South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) boss Dali Mpofu suspended
his news chief Snuki Zikalala this week because the SABC board was
intent on replacing him with Zikalala as acting CEO of the broadcaster.
The board wanted to suspend Mpofu for insubordination and mismanagement, write Ferial Haffajee and Nic Dawes in the Mail & Guardian.

To ward off the palace coup, Mpofu suspended Zikalala first, provoking a political crisis and a fresh blow to the broadcaster’s credibility.

“I don’t know about that,” said Zikalala when approached for comment this week. “I am relaxing and reading [Mark Gevisser’s biography of Thabo Mbeki] A Dream Deferred.”

Three senior sources familiar with the circumstances confirmed that the board’s game plan had been to appoint Zikalala acting CEO, though chairperson Kanyi Mkhonza said: “There’s no truth to that.”

The executive-suite drama has provoked the ANC in Parliament to further action. It now wants the entire SABC board to walk the plank — although some current members might return to what MPs believe would be a more legitimately constituted body.

But President Thabo Mbeki is hanging tough — and only the president can dismiss the board. In the absence of real powers the ANC’s communications study group plans to use Parliament to put pressure on Mbeki and cut off the flow of public money to the SABC.

Last week the portfolio committee on communications passed a motion of no confidence in the SABC board.

On Wednesday this week the ANC study group planned to read a statement in Parliament calling upon Mbeki to dissolve the board. The reading was abandoned after a confrontation with presidency strong-man Essop Pahad, who angrily faced down MPs in a marathon study-group meeting that lasted until just before midnight, according to a person who was present.

Nevertheless, the name of Southern Cape MP Randy Pieterse appeared first on the list of MPs due to make statements on Wednesday afternoon. He was prevented from doing so when party whips, apparently prompted by Pahad and a nervous Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, ordered them out of the chamber to consult with the party’s communications chief, Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan.

Jordan and the mild-mannered chairperson of the portfolio committee, Ishmael Vadi, attempted to broker a deal that would prevent the potentially embarrassing spectacle of ANC backbenchers taking on the Cabinet in the full glare of the National Assembly. The team intent on making the call to dissolve the board included MPs Lumka Yengeni, Khotso Khumalo and Pieterse.

By the time they returned to the chamber, the half-hour allotted for members’ statements had expired.

The statement, which the Mail & Guardian has obtained, was to say that this week’s developments at the SABC “reaffirmed [the committee’s] vote of no confidence”.

“Given the seriousness of the problem it leaves us with no other option but to call for the dissolution of the entire board and start the entire process again.”

One compromise position in the ANC caucus was that a member’s statement alone would serve adequate notice on Mbeki. Others wanted Parliament to debate and vote on a formal motion, the strongest statement Parliament could make under the circumstances.

It now appears both may happen. Caucus spokesperson Khotso Khumalo told the M&G space will be found in next Tuesday’s parliamentary programme for the statement, while a formal motion will be tabled with speaker Baleka Mbete for debate in the house on June 2.

Click here to read the full report, posted on M&G Online.