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21 May 2010

Story from the Mercury web site: SABC board's news revolt

Siyabonga Mkhwanazi, Political Bureau, The Mercury, Durban, 21 May 2010

The new SABC board has been plunged into controversy over the appointment of Phil Molefe as head of news, with its chairman Ben Ngubane accused of dancing to a different tune and acting unilaterally.

No sooner had Molefe's appointment been announced by Ngubane, the former Kwazulu-Natal premier and arts and culture minister, than his deputy, Felleng Sekha, denied it.

Sekha, the chairwoman of the board's news sub-committee, said the board had yet to take any decision.

An emergency meeting has been called.

Mysteriously, an interview recorded by Sekha for the SABC's PM Live radio programme - in which she distanced herself from the decision - was not broadcast as planned.

The appointment was announced in a 3pm SABC radio news bulletin yesterday, which was the first time some board members heard about it.

Questions are now being asked about why Ngubane decided to go it alone on the decision to appoint Molefe, who has been acting in the position since Snuki Zikalala's axing 13 months ago.

Board members contacted by The Mercury last night said Molefe's appointment had been a surprise. A panel delegated to consider candidates had yet to lay its recommendations before the board, they said.

Sekha said the board had not been presented with the name of any successful candidate.

"The board of the SABC has not appointed anyone for the position (of head of news). Whoever has been appointed to that position has not been appointed by the board," she said.

Surprised

She also did not know why her radio interview had not been aired.

Fellow board member David Niddrie said: "I was surprised to learn of the appointment. There was a panel delegated to consider and recommend to the board (a suitable candidate). We have not received those recommendations."

Cedric Gina, another board member and the president of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, said: "I have not been part of a board that took a decision to appoint Phil Molefe."

It is understood the board had agreed to review the appointment process for the critical post and discuss it at a meeting early next month.

A statement issued earlier quoted SABC group chief executive Solly Mokoetle as saying: "The board and I are happy that this matter has been brought to finality as promised, as this was a key vacant position that needed to be filled to stabilise the corporation.

"The appointment of Mr Molefe will go a long way in moving the news and current affairs division forward."

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said earlier yesterday that Molefe had been selected after a lengthy short-listing of candidates, but would not name others on the short-list. The board's decision to appoint Molefe was based on his experience of more than 25 years.

Last night neither Ngubane nor Mokoetle could be reached for comment and Kganyago was also no longer answering his cellphone.

The new board took over the reins in January from the interim board chaired by businesswoman Irene Charnley, that was appointed after months of instability and a rapidly deteriorating financial situation at the public broadcaster.

It re-advertised the head of news position to broaden the search for a suitable candidate - a process begun by Charnley's board in the second half of last year.

Click here to read article on the The Mercury Page.

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