SABC Chairman: Is he a Charlatan or an Alternative Reality?

Being retired, I had time on my hands to watch the Parliamentary enquiry into the SABC. Frankly, it was more riveting than many of the dramas on SABC, except that this reality TV show revealed current South Africa writ large. 

Apart from Minister Faith Muthambi’s deft blame shifting, the most interesting for me was a floundering Chairman of SABC, Professor Mbulaheni Maguvhe clearly out of his depth.  An articulate Grade 10 pupil – sorry learner – would have trounced his Varsity Professor with ease. 

Main picture: Professor Mbulaheni Maguvhe 

Even before Maguvhe – Professor of Inclusive Education at UNISA – had entered centre stage, he had revealed his weapons of choice – obfuscation, court interdicts and finally the resort of a rogue, the disability card. Consider this for effrontery.   Professor Maguvhe alleged that he is being discriminated again because as a blind man, all the copies of pertinent documents had not been converted into Braille for him by the Commission of Enquiry. The bleating do-gooders immediately jumped to Maguvhe’s defence, except that in this case they had jumped to the wrong conclusion. The fact of the matter was that the SABC, at great expense, had purchased a Braille transcribing machine which could generate the documents overnight. Being unabashed at his ploy being unmasked, Maguvhe did not have the good grace to admit that his stratagem had backfired.

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Given the dire situation that Maguvhe faced, I am still awaiting the unwarranted use of the Race Card. Perhaps his experience with his previous defective defence has tempered him somewhat.

His answers provided showed little regard for the truth. Also they displayed an imperviousness to the severity of the changes being faced.

Tellingly, Maguvhe is apparently blissfully unaware of the reign of terror that Hlaudi has inflicted on his staff. Probably he is also unaware of Hlaudi’s employment of a Praise Choir. In the previous week, the SABC news bulletin was delayed so that the Lesotho Allstars could sing his praises on air.

hlaudi-motsoeneng-choir-zapiro

Leave him [Hlaudi] alone
Hlaudi wants African music to grow
We thank God for Hlaudi Motsoeneng
May God protect him for us
We love him.

In many ways as Vuyo Mvoko explained, Motsoeneng is no different from Snuki Zikalala, who was no different from Jimi Matthews. This might well be true as regards editorial independence but Motsoeneng has plumbed greater depths of arrogance what with selling the SABC’s archive for a song, unilaterally increasing his salary and employing imbongos. [Praise singers]

Given the nature of unconditional support by the ANC to its most incompetent Ministers and adherents, it is entirely unlikely that his lack of grasp of the issues will be his nemesis. Rather it could well be his incredulous claim that the ANC is only speaking out against him because “some members of political parties, including the SABC, have business interests… they want the SABC to collapse to purchase the stations and channels”.

snuki-zikalala

By this utterance, Maguvhe is literally taking on the might of the ANC, Luthuli House itself, and making defamatory comments while doing it. At best Maguvhe has being extremely naïve by this inane outburst but Luthuli House will view it more seriously. The omata has been shattered.

As there are other distractions such as blogging, I did not listen full time to all the submissions by NGOs and cross-questioning of ex SABC Staff and Board Members. What I was struck by was their articulateness, their clarity of thought and the crisp non-obfuscatory manner of their replies.

I sat riveted lapping up their responses. I cannot remember all their names but the lucid unfeigned responses by ex board member Kalidass spring to mind. It struck me that somebody like this was orders of magnitude more competent and articulate than the bumbling evasive inarticulate Maguvhe.

 

Yet why was Maguvhe appointed Chairman? But possibly of far greater import, how is it possible that somebody who failed miserably to grasp the questions, reply articulately or being unaware of major crises encircling the SABC, could even be on the Board let along a university professor.

Belinda Bozzoli has provided the answer to that enigmatic question. In her blog entitled “How did Mbulaheni Maguvhe become a UNISA Professor?”

Belinda Bozzoli

Belinda Bozzoli 

Indeed one may ask as Bozzoli has: “Mavughe appeared not to grasp many of the questions put to him, or indeed to have any clear idea of the shenanigans in the SABC. Was he deeply disingenuous, some asked? Or had he, perhaps lacking the sharpness of intellect normally required in a Board Chair, become a mere pawn in the hands of other, shrewder minds? If the latter, how was it that he had been awarded the title of Professor by a leading University?”

As Bozzoli explains it, “Academics are not meant simply to reproduce and convey knowledge to others; they are also meant to create new knowledge, to “advance the frontiers of knowledge”, and making their work available to the wider academic world through publication.

Furthermore, a substantive research record is expected. This research must be original, honest, replicable where appropriate, and well-articulated. These qualities need to be assessed by other academics, and so everything an academic publishes needs to be “peer reviewed” before it is placed before a wider, and ever-critical academic audience; and published by a reputable publisher. When a promotions or appointment committee examines an academic CV, these are the qualities it looks for.

Magazines

Magazines

Bozzoli goes to great lengths to set out the requirements of publishing with credible peer reviewed journals with scam publishers and so-called vanity presses a method of circumventing these requirements.

Her detailed review of Mavughe’s publications revealed the following:

Returning to Prof Maguvhe’s publications: from his CV, Unisa and Publish or Perish, he has 13 clearly identified publications in journals, the majority of them co-authored. He claims, in the CV, that he has an academic book, “Teaching Biology to Blind Learners”, published in Germany in 2009 by VDM Publishers. A book would normally be considered a pre-requisite for a scholar in the social sciences. The book does not appear on any of the other websites. 

Of the 13 journal publications, three are with the Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences (and these still appear on the Unisa website, despite the widespread discrediting of this journal). Two of these are in the same issue, which is highly unusual in the normal course of events, but which is characteristic of predatory journal practices. And 3 appear in KRE publications – the Anthropologist (2) and Disability in Context (1), both highly dubious journals. Nearly half of his publications, therefore, are in predatory journals. 

A further four, incidentally, are in journals which could be described as fitting the Academy of Sciences description of local and parochial, but that pales into insignificance in comparison with the six that are deeply dubious in every way. 

Furthermore the claimed “book” is said to be published by VDM Publishers, Germany, which is, according to Jeffrey Beall, a “Vanity Press” of sorts. This is his description of it and another similar publisher

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Apart from publishing in dubious non-peer reviewed & suspect journals, many of his articles have been co-authored. This leads me to wonder what Mavughe’s real academic ability is. I would venture to state that most of the ex-SABC journalists and Board Members had an infinitely better understanding of the issues and their ability to articulate issues is far superior.

Interestingly, who does Faith Muthambi blame of the inappropriate board appointments: the ANC members on the Communications Portfolio Committee whereas the ANC members state categorically that Muthambi presented them with a final list as a fait accompli and that they merely voted on the list ignoring all input from the opposition parties.

In fact Muthambi would be adept at playing rugby as she freely passed the ball of blame around to various people, anybody but herself.

Faith Muthambi

Faith Muthambi

What now? Assuming that Maguvhe is removed from the Board, Motsoeneng dismissed in a disciplinary enquiry and a fresh Board appointed, how will the SABC itself, or the husk thereof, be redeemed? Hlaudi’s tumultuous reign has scythed through the talented employees. Apparently in a relentless two year purge about 197 employees have been dismissed. The focus has first to be the restoration of the news department’s editorial independence and its psyche. Reporting lines and processes have to ensure that a repeat performance is not engineered by the politicians or by connected political persons.

The replacement of swathes of incompetent staff as a PWC Report succinctly highlights, is Herculean Task as possible wholesale staff changes require due process. Perhaps there changes are more intractable & possibly even Sisyphean in nature.

Until all these changes are effected in toto, it will be akin to applying lipstick to a pig.

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What will happen to Maguvhe’s tenure at UNISA as Professor of Inclusive Education, whatever that means? Probably nothing. Will that be to the detriment of the students studying under him? Undoubtedly.

Perhaps he will receive a lucrative sinecure as Professor in charge of the Cleaning Staff.

That would be a fitting reward for a job not well done.


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