Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
27 June 2008

SABC and the ANC – dangerous moves

News reports suggest that the ANC in Parliament wants to amend the Broadcasting Act to give Parliament the power to hire and fire the SABC Board.

This is a dangerous and astonishingly stupid idea because it would make the SABC Board directly beholden to the majority party in Parliament. If the National Assembly can fire the SABC board they will be tempted top put pressure on the board to toe the party line or be fired. This will scupper any last vestige of independence at His Masters Voice.

Can one trust any majority partuy in parliament not to abuse such power? The answer is, of course, that one cannot. Besides section 192 of the Constitution states that national legislation must establish an independent authority to regulate broadcasting in the public interest, and to ensure fairness and a diversity of views broadly representing South African society.

This suggests that broadcasting must occur in the public interest and that the SABC should not be beholden to the majority party whims in Parliament.

What is required is not more political control of the SABC but LESS political control. The reason why there is such a mess at the SABC is exactly because Mbeki forced the National Assembly to appoint a Board it had not selected. This was probably illegal but now it is a bit late to do anything about it.

Much better would be to amend the Broadcasting Act to ensure that the appointment of the SABC Board is de-politicised. But the chances of this happening is about as slim as the chances of Robert Mugabe having tea with Morgan Tsvangirai.

Ai politicians. What did we do to deserve them?

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