Speech by Ismail Vadi during the debate on the Broadcasting Amendment Bill

19 November 208

It is my pleasure to report on the progress that the Portfolio Committee on Communications has made on the Broadcasting Amendment Bill. Honourable members will remember that this Committee Bill was introduced and approved by the National Assembly earlier this year.

Essentially, the Bill provides for the resignation of a member or the removal from office of a member of the SABC Board. It further makes provision for a resolution of the National Assembly calling for the dissolution of the Board if the Board:-

  • fails in discharging its fiduciary duties;
  • fails in adhering to the Charter of the Corporation, and
  • if it fails to properly and judiciously manage the affairs of the Corporation.

The original Bill also empowered the President, in conjunction with the Speaker, to appoint and to remove the SABC Board, if so recommended by the National Assembly. Finally, it made provision for the appointment of an Interim Board. The Bill was then referred to the National Council of Provinces.

It is important to note that the NCOP held its own public hearings on the matter, and it has wisely introduced two key amendments.

The first is that the "appointing authority" of the SABC Board remains the President. This is a sensible amendment as it eliminates the possibility for constitutional ambiguity relating to the original clause. It reaffirms the principle of the separation of powers that underpins our constitutional order. The second amendment introduced by the NCOP sets the quorum for the Interim Board. This was an oversight on our part, which has now been corrected.

The Portfolio Committee therefore welcomes and accepts all the amendments proposed by the NCOP and commends the revised Bill to the House.

Madam Speaker

If this Bill is approved by the House today and assented to by the President, a lawful mechanism will have been created to act against the SABC Board if it displays signs of dysfunctionality and if it fails in discharging its statutory responsibilities.

The truth of the matter is that the current SABC Board, for varying and different reasons, lacks popular credibility; even though it was established through a legitimate process. Presently, there is widespread dissatisfaction with the Board over the manner in which it is carrying out its corporate governance responsibility. Therefore, important voices in civil society, the media and among political formations have either called for the resignation of members of the Board or for their removal from office. But the law as it stands now, precludes that from happening.

Well, the law is now being amended and a legal basis is being created to act against the SABC, should it be deemed necessary. In this regard, I wish to counsel that if the House institutes any proceedings against the Board in future, the administrative process must be fair, just and legally defensible.

Simultaneously, the reasons for such action must be cogent and consistent with the legal conditions set out in this Bill. If these conditions are met in an open and transparent manner, I have no doubt that there will be significant public support for the decisions of the National Assembly.

The ANC supports the Broadcasting Amendment Bill and recommends that the House adopts the Bill.