If we have learnt anything in the last two years in relation the SABC, it is that how you appoint the board is as important as who you appoint. The parliamentary committee which recommends candidates, it seems, has not taken on board this very basic lesson.
The new board needs credibility and standing, and they only have that if the appointments process is appropriately executed. Besides, if you are determined to appoint the best available candidates, and move beyond mere party-political considerations, then you would want to look carefully at all nominations and weight up the best combination of skills and experience to settle on a list.
It is worth remembering that last time around it was the parliamentary committee which messed it up by allowing Luthuli House to interfere in their decision-making. They changed their list after consultations with Luthuli House, even though they were unhappy with some of the candidates forced it by the political party. Controversy over those candidates plagued the new board from even before they entered office, and contributed to this week’s final demise of that sad board.
This week, the ANC-dominated committee started well by assuring everyone that they aimed for a consensus list with wide support. But the list they tabled came, I am told, from a meeting of the Tripartite Alliance two days before, via the ANC caucus. So the committee were unable to consider all the candidates placed before them by other parties, and unable to make their own decisions, let alone achieve consensus.
What happened was that they conceded one place on their list in a deal with the IFP but were not prepared to go any further, even though the other parties had put some interesting and worthwhile candidates on the table.
Actually, the interim board they appointed has its merits and has good people on it. There are some surprises, and the oddity of a political scientist and ex-journalist thrown in, but it also brings together a fair amount of skills and experience. I do not know all the members, but those I know are good appointments and those I do not have decent track records.
But it is a great sadness for them to be born in political dispute and conflict, with the parliamentary parties other than the ANC and IFP withdrawing their support for the list.
And it is a great sadness that the ANC has not seen fit to give the parliamentary committee the space to do its own work.