Hlaudi Motsoeneng.   Picture: SOWETAN
Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Picture: SOWETAN

SABC executives strongly defended the public broadcaster’s recent controversial decisions during a heated appearance in Parliament on Tuesday.

They also dismissed suggestions that the SABC could no longer operate as a going concern.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, along with SABC senior executives, appeared before Parliament’s communications portfolio committee on Tuesday to brief MPs on the SABC’s editorial policy, recent changes to it and implementation of the order by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) that it withdraw a decision to ban the broadcast of violent protests.

While the broadcaster has since implemented Icasa’s order, Muthambi told MPs the original decision was purely an "editorial decision, not a policy change".

There was no crisis at the SABC and the broadcaster remained financially stable, said Muthambi.

Controversial chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who was also part of the delegation, hit out at the SABC’s critics and raised eyebrows by saying that he wondered why the broadcaster should account to MPs.

"Sometimes I ask myself why I should account (to MPs) … they don’t give the SABC any money," said Motsoeneng.

"Why do people obsess about the SABC? Why so much interest? I think the inquiry should be on why there is so much interest in the SABC....

"There is an agenda … we need to understand who funds these NGOs," said Motsoeneng, in a reference to lobby groups such as Right2Know, which have been calling for his resignation.

SABC CEO James Aguma said the broadcaster was stable and had made progress in terms of the questions raised by the auditor-general in previous years.

The SABC has been hampered by acute financial problems and poor financial management. In 2013, the auditor-general issued a disclaimer opinion, which is the worst audit opinion.

Reports indicate the broadcaster is likely to post a R500m loss when its financial report is tabled in Parliament in September.

Aguma said it was misleading to say the SABC was making losses.

"The loss you are talking about is not a loss. It’s the cost of delivering on the public service mandate. We are running a juggling game here, where the funds are from commercial sources and we have to deliver for the public good," said Aguma.

ANC MPs were pleased with the presentations, and the committee subsequently decided not to conduct an inquiry into the issues at the SABC, despite objections by opposition MPs.