In a four-page memorandum, compiled by concerned employees who bear “the responsibility of managing the day-to-day operations of the SABC”, the board is accused of interfering with its executive management team and of flagrantly disregarding the principles of corporate governance. by S’Thembiso Msomi.
This follows the board’s suspension of CEO Dali Mpofu a day after Mpofu suspended SABC news head Snuki Zikalala last month.
Mpofu had his suspension overturned in court.
The staff warn of a “mass exodus” of skilled people from the SABC “due to what may seem to be an intractable problem”.
An SABC executive said last night that the disillusionment among mid-level management at the broadcaster was worrying.
“These are people at the highly specialised level ... They are people who would be wanted by our competitors, especially now that some of our competitors are setting up 24-hour channels. It is quite concerning ,” the executive said.
The memo has been forwarded to ANC headquarters , parliament and a number of other “stakeholders”.
The SABC board, led by chairwoman Kanyisiwe Mkonza, was appointed late last year by President Thabo Mbeki, over the objections of the new ANC hierarchy and of opposition parties.
Since the appointment, the board has been embroiled in battles with ruling party bosses who want it dissolved and its members replaced.
At the heart of the in fighting is the battle for political control of the influential broadcaster. It is being waged between Mbeki’s supporters and the new ANC leadership loyal to party president Jacob Zuma.
SABC insiders say the senior staff members wrote their memorandum after learning that the board was planning to appeal against the Johannesburg High Court’s order that Mpofu be reinstated.
The memo states that “at the heart of the problem is the straddling of lines of responsibility between the oversight function rightly exercised by the board and the day-to-day operational functions” performed by Mpofu’s executive management.
As an example of this, the memo details how SABC executives recommended a supplier as a preferred bidder for a multimillion-rand contract for the supply of outside- broadcast vans.
Because of the value of the contract, the recommendation was sent to the board for approval.
The board turned it down and instead awarded the contract to another company.
“As we understand the process, the board should have referred the matter back to [management],” the memorandum reads.
“The particular procedural step adopted by the board creates a serious litigation risk exposure for the SABC.”
The memo is critical of the way in which the board suspended Mpofu.
Judge Moroa Tsoka, who presided over Mpofu’s court case, found that the board’s actions were unlawful.
“The scathing attack on the board by the judge bears testimony to the grave concerns that we are bringing to your attention,” the memo says.
“As observers, we unfortunately do not see any even-handedness in the manner in which the board goes about conducting its affairs,” the staff members say.
They have called for a commission of inquiry whose terms of reference should include:
# Analysis of the financial effects of the crisis and its effect on staff morale;
# Corporate governance at the SABC, especially in relation to the allocation of responsibilities between the board and management; and
# A review of factors that might be viewed as a threat to the public broadcaster’s independence.
At the time of writing, SABC chairwoman Mkonza had not responded to The Times’s request for comment.