SABC TAPS run dry FOR GUP­TAS

PLUS Mot­soe­neng’s miss­ing sus­pen­sion let­ter

CityPress - - Front Page - CHARL BLIGNAUT charl.blignaut@city­press.co.za

The SABC tap is now closed for the Gupta fam­ily with this week’s The New Age (TNA) Busi­ness Break­fast, from which the con­tro­ver­sial fam­ily’s me­dia com­pany ben­e­fited, be­ing the last of its kind. “The board met with The New Age and in­formed them that the break­fasts are not go­ing to con­tinue ... even though the cur­rent con­tract says they have to give 11 months’ no­tice,” said a source close to the board.

Nei­ther the Gupta-owned news­pa­per’s pub­lic re­la­tions desk nor the SABC re­sponded to ques­tions this week.

The can­ning of the TNA Morn­ing Live show that broad­casts the TNA busi­ness break­fast brief­ings has been a long time com­ing.

Sources told of how, when Mike Siluma first signed the con­tract in 2011, the broad­casts – where favoured po­lit­i­cal fig­ures dis­cuss cur­rent af­fairs – were only held five times a year. Af­ter sus­pended chief op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng took over the reins at the SABC, these swelled to as many as 45 per year.

“We’ve spent some­thing like R20 mil­lion just on the out­side broad­casts. We haven’t made a cent in re­turn,” said a source.

Another said: “The tens of mil­lions of rands TNA has earned from spon­sors – mostly state-owned en­ter­prises such as Eskom, Telkom and Transnet – go to them. The spon­sor­ship money is not shared.”

City Press pre­vi­ously re­ported that, as early as 2014, Eskom paid R1.2 mil­lion per break­fast. This week, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Ayanda Dlodlo told Par­lia­ment that her depart­ment, un­der her pre­de­ces­sor Faith Muthambi, “spent R958 689.84 on a [TNA] busi­ness brief­ing” in 2016.

This week’s break­fast broad­cast, the sources said, was the last one.

City Press spoke to four top SABC sources – two close to the board and two se­nior in­sid­ers – who said the ex­tent of the rot the in­terim board is work­ing to mop up is now be­com­ing clear. A large part of the board’s time has been spent clar­i­fy­ing where the SABC needs the help of the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit (SIU) to un­cover il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties.

“They have now sent a let­ter to the com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter [Dlodlo]. She must make a re­quest to Pres­i­dent [Ja­cob] Zuma for a dec­la­ra­tion an­nounc­ing an SIU in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the SABC,” said one source.

Af­ter the busi­ness break­fasts deal, the board will next meet with Mul­tiChoice to dis­cuss the SABC’s con­tract with the pay plat­form for two TV chan­nels, one of which – SABC News on DStv chan­nel 404 – is bleed­ing funds daily.

HLAUDI’S MISS­ING SUS­PEN­SION LET­TER

Another sit­u­a­tion that re­quired ur­gent at­ten­tion is the mat­ter of Mot­soe­neng’s sus­pen­sion on a R350 000 monthly salary, stem­ming from a court chal­lenge launched by the DA.

When the board sus­pended chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer and act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive James Aguma two weeks ago, they served him a let­ter, locked his of­fice, blocked his ac­cess and re­claimed his SABC de­vices, in­clud­ing his lap­top. The board as­sumed the same had hap­pened with Mot­soe­neng, but dis­cov­ered that Aguma never served Mot­soe­neng with a let­ter of sus­pen­sion. One was drawn up this week and Mot­soe­neng was al­legedly locked out of the SABC com­puter sys­tem, which he is be­lieved to have ac­cessed while sus­pended. The SABC did not re­spond to ques­tions this week.

LE­GAL BILLS QUES­TIONED

Another new mat­ter brought to the board – which is di­vided into a num­ber of sub­com­mit­tees – was the pay­ment of Mot­soe­neng’s con­sid­er­able le­gal fees.

A re­port to the Hu­man Re­sources, Gov­er­nance and Nom­i­na­tions Com­mit­tee over an in­voice from Mot­soe­neng’s lawyer, Zola Ma­javu, raised eye­brows. Ma­javu han­dled the Mot­soe­neng vs DA mat­ter.

The in­voice, for R493 100.50, in­cludes a cu­ri­ous R100 000 for a “loan by client”. The SABC’s fi­nan­cial con­trollers re­fused to pay the amount as it was highly ir­reg­u­lar to in­struct the SABC to pay a per­sonal loan.

Ma­javu was un­happy to be drawn into the mat­ter this week and de­fended his rep­u­ta­tion.

“My client is Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng. I have never ac­cepted work from the SABC,” he told City Press.

“I in­voiced as I was in­structed ... There was a long de­lay in the pay­ment, which was dif­fi­cult as I had al­ready paid VAT and in­voices in­clude the costs to cover my ser­vice providers such as at­tor­neys.”

Le­gal opin­ion sought by City Press con­firmed the in­voice was ques­tion­able from Mot­soe­neng’s side, but not Ma­javu’s.

In the event of court costs for ex­ec­u­tives, the SABC is cov­ered by li­a­bil­ity of di­rec­tors and of­fi­cers in­sur­ance. The re­port out­lines that the SABC paid “an amount of R1 464 055.19 on the DA vs Mot­soe­neng mat­ter” and that the in­sur­ance paid this out. A sec­ond amount of R851 981.73, also for the DA case, was paid by the SABC but “in­sur­ers will not re­im­burse SABC”. The in­sur­ance did not cover this ei­ther be­cause the fees were con­sid­ered ex­or­bi­tant – which Ma­javu in­sists they aren’t – or be­cause prior con­sent was not granted.

Asked who then be­comes li­able for the bill, the re­port states the in­di­vid­ual – in this case, Mot­soe­neng. The SABC did not re­spond to ques­tions about whether Mot­soe­neng would be billed.

Ma­javu said that Mot­soe­neng had paid him back the R100 000.

90% FALLS

Another mat­ter the board has dealt with is Mot­soe­neng’s costly uni­lat­eral de­ci­sion to in­crease lo­cal mu­sic quo­tas to 90% on ra­dio.

The board acted to pre­vent the SABC’s big com­mer­cial sta­tions from bleed­ing ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue. It has de­cided to “al­low sta­tions to choose how much lo­cal con­tent they want to play, as long as it’s not less than what Icasa [the In­de­pen­dent Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Au­thor­ity of SA] stip­u­lates,” said one source, adding that the board was look­ing at other ways – such as ex­po­sure and de­vel­op­ment work­shops – to “as­sist and em­power” lo­cal artists.

Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng

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