SABC in racial flap

Pols eye privatization

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A new boss has been appointed to the South African Broadcasting Corp. (SABC), sparking an immediate race row.

Hawu Mbatha, 46, a priest who ran the SABC’s Radio Zulu in the 1980s, was appointed last week to take over as corporation chief executive in July from Zwelakhe Sisulu, who has resigned.

Sisulu’s deputy, Govan Reddy, claims he was overlooked for the top position on the basis of the color of his skin.

Mbatha is a black African, Reddy is of Asian origin.

Reddy has written to the chairperson of the SABC board, Paulus Zulu, demanding to know why he was not appointed chief executive.

He warned that if he was not satisfied with the response, he would take the matter to the labor court.

“On the basis of information available to me, I am unable to see anything else but race as the factor,” he said in a weekend press interview.

Reddy, 54, has earned high praise for transforming SABC’s radio services and for slashing radio’s losses by half. He has effectively been running the SABC since Sisulu announced two months ago he was going to leave.

Policy change

Mbatha’s appointment coincided with the release by South African Broadcasting Minister Jay Naidoo of a policy document on broadcasting in the country, which proposes partial privatization of the SABC.

The policy document, which was released for public comment, proposes restructuring the SABC to achieve “tangible internal separation” of the SABC’s commercial and public broadcasting sectors.

The commercial section — one TV channel and four radio stations would be run on business lines and could enter into private sector partnerships, while Mbatha would run the pubcaster.

The so called broadcasting white paper said separation would be a precursor to a later complete restructuring of SABC. Recognizing the shortage of local broadcasting skills and funding, the white paper proposes reviewing the 20% limit placed on foreign ownership.