SABC without a board after chairman quits

The last board member at South Africa’s state broadcaster, the SABC, has quit after a parliamentary investigation into the board’s failure to look into allegations of misspending and censorship, the presidency said on Monday.

Professor Mbulaheni Maguvhe, who was subjected to stiff questioning by a cross-party panel of MPs last week, had been the sole board member following the resignation of his colleagues this year in the wake of a string of scandals.

The SABC is the primary news source for South Africa’s 54 million people but has been mired in controversy throughout most of President Jacob Zuma’s seven years in office.

At the parliamentary inquiry, journalists spoke of an unofficial SABC focus on “sunshine news” that included a ban on airing footage of violent protests ahead of August elections in which the ruling African National Congress (ANC) lost control of three cities.

A court ruled this month that former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who introduced the ban on airing violent protest footage, should not hold any position at the broadcaster and barred him from entering the premises.

The court ruling was one of the latest examples of an ally of Zuma being called to account for allegations of mismanagement of South African public bodies.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi denied last week that she had tried to get the SABC to suppress news of protests and discontent, when she testified to the investigation.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu, who is among leading ANC figures to have called for Zuma’s resignation, said Maguvhe’s decision to go was better late than never and would enable the SABC to start repairing its tarnished reputation.

“We are confident that his exit will speed up the process of addressing the leadership crisis at SABC,” Mthembu said in a statement.

In its statement, Zuma’s office gave no reason for Maguvhe’s decision. At the parliamentary hearing, Maguvhe defended his time in charge of the board, saying he had done a “sterling job”.

The parliamentary inquiry is due to deliver its findings at the end of February.

(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Ed Cropley)

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