns.

The bottom line is that the financial and administrative health of the SABC needs to be restored, whether it is done by this board or any other board.

  • There has been a loss of sports deals, specifically the PSL and ICC deals. For an institution that depends mainly on adverts for our revenue, these are a huge cost on our income and reputation.
  • There are challenges in dealing with technology issues that put the organisation at risk of not being able to fulfil our mandate, especially towards our 2010 obligations as well as the 2009 elections.
  • We regard the issue of technology as a high-risk area requiring urgent attention. This issue needs urgent attention, especially as it affects our plans around digital migration.
  • There are budgetary issues including spending within the organisation that may result in the SABC facing a deficit in the current financial year.


It is important to underline that these concerns also correctly precede the life of this board and are matters of continuity which the board has a responsibility to complete.

In the same vein that parliament expects this board to answer what has happened to the various investigations executed by the previous board, the board has every right to probe the work of the executive and its conduct in the period before its own term of office.

This was the essence of our presentation to parliament last week ahead of an opinion by the ANC suggesting a motion of no confidence on the board.

It is our view that such a motion has no basis; if it relates to the execution of our mandate as a board.

While we respect parliament and its own oversight role over institutions of state, we respectfully disagree with its approach on this matter.

The only prudent explanation for the rushed decision to place this board on the dock is the sudden change of heart about the suitability of the board to govern the SABC board.

It has nothing to do with the competence of the board to work in the same manner as its predecessors in office, nor the inappropriateness of any of its decisions in the four months it has been in office.

Those who imagine that the board is representing some or other political interests do so at their own discretion, but I certainly know that this board has done nothing to give rise to this wrong perception.

With this in the background, the board continues to be in charge of the corporation and until removed from office, it will carry on its mandate in consultation with the necessary authorities and stakeholders.

The exercise of our fiduciary duties is a critical legal obligation that we have no choice but to execute.

This week's suspension of the SABC's group chief executive, Dali Mpofu, is recognition from our side as a board that order needs to be restored in the way that the organisation is managed and decisive actions are needed to ensure that the SABC is placed in a position to handle the concerns raised above.

While we will loath to prejudge the issue, it is important that we state for the public record that a decision of this nature in any corporation, least of all the SABC with its public profile, was not taken lightly.

With regard to Mpofu's rights, it is important that the matters surrounding his suspension are not aired in the public arena in any form until the process has been concluded by the board.

The board is determined to steer this process with the necessary decorum and will inform the public at the appropriate time.

We are cognisant of our responsibilities and will do all in our power to bring this matter to a speedy conclusion.

We have held several meetings with our group executives and we've all agreed to work together to ensure that the SABC fulfils its mandate as an effective public broadcaster.

* Khanyisile Mkhonza is the chairperson of the SABC board. This column first appeared in The Star on 12 May 2008