The South African National Editors’ Forum has welcomed the High Court’s decision to dismiss the Minister of Communication’s application for leave to appeal Justice Matojane’s historic ruling last October.
The October ruling affirmed the independence of the SABC Board. It stated that the executive members of the board i.e. the CEO, CFO and COO should be solely appointed by the non-executive members of the Board with no interference from the Minister. Also, it stated that disciplinary proceedings of executive board members could now proceed without ministerial interference.
The implications of this October ruling, now upheld, are very far reaching. Most importantly the Board can now go ahead and make its important appointments of its CEO and CFO independently.
The SABC has been plagued by systematic interference from various ministers of communications particularly around appointments, creating crippling governance crises.
Also, it is important to point out that the SABC’s CEO plays a crucial content role as the editor-in-chief. If editorial independence is to be upheld, it is therefore entirely inappropriate for the Minister to make this appointment.
Sanef believes that the timing of this ruling is significant as we prepare for our important 2019 elections. We need our public broadcaster to be playing an independent, balanced an impartial role.
The SABC is a hugely significant institution in our media landscape. Its five TV channels (including three free to air) its 18 radio stations and multiple YouTube and social media platforms cover all the official languages in the country and cover areas of the country that other media institutions do not reach.
For the most marginalized groupings in South African society the SABC is often the only source of information, education and entertainment.
Sanef congratulates the sterling work done by the SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition, Media Monitoring Africa and the Freedom of Expression Institute in shepherding this matter through the courts.