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SABC chief exec ankles after run-ins with board

Matlare announced resignation Thursday

JOHANNESBURG — South African Broadcasting Corp. boss Peter Matlare has resigned suddenly amid persistent allegations of political interference from its African National Congress-dominated board and a dispute over the commissioning of a current-affairs program.

Matlare, who has been chief exec since January 2001, announced his resignation Thursday followed shortly by a statement from cell phone company Vodacom that he would be joining the group as exec director, commercial, April 1.

The ANC has been the ruling government party since the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, and in the past few years there have been ongoing allegations of political interference in editorial decisions from pro-ANC board appointees.

SABC spokesman Paul Setsetse said Matlare, whose contract expires in December, would leave at a date to be determined in consultation with the government. Matlare had asked the board to allow him to leave before the end of his contract.

Sources close to Matlare said he could no longer cope with the political interference and the pressure put on him by the SABC board.

Strained relations between Matlare and head of news Snuki Zikalala, appointed early last year and widely regarded as an ANC partisan, had reached an all-time low over Matlare’s decision to commission current-affairs show “The Roundtable,” from an outside production house. Move is allegedly in violation of editorial policy.

Program commissioning is a particularly sensitive subject at the SABC. The board is scrutinizing the results of an investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding the commissioning of programs. Results are expected to be released soon.

Recent restructuring of SABC management also brought complaints from impacted execs.

The board also had made it clear that it was unhappy with what it saw as Matlare’s painfully slow pace of transformation and black empowerment at the organization.

Despite persistent speculation, Matlare has publicly denied there was political interference from the board on the operational matters and that he was pushed out by the board, merely indicating that it was time to move on to a new opportunity.