Cape Town – Questions are being asked about the process followed and the validity of the appointment of Frans Matlala, the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s new chief executive officer.
The SABC, which is also limping along with a gutted board, hasn’t had a CEO for a year and five months since Lulama Mokhobo abruptly quit in February 2014 without explanation and left with a golden handshake just a few months into her five year contract
At its Auckland Park headquarters the SABC yesterday announced that Frans Matlala, a former banking executive who has been an advisory consultant for the SABC for a year, has been appointed as the broadcaster’s CEO.
Frans Matlala was already identified in October 2014 as the frontrunner to become the new SABC CEO as fears grew that Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the SABC’s controversial and famously matric-less chief operating officer (COO) would be appointed as CEO.
SABC executives Tian Olivier and Anton Heunis who had both served as acting CEO in the past were the other two shortlisted contenders for the position. In April Anton Heunis suddenly left the SABC as acting CEO.
Frans Matlala said he hopes to serve as SABC CEO for the entire length of his contract. Since 2009 several SABC CEO’s either left or were fired long before the end of their tenure.
Non-profit organisation Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) slammed the lack of transparency in the SABC CEO appointment process.
“It is very difficult to comment on a process where there has been so little transparency,” William Bird, MMA director, told Fin24.
“We would like to know: When was the SABC CEO position advertised? Who were the top three candidates, when did the interviews take place, who made the decision at SABC board level and when was person appointed?”
“We heard contradictory statements at the SABC press conference. We we told that Peter Matlala was appointed by the current reduced SABC board. Hlaudi Motsoeneng then said that actually the SABC CEO appointment had taken place under the older SABC board before the two members were removed, and that the delay was in the minister of communications agreeing to the appointment.
“It cannot be both,” said Bird.
“It seems that yet again instead of improving corporate governance we have another controversial SABC appointment that is likely to yield more challenges in the future.”
When was the decision taken?
The SOS Coalition, a public pressure group representing a vast number of the biggest industry stakeholders in South Africa’s public broadcasting sphere, is also raising concerns about the appointment process.
“We need to know when the recommendation was made and whether the SABC board that made this recommendation was, indeed quorate, or whether, yet again, it operated unlawfully to push for an appointment viewed as suitable by government,” Sekoetlane Phamodi, SOS Coalition coordinator told Fin24.
“There remains the tender issue of the legality of the Memorandum of Incorporation,” said Phamodi.
“[It] is incompatible with the basic tenets of public broadcasting which require the institution to be demonstrably independent of government influence.”
“This cannot be allowed to be the case lest the SABC is reverted back into a state broadcaster as we had under the erstwhile apartheid regime,” said Phamodi.
Will only be a ‘flower pot’
Opposition political party the Democratic Alliance (DA) also said that there are questions around the appointment process of Frans Matlala.
“With only six members, the SABC board is three short of the quorum it requires to make legally binding decisions such as the appointment of a new CEO. The DA is looking into this,” said Gavin Davis, DA MP and a member of parliament’s portfolio committee on communications.
The Congress of the People (Cope) said it doesn’t support Frans Matlala’s appointment as SABC CEO either.
“He is a close ally of Hlaudi Motsoeneng. We don’t think that there will be any changes because Hlaudi Motsoeneng will still be in control. This man will only be a flower pot and Hlaudi Motsoeneng will still run the show,” said Cope.
Hlaudi: ‘Frans appointed before the board members left’
Leah Khumalo, new SABC board deputy chairperson, said that “we believe we had enough quorum to make the appointment. We are sure all legal requirements were satisfied”.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng said at an Auckland Park press conference that “Frans Matlala was appointed even before the three SABC board members left the organisation. It is not a new matter. The only issue that was outstanding, it was the approval from the minister”.
The minister of communications, Faith Muthambi, congratulated Frans Matlala who is a supporter of Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
“We wish Frans Matlala all the best as he undertakes the important task of ensuring that our public broadcaster delivers on its mandate of fulfilling the public’s right to know, educate, and entertain as well as nation building.
“We are looking forward to working with him, the SABC board and the entire leadership of the SABC in realising their obligation to serve the whole population,” said Muthambi.