Martin Plaut

Journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa

Africa, South Africa

Two small moments in South Africa’s decline

President Jacob Zuma

Countries are not often ruined in one swift blow. More often than not it is the gradual accummulation of bad decisions. Here are two examples: President Zuma’s appoint of two people to top jobs.

Obert Maguvhe and Cecil Burgess will now lead the SABC and play a key role in national intelligence. It is clear from the articles posted below that there are serious question marks against both of them.

They share one key quality, as far as President Zuma is concerned: they are loyalists who will take an order.

Exactly the kind of people a well-governed country does not need in such critical positions, which require independent judgement.


Zuma appoints Obert Maguvhe as SABC chairman

by Bekezela Phakathi, 19 June 2015, 18:37
Source: Business Day

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has appointed Obert Maguvhe as the chairman of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board, the presidency announced in a statement on Friday.

Prof Maguvhe had been acting chairman of the board since the sudden resignation of disgraced Ellen Tshabalala, who stepped down late last year after a fake-qualifications scandal.

The presidency also announced that board member Leah Khumalo would assume the position of deputy chairperson with immediate effect.

The appointments come as the SABC board continues to be hobbled by instability. The board, which is meant to have 12 members, currently only has six, putting it in the perilous position of missing quorums and being unable to take crucial decisions. Nine members are required for a quorum.

Besides the resignation of Ms Tshabalala last year, two other board members, Thembinkosi Bonakele and Bongani Khumalo, also quit. Parliament is in the process of appointing new board members, although fears remain that instability within the board has put off potentially suitable candidates who fear serving on the board may damage their curriculum vitaes (CVs). Earlier this month the committee decided to re-advertise two board vacancies in the hope more suitably qualified candidates would apply.

The broadcaster’s boardroom woes were further compounded by the controversial axing of three more board members, Rachel Kildass, Ronnie Lubisi and Hope Zinde earlier this year.

This was after Communications Minister Faith Muthambi had expressed unhappiness with the board following the “leaking” of sensitive matters to the media. Ousting the three board members prompted Parliament’s communications portfolio committee to seek legal opinion on the validity of such a decision. Ms Muthambi had argued that the Companies Act determined the nature of the relationship between the government, as the shareholder, and the SABC — not the Broadcasting Act.

Last month Parliament’s legal services office issued a legal opinion concluding that the Broadcasting Act trumped the Companies Act in SABC matters.

Commenting on the appointment of Prof Maguvhe as the chairman of the board on Friday, DA MP and communications spokesman Gavin Davis said: “By appointing Professor Mbulaheni Obert Maguvhe as chairperson of the SABC board, President Zuma has hastened the decline of the SABC’s independence.”

“Maguvhe is a known acolyte of Minister Muthambi and SABC COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng. It was Maguvhe, along with his new deputy, Leah Khumalo, who voted in favour of Motsoeneng’s appointment as COO in July last year.

“This was in direct contravention of the Public Protector’s directive that Motsoeneng be suspended and disciplined for lying about his matric certificate and other acts of fraud and corruption,” Mr Davis said.

He charged that Prof Maguvhe had led the illegal removal of three board members earlier this year.

“He (Prof Maguvhe) is now being rewarded for getting rid of excellent and independently-minded board members, and protecting Hlaudi Motsoeneng when he should have been fired.

“It has since been confirmed by Parliament’s legal advisors that Maguvhe’s decision to remove these board members was unlawful. It is not clear whether the president applied his mind to this aspect of Maguvhe’s track record when he made the decision to appoint him,” Mr Davis said.

Cecil Burgess nominated as inspector-general of intelligence

by Wyndham Hartley, 19 June 2015, 18:35

Source: Business Day

Cecil Burgess. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Cecil Burgess. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

THE post of inspector-general of intelligence, which has been vacant for almost three months, could soon be filled.

Former inspector-general Faith Radebe’s non-renewable term of office came to an end on March 31, and since then the post has been vacant without anyone even appointed in an acting capacity to oversee the State Security Agency, crime intelligence and military intelligence.

Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence has been scrambling to complete the selection process to appoint a new inspector-general.

The committee made a recommendation on Friday, but the nomination of former African National Congress (ANC) MP Cecil Burgess as the next inspector-general has raised concerns about his ability to be independent in his oversight of the nation’s intelligence services.

The inspector-general is expected to ensure that the interception of communications is not being abused by the intelligence community and is responsible for investigating complaints from the public about the behaviour of members of the intelligence services.

The confusion surrounding the committee’s deliberations on who should succeed Ms Radebe was resolved on Friday when a report from the committee was tabled in Parliament.

Mr Burgess earned his spurs with the ANC when he chaired Parliament’s special ad hoc committee on the Protection of State Information Bill (Secrecy Bill). At the same time he was the chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence, but he did not return to Parliament after last year’s election.

The Right2Know Campaign’s Murray Hunter said: “We’re disappointed but not surprised that Mr Burgess has been nominated … It’s a vital watchdog role and on principle it’s concerning that the intelligence committee has actively suppressed our concerns about Mr Burgess.

“We wrote to the (committee) last week before it interviewed the candidates to raise concerns about his performance as chair of the intelligence committee, another important oversight role.

“The chair refused to table the letter and blocked other MPs from raising the issues in the letter.”

He said the National Assembly must still confirm this nomination by a two-thirds majority. Should this happen, then it falls to President Jacob Zuma to make the appointment.

“These are important matters of principle. Needless to say, if Mr Burgess does become the next (inspector-general), it would be up to him to prove his independence in the job, and (Right2Know) will be engaging the (inspector-general’s) office going forward,” Mr Hunter said.

Democratic Alliance chief whip John Steenhuisen said Mr Burgess was an “entirely inappropriate choice”.

“He is being rewarded for being the blunt instrument that piloted the Protection of State Information Bill through Parliament. The ANC realise that he won’t exercise the required independence and won’t be accountable. This is a post that needs absolute integrity and not someone tainted by a past record.”

ANC caucus spokesman Moloto Mothapo said the party would get a report from its intelligence study group.

“We acknowledge that it was an intensive, transparent process and we appreciate the wisdom of the committee for doing the interviews in public”.


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