The SABC office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.  Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
The SABC office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

A FULLSCALE parliamentary inquiry into the problems at the SABC could be on the cards amid the growing crisis at the public broadcaster.

This follows new developments at the SABC, which saw a directive sent to staff on Tuesday informing them that all formal requests for international trips had to be submitted to Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.

In a notice sent to staff that Business Day has seen, the public broadcaster said employees would also have to submit a formal report to the ministry within seven days of returning from an approved trip.

All requests for international travel had to include a motivation and benefits to be accrued to the government and the country, as well as the financial implications and the list of officials in the proposed delegation, including the roles of each official.

The requests had to be submitted through the office of the chief financial officer.

The Department of Communications said it had written to all entities that fell within the communications portfolio, asking that they adhered to the "cost-containment measures" adopted by the government relating to overseas trips.

The letter was sent to Brand SA, the Independent Communications Authority of SA, the Media Development and Diversity Agency, the Film and Publications Board and the SABC.

"It is mischievous to insinuate that the ministry of communications is usurping the powers and responsibilities of these entities, or that this letter was only directed at the SABC," department spokesman Mish Molakeng said.

"The letter states clearly that the entities should be mindful of cost implications and the size of delegations when considering international trips." SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago reiterated this, saying there was nothing untoward about the directive. It was in line with what President Jacob Zuma had said in his state of the nation address. "There is nothing wrong in what is happening here if anybody wants to think there is something wrong," he said.

However, Lawson Naidoo from the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, said the decision ran counter to good corporate practice and good governance.

"The minister, as the shareholder representative, should be conveying the shareholders concerns via the board, and then the board raises it with management.

"It seems there has been a breakdown in the governance structure," he said.

Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications on Tuesday met to discuss the third-term programme, and it was agreed that more meetings could be required to get to the bottom of the problems facing the SABC.

Members agreed that an inquiry could be necessary, should the meetings not yield results. "We agreed that we must have more time to deal with the SABC beyond the one day of next week, subject to approval by the chair of the house (Cedric Frolick)," said Humphrey Maxegwana, chairman of the portfolio committee.

He said there was no finality on whether an inquiry would be held.

"It is something which has been raised, however, we cannot say there will be an inquiry until after the meetings … we will have to wait to hear what the SABC and the minister will give us," Maxegwana said.

Muthambi, along with the SABC board and Icasa, will appear next Tuesday before the committee to discuss some of the issues at the public broadcaster.