So. African b’cast board opts to serve despite flap

The new board of the South African Broadcasting Corp. has survived its troubled birthing pangs, but the row over the handling of the appointment process by president Frederik de Klerk continues to rage.

The board met briefly earlier this week under the temporary chair of veteran politician Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert and decided to remain as it had been constituted.

Slabbert said the board had considered resigning en masse but concluded that if it did so, De Klerk would be in a position to appoint whoever he pleased to take their places.

Three of the 25 members were absent — two resigned immediately after they were appointed, and the third, a black man who was rejected by De Klerk as chairman of the board, said he was considering his options.

The row blew up immediately after De Klerk named the board on May 31, with political groups claiming he had “interfered” with the selection process.

For the first time ever, this year the board was selected by an independent judicial panel, which, after publicly grilling 80 candidates, submitted its choice to De Klerk for ratification.

De Klerk immediately rejected seven of the names on the grounds that they did not fulfill certain unspecified criteria. Media watchers, however, claimed most of the seven were rejected because they were “too political”– namely, linked to Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress.

The president was also accused of racism because he rejected the panel’s proposed black chairman, university professor Njabulo Ndebele. Ndebele was apparently rejected because he does not speak Afrikaans, though he does speak English and seven African languages fluently.

Slabbert initially refused to take the chairmanship, claiming the incident had embarrassed him, but later agreed to do so until the end of July.

At its meeting, the board said the perceived involvement of De Klerk was a matter of serious concern within its ranks.

However, it said the process had been more transparent and acceptable than in the past and called on all South Africans to allow it to become a reliable and credible source of information.

But the African National Congress and several media groupings, including the broad-based Campaign for Independent Broadcasting, have vowed to campaign until the seven members rejected by De Klerk have been reinstated.