Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has flatly denied interfering in the appointment of key executives at the SABC, but insists that the board of the public broadcaster has to “consult” her for “quality control”.
Kubayi-Ngubane has been accused of trying to exercise powers that she agreed to give away when she signed an out-of-court settlement in December.
The settlement states that ministers have no right to veto a decision of the board on all permanent or interim appointments of executives.
“I don’t intend to be the one who appoints nor the one who fires, but the board must consult so that we are able to take everyone on board,” Kubayi-Ngubane told News24.
She has faced public criticism for saying in a statement released on Monday that “all appointments of the chief operating officer, office executive officer and chief financial officer of state-owned entities are done through Cabinet processes and therefore the announcement of the outcome is made by Cabinet”.
She was reacting to news reports that current MTN group chief executive for corporate affairs Chris Maroleng has been appointed chief operating officer (COO) for the public broadcaster.
She told News24 she had to be consulted to ensure that the board has followed due process including that it does not appoint someone who has fake qualifications and a criminal record. She said consultation would also ensure that the candidate has received security clearance. However, she said she had no role in the interviews of candidates.
“I cannot reverse board appointments if they adhered to the process,” she said.
“I am asking South Africans to allow me space to exercise my oversight responsibility.
“I have not gone into merits of appointments but all I am saying is let’s ensure we are following process. If the board goes rogue I will be asked: ‘how did it happen under your watch?’,” Kubayi-Ngubane told News24.
At least two sources have told News24 that Maroleng has been given a letter of appointment subject to vetting by the State Security Agency, and that process is now underway.
Another source said Kubayi-Ngubane was not happy with Maroleng’s appointment and tried but failed to get the board to reverse it.
Kubayi-Ngubane said she had no knowledge of the appointment.
Media ‘selectively reading’ court order
The EFF has asked her to resist returning the public broadcaster to the period of “disreputable political interference it suffered under her predecessor, Faith Muthambi”.
“The idea that the SABC is a public broadcaster rests precisely and entirely on respecting the appointment process of executives,” spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said.
Kubayi-Ngubane has defended her statement that it is her “responsibility to present any appointment of executives of the SOEs (state-owned entities) under the Department of Communications through Cabinet process”.
Kubayi-Ngubane accused the media and other commentators of selectively reading the December court order, pointing out that it also states: “The board will make any permanent or interim appointment of any executive member only after consultation with the minister of communications, with consultation to have the meaning set out in the matter of Premier, Western Cape v President of the Republic of South Africa 1999 (3) SA 657(CC) at para 85.”
“You don’t want someone appointed that does not have support of their own government,” she said.
However, a source close to the process said Kubayi-Ngubane was misinterpreting the court ruling as the board only needed to consult her after it finalises the process.
Board ‘finalising’ appointment
Kubayi-Ngubane launched a thinly veiled attack on Maroleng for seemingly confirming his appointment on social media before the SABC board or Cabinet made the public announcement. He accepted congratulatory messages after the news reports surfaced on Sunday.
“Where have you seen a person announce themselves in any working environment, especially for a senior position? What is the intention? It is not done. Hence I am asking for adherence to the process,” she said.
Kubayi-Ngubane said the “process” included that once the SABC board had informed her of the appointment and all procedures have been followed, she would then communicate the appointment to Cabinet and the announcement would then be made.