James Aguma’s resignation this week as acting CEO of the SABC is welcome news for the corporation and for this country’s much-abused broadcasting audiences.
It is particularly welcome for the working class and poor majority, for many of whom the public broadcaster remains the only source of information and entertainment.
Aguma jumped before a conclusion was reached – in the middle of a disciplinary hearing that clearly was not going his way. It is also welcome news that Aguma will not simply walk away from the incalculable damage he has participated in driving at the SABC: the interim board still intends to pursue criminal charges against him, among them a charge for lying under oath at the disciplinary hearing of his close ally, one Hlaudi Motsoeneng. This is an act of perjury, equivalent to lying in court or before parliament.
While much of the damage Aguma formed part of driving at the SABC did to a once-healthy and publicly respected public institution appears to have been on the orders of Motsoeneng – himself recently sacked after virtually destroying the public broadcaster, but still exercising a toxic influence over the SABC through many misguided loyalists – Aguma managed to do some entirely on his own.
In March this year the SACP noted Aguma’s personal responsibility (and possibly personal benefit?) for a contract for TV licence fee collections so ridiculously expensive that every cent collected was almost entirely paid out to the collectors.
The SABC is well rid of him, and none too soon. But there may still be sting in Aguma’s tail: speculation at the SABC is that he will be in court soon to attempt to get his disciplinary hearing accepted as “constructive dismissal” under labour law, entitling him to yet more of the SABC’s non-existent cash reserves.
The SACP congratulates the interim board for freeing us of the grip of Aguma, Motsoeneng and their networks.
For years our Party has demanded a complete clean-out of the SABC under successive boards, and over-paid, under-performing executives.
Firstly to reverse the unhealthy commercialisation of the public broadcaster, which shifted SABC content focus away from those who most need and rely on its radio and TV content, the working class and poor majority of South Africans.
Secondly, more recently to reverse the SABC’s parasitic agreement with media monopoly Naspers (via its broadcast subsidiary MultiChoice), and to end the years of wholesale looting under Motsoeneng – both equally destructive of the SABC’s ability to provide programming of a quality South Africans need and deserve.
Thirdly, to recover all the money that was looted or wasted from all those who were responsible.
The interim board has made a good start.
But the interim board's six-month term is more than half over (and cannot legally be renewed). It simply lacks the resources to achieve even a fraction of the fix-it mandate set by Parliament. When the interim board arrived, the SABC was virtually bankrupt and its audiences in rapid decline - and Aguma was part of the propaganda of lies to the contrary.
The flat refusal by National Treasury to extend the interim board the loan facility it so desperately needed to fulfil its parliamentary mandate of fixing the SABC is a warning sign.
To suggest that the forces of state capture, of which Motsoeneng was so publicly the broadcasting wing, have not yet abandoned their plans for the SABC, will be to our nation's peril.
Issued by SACP