In this open letter addressed to President Cyril Ramaphosa, Presidency director-general Mondli Gungubele, and justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola, a group of civil society organisations and concerned individuals have asked the president to suspend the board of the embattled Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA), including its scandal-implicated chairperson Hlengani Mathebula.

Mathebula arrived at the MDDA under a cloud, having departed the South African Revenue Service after a short suspension. The authors of the letter hold that he was appointed in contravention of Section 5 (g) of the MDDA Act, which stipulates that no person may be appointed as a member of the board of the MDDA who has, as a result of improper conduct, been removed from an office of trust.

Read the letter below.


℅: The Director General in the Office of the Presidency
Ms Phindile Baleni
Per email: and  

℅: Ms Nozuko Vundla & Ms Juliana Moodley
Per email:  and 
℅ The Acting Director General of the GCIS Mr. Michael Currin, and
℅ The Deputy Director General in the GCIS – Entity Oversight Ms. Regomoditswe Mavimbela DDG 
Per email: and

℅: Ms Delsy Moraba and Mr Chrispin Phiri
Per email:  and  

Dear President Ramaphosa, 

We, the undersigned, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and individuals call on the President to suspend the Board of the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) and to institute a commission of inquiry into governance irregularities. The board are implicated in allegations of abuse of power, the victimisation of whistle-blowers and board members, governance irregularities as well as possible fraud, corruption and undue influence in the allocation of funding to media organisations.

The MDDA was established by an Act of Parliament in 2002 (the MDDA Act). It is the only entity of state which has the sole purpose of creating an enabling environment for freedom of expression and media plurality in South Africa. The MDDA has turned 20 this year. No stranger to controversy, the MDDA is experiencing its 3rd governance crisis in 20 years. In 2017 Parliament’s Portfolio Committee of Communications threatened an inquiry into the MDDA however it never followed through. The Board, under Chairperson Norman Munzhelele, managed to turn the entity around. It appointed a Chief Executive Officer, Ms Zukiswa Potye, and increased funding, improved the governance and policy environment. It achieved two consecutive clean audits for 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. 

A new Chairperson, Hlengani Mathebula, was appointed in April 2021. It is common cause that Dr. Mathebula was suspended by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) due to the findings of the Nugent Commission, leaving SARS by a mutual separation agreement. Section 5 (g) of the MDDA Act stipulates that no person may be appointed as a member of the board of the MDDA who has, as a result of improper conduct, been removed from an office of trust. We read with concern a STAR NEWSPAPER report of 8th December 2022 in which the MDDA Board Chairperson is accused of ‘wreaking havoc’ in the entity. We have observed the many reports in the City Press and other media outlets on the CEO’s conflict with the Board, and her refusal to sign a permanent contract for a Chief Financial Officer against an advertised 5-year fixed term contract. Ms. Potye blew the whistle on the Board to the Minister in the Presidency. The Minister referred the matter back to the Board, who, in poorly disguised contravention of the Protected Disclosures Act, retaliated against the CEO.

Corruption Watch wrote to the Minister in the Presidency and Parliament in July 2022. To date, there has been no response and no action by either the Minister or the Portfolio Committee on Communications and Digital Technology.

As CSOs and concerned individuals, we question how a person implicated in governance irregularities at SARS was appointed to chair the Board of this very important entity. The MDDA, whilst small, and with an annual budget of only R100-million, serves a critical role as custodian of rights protected in the Bill of Rights. It is meant to give a voice to the voiceless and under-represented communities. Its constitutional mandate is central to the democratic project.

The Zondo Commission found that SOE Boards have played a central role in enabling state capture.

The MDDA escaped the attention of the Zondo Commission, perhaps because of its size and budget. Nevertheless, the critical role the MDDA plays in deepening democracy including the Constitutional rights to equality, freedom of expression as well as language and culture cannot be valued in pure financial terms. 

We note that:

  • The AGSA has found a regression in governance during the Audit of 2021 – 2022 and has flagged other irregular expenditure for the 2022 – 2023 financial year.
  • The MDDA has reportedly seen a substantial increase in legal expenses and litigation led by the board against staff and with stakeholders.
  • A Board Member appointed by Parliament, Ms. Andiswa Ngcingwana, resigned in protest in April 2022 due to the abuse of power and withholding of company records from her. 
  • The CFO, Mr. Yaseen Asmal, resigned following Parliament’s pronouncement that there would be stringent oversight of governance irregularities at the MDDA.
  • Several senior officials have resigned in 2022.
  • The reputation of the MDDA is in tatters, with funders raising concerns about the stability and governance irregularities.
  • Several investigations into governance irregularities implicating the Board, including the PSC, the PP, the AG and Parliament remain unresolved.
  • The Board has summarily dismissed the CEO, Ms Zukiswa Potye after subjecting her to an incompatibility hearing because of her protected disclosure to the Minister.
  • There have been complaints about censorship of the media by a Board Member of the MDDA.

Noting further that:

  • The Zondo commission recommendations include better protection for whistle-blowers.
  • The President, the Minister in the Presidency, and the Minister of Justice have all made public pronouncements on the need to support whistle-blowers.
  • The removal of a competent CEO- who has a strong anti-corruption performance track record – sends the wrong message in a period where the Zondo commission has found SOE boards directly culpable in the state capture project and where there has been a strong call for protection of whistle-blowers.
  • The MDDA is at risk of failing to achieve this mandate if funders lose confidence.  
  • The MDDA Board is showing signs of the state capture modus operandi with the cynical restructuring of the entity through destabilisation tactics aimed at causing disorder internally. 
  • The MDDA Board is failing to lead the entity strategically as far as the review of the MDDA Act and engagement with community media stakeholders, other communications entities and regulators is concerned. 
  • It is unacceptable that Ms Potye has been dismissed, essentially, for being a whistleblower. 

We call on the President to suspend the MDDA Board with immediate effect and to call the Board to account. Thereafter we call upon the President to institute a  full inquiry into the MDDA to uncover any malfeasance and, abuse of power. 

We call for the immediate reinstatement of Ms. Potye to her former position as CEO of the MDDA and for the reimbursement of all legal costs incurred by her during her disciplinary and arbitration hearings.

Furthermore, we call on the Presidency to place a moratorium on all legal action against other MDDA staff members including Ms. Potye as well as stakeholders of the MDDA.

As civil society organisations we strongly support the creation of a safe space for whistle-blowers in South Africa and call on the President to provide material support and protection for whistleblowers, who like Ms. Potye, face similar types of victimisation.

We call on the community media sector, the National Community Radio Forum, the Association of Independent Publishers, the South African Community Radio Organisation, the Community Television Network and other stakeholders to join our call for a commission of inquiry.  

We further call on the National Association of Broadcasters (the main funders of the MDDA), and Print South Africa to take note of this call for an inquiry and join us in reviewing the state of the entity. 

We firmly believe that an independent judicial commission of inquiry is not only vital to the cleaning out of the entity, but will also serve as a platform to reimagine a new MDDA – one fit for purpose and one which is ready to rise to the needs of the sector and the nation’s challenge to deepen democracy for the generations to come.



  • Andiswa Ngcingwana – Former Board member of the MDDA
  • Shepi Mati – Lecturer – Rhodes University School of Journalism and Media Studies
  • Tseliso Thipayane – Former CEO – SAHRC
  • Cynthia Stimpel – Citizens of Conscience
  • Archbishop Nkosinathi Ngesi – Ethiopian Church
  • Zelda Holtzman
  • Shamiel X Adams
  • Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki