Friday, 22 October 2010

Media statement on SABC Board


BEMAWU is calling on the President, Mr. Zuma and the Communications Portfolio Committee to act responsible and with the utmost urgency to remove the Chairperson of the SABC Board, Dr. Ben Ngubane for inter alia the following reasons:
His inability to perform his role as chairperson of the Board due to the total breakdown of trust and working relationship between him and the rest of the Board,

His demonstrated inability to carry out simple administrative functions like preparing documents for a meeting with an important body like the Portfolio Committee, appointed by Parliament to oversee the public broadcaster,

His failure to sign the delegation of authority letter to enable Robin Nicholson to properly manage the SABC in his acting capacity, and by doing so putting the SABC at severe risk by rendering all decision making on the highest level inoperative, which will have an effect on the SABC to meet it’s mandate in terms of programming and repayment of its loan,

This not only puts the SABC as an organisation at risk, but also our members, as they will be targeted first for retrenchments if the SABC cannot obtain another loan to meet its financial responsibilities.

His admission that he failed to produce a performance review. Our members are disciplined and dismissed for similar offence.

The Portfolio Committee’s admission that there is not much room for optimism about the affairs of the corporation, and it’s accurate observation that the board has failed to provide coherent leadership and to provide proper corporate governance over the SABC, for which Dr. Ngubane must take accountability.
The Board has failed to report, for which Dr Ngubane must be held accountable. It is a serious dereliction of duties. It shows disrespect for parliament and the people. He had sufficient notice to prepare, but failed. It is clear that by failing to sign an operational procedure like delegation of authority and failing to prepare for a meeting with his superiors, the portfolio committee,  the chairperson of the board is obstructing progress and the ability of the SABC to meet its mandate.
Although Mr. Nicholson may not be the favourite to appoint as the acting GCEO, there is no prohibition in statue or regulation against his appointment as such and it is only in an acting capacity.
According to the portfolio committee, the board has failed. We know what the problem is. If a board cannot trust its chairman, he must be removed. It is important, and more so in the SABC’s situation that the Board must be united and functional. They are not. It’s divided between Dr. Ngubane the rest.  
How can a board not be able to agree? Surely they have processes to follow if there is no agreement. Normally the majority rules, so why not at the SABC? It is unthinkable and unacceptable that the chairperson of one of the most important and influential boards in this country are telling parliament and the people they are unable to make decisions because the board cannot agree. It shows serious lack of ability to steer the public broadcaster. If the majority of the board agreed Nicholson should be appointed, Dr. Ngubane must sign, or he is in breach of corporate governance. If the majority of the board voted against his appointment, Nicholson cannot be appointed. Unless there is external influence, it should be a fairly simple exercise.
We do not understand why board members who have resigned were barred from participating in the meeting. They are serving notice and despite their resignations being accepted, they remain legally and otherwise members of the board until the end of their notice period.
With the precarious financial situation of the SABC the most urgent intervention is necessary. Failing to do so would make the overseers as guilty of breach of corporate governance as the board. Should the President and the portfolio committee not immediately removes the chairperson, the SABC will be seriously compromised. With its precarious financial position and the anticipated failure to meet its obligations, the SABC will have to pay cash for programs and other capital-intensive projects. It will simply not be able to broadcast soon, as they will not have the cash to trade .

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

SABC - What financial crisis?

Yesterday I attended a CCMA Arbitration re an unfair labour practice.  One of our members employed in the Employee Relations Department of the SABC have been severely harassed and victimised by her line manager. In 2009 she had to attend a CCMA arbitration, but lost her voice due to Laryngitis. She duly informed the manager, handed in a sick certificate, but he refused to send someone else to the CCMA to attend the matter. The SABC got a default award against them to re-instate the applicant in that matter. She was then put through a disciplinary hearing for inter alia not attending the CCMA (without a voice), found guilty and issued with a final written warning valid for 12 months, despite the SABC’s Disciplinary Code clearly stipulating that a final written warning can only be valid for 8 months.

We referred an unfair labour practice dispute seeking to overturn the verdict and sanction. (No real prejudice to the SABC if it happens)

Yesterday the SABC arrived at the CCMA with an attorney and an advocate! To defend a simple unfair labour practice dispute. Or maybe to defend someone’s ego?

Seemingly attorneys and advocates get appointed for the simplest of matters. The SABC has a fully fledged legal department where they employ attorneys and advocates. It is in fact headed by an advocate.  The SABC also has a Employee Relations Department, where all are on senior managerial salary scales earning huge salaries and they are specifically employed to do labour litigation. Yet, the manager appoints advocates to litigate against employees and union officials.

Do we still need a legal department and employee relations department If attorneys and advocates are doing the job?  Recently the same Employee Relations Department shifted their job and responsibility to an ordinary employee (manager) to do a case at the CCMA. Is this not the way to go? Train individual employees and managers in labour relations, and make it part of their responsibilities to represent the SABC in CCMA matters. It is in any event a manager’s job.  In other matters appoint attorneys, which happens anyway. At least the SABC then saves on salaries and other benefits of 2 very expensive units, and only pay attorneys when they are needed. No costly monthly fixed salary bill – only legal cost when needed, which is paid currently anyway.

How much is the the SABC spending on legal fees, and why are they so frequently in court and at the CCMA?  The Durban 4 case, which the SABC, with their expensive advocates and attorneys lost resulted in legal costs of several Millions of rands. Seemingly everyone is OK with that, including the Internal Audit Department and the SABC Board. I wonder if the Special Investigations Unit has picked-up on it and if they will be OK with it? And the public, the tax payers.... It’s their money at the end of the day.

So the money is wasted, millions and millions and no one is held accountable. But dare to not attend a CCMA arbitration (without a voice) and immediate action is taken. Suddenly the dialogue between Scar and the mouse in the Lion King movie is getting a deeper meaning when this big, mean Lion held the tiny mouse by it’s tail ready to swallow it and said “Life's not fair, is it? I shall never be King and you... shall never see the light of another day.”