26 March 2013

SABC board members resign from their positions out of frustration

In 2012, SAHA submitted a Promotion of Access to Information (PAIA) request to the Presidency, to obtain records pertaining to the mass resignations of Board Members of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) back in 2010. This request was submitted on behalf of the SOS Campaign as part of SAHA's initiative to support and administer capacity-building to NGOs, individuals and communities on matters regarding access to information.

The main objective for the request was to understand the reasons behind the resignations, which have a negative impact on the function of the organisation. As is clear from the five of the six resignation letters released to SAHA by the presidency.

SABC’s main object according to its website “... is to supply broadcasting and information services and services that are ancillary thereto, to the general public in the Republic of South Africa and beyond its borders and to achieve the objectives...”

For this mandate to be archived the organisations board needs to be ran by persons who are committed to the objects and principles as enunciated in the Charter of the Corporation. The SABC is tasked with bringing objective, accurate and unbiased information to masses of South Africans who rely on its reporting to fulfil their right to information needs.

However, since 2007, the state broadcaster has been dogged by board resignations of most of its members, with most resignation letters citing amongst other problems; political interference and a lack of autonomy, as major reasons for their resignations.

Now, why raise past issues?

In March 2013, the SABC once again experiences the same problem, this time with all but one of its board members resigning.

The failure by the Minister of communications and the President, to whom past resignations were submitted to, indicate that the respective departments, did not learn from past events and were not able to proactively avert the current batch of resignations. This failure to learn from the resignations could mean that entity may face a similar situation after another board has been elected.

The SOS campaign and other civil societies have since expressed their concern on the negative impact the high board member turn-over has on broadcasting and access to information.

This incident is an example of how citizens are able to use records released through PAIA, to work towards demanding the autonomy of our public broadcaster, in a bid to hold the powers that be to account and be transparent. 


For more information contact SAHA's Freedom of Information Programme.