Zuma ‘de­lays’ SABC probe

In­terim board wants SIU ac­tion to stop Hlaudi ac­cess­ing mil­lions

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - LE­BO­GANG SEALE

THE SABC is con­cerned that de­lays by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma to sign a Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit (SIU) procla­ma­tion to probe the rot at the cash-strapped public broad­caster could see its dis­graced for­mer boss Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng cash­ing in on his pen­sion mil­lions.

This would mean it would be dif­fi­cult for the broad­caster to re­coup the money if Mot­soe­neng is found to have ben­e­fited il­le­gally from trans­ac­tions at the SABC dur­ing his tur­bu­lent ten­ure, in which he hiked his own pay from R1.5 mil­lion to R2.4m in one year.

He also got paid R11.4m for ne­go­ti­at­ing the con­tro­ver­sial R533m deal with Mul­ti­Choice, which gave the pri­vate broad­caster ac­cess to the SABC’s en­tire ar­chive.

Mot­soe­neng, who was axed fol­low­ing a dis­ci­plinary hear­ing, has un­til Wed­nes­day to ap­peal the sanc­tion. If he does not ap­peal, he will have ac­cess to his pen­sion and may walk away with mil­lions be­fore the SIU can probe the ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

Al­leged de­lays by Zuma to sign a procla­ma­tion for an SIU probe into the SABC is caus­ing con­ster­na­tion within and out­side the public broad­caster.

Ex­ec­u­tives at the SABC and other in­ter­ested par­ties have raised con­cerns about the “ap­par­ent de­lays” in sign­ing the procla­ma­tion, which they hope would help fast-track the process to sta­bilise the ail­ing cor­po­ra­tion be­fore the SABC in­terim board’s term ends in Septem­ber.

“For us the key is, if you are go­ing to un­lock the prob­lem, you need to get to the root of the fraud, ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, and waste­ful and fruit­less ex­pen­di­ture.

“We have con­tacted the SIU to do that, in­clud­ing the scope and all other things that have to go to the Jus­tice Depart­ment, and the min­is­ter (Michael Ma­sutha) has signed,” said a source at the SABC.

“It (SIU procla­ma­tion re­quest) has been sit­ting on the pres­i­dent’s desk for more than two months.

“And we don’t know when it will be signed. But ev­ery day that passes, for us is time lost. That’s cru­cial for JZ (Ja­cob Zuma) to sign. Why he doesn’t sign, we don’t know…”

Ear­lier this year, the Na­tional Assem­bly adopted a re­port by the ad hoc com­mit­tee that in­ves­ti­gated the SABC, which laid bare the wide­spread mis­man­age­ment at the public broad­caster, among them the al­leged dodgy and ques­tion­able con­tracts.

These in­cluded those in­volv­ing the Gupta-owned news­pa­per The New Age, Mul­ti­Choice, In­fo­nomics, Vi­sion View, Seke­laXabiso and Fox­ton.

Two weeks ago, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Ayanda Dlodlo met the SABC’s in­terim board, Par­lia­ment’s stand­ing com­mit­tee on public ac­counts (Scopa) and the SIU for an up­date on the probe.

Con­cerns were also raised about the non-co-op­er­a­tion by some SABC ex­ec­u­tives. “A ma­jor hur­dle to deal­ing with cor­rup­tion is the de­lay by JZ to sign the SIU procla­ma­tion, as ev­ery day lost means the SIU can’t start (the probe), and we have just over two months left,” said an­other source.

Two weeks ago, the SIU told Par­lia­ment’s stand­ing com­mit­tee on public ac­counts that it was ex­pect­ing Zuma to is­sue the procla­ma­tion by the end of June.

SIU head ad­vo­cate Lekhoa

If he faces crim­i­nal case we can hold back his pen­sion

Moth­ibi said the five ar­eas of fo­cus iden­ti­fied for a probe in­cluded the bonus paid to Mot­soe­neng.

On Fri­day, the EFF ratch­eted up the pres­sure on Zuma to sign the procla­ma­tion. Spokesper­son Mbuyiseni Nd­lozi said: “The EFF con­demns this de­lay­ing as tan­ta­mount to de­feat­ing the ends of jus­tice. The fail­ure to sign the procla­ma­tion fur­ther de­lays much-needed sta­bil­ity and progress at the SABC.”

Yes­ter­day, SABC spokesper­son Kaizer Kganyago said the in­terim board was con­cerned about the de­lays. “They (board mem­bers) say it would be good in terms of process for the pres­i­dent to sign ur­gently, but it’s not up to them.

“They want to em­pha­sise that from their side, they have tried to do every­thing they could, but they can’t dic­tate to the pres­i­dent.”

Pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son Bon­gani Ngqu­lunga de­nied that Zuma was de­lay­ing the sign­ing of the procla­ma­tion.

“The pres­i­dent re­ceives many re­quests from de­part­ments, which are pro­cessed by the Pres­i­dency and are then con­cluded. All are re­garded as im­por­tant and war­rant­ing at­ten­tion.

“The Depart­ment of Jus­tice will be no­ti­fied of the out­come as soon as the mat­ter is fi­nalised,” he said.

SIU spokesper­son Nazreen Pan­dor said they would com­ment to­mor­row “af­ter check­ing and ver­i­fy­ing (the is­sue) with the team”.

Dlodlo said she had not briefed the pres­i­dent on the mat­ter yet, but that rel­e­vant doc­u­ments had been sent. “The SIU will get my sup­port and co-op­er­a­tion,” she told The Star from the US yes­ter­day.

With Mot­soe­neng not likely to ap­peal his dis­missal, there are con­cerns that he might ac­cess his pen­sion. A source at the SABC said: “He (Mot­soe­neng) isn’t go­ing to ap­peal the dis­ci­plinary hear­ing rul­ing, which means he is ca­pa­ble of ac­cess­ing his pen­sion.

Yes­ter­day, Mot­soe­neng re­ferred en­quiries to his le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Zola Ma­javu, who said: “There’s no ap­peal. The mat­ter will be re­ferred to the CCMA. From there it will be the Labour Court.”

The source said: “What if we ap­prove (the pen­sion pay­out), and the SIU finds so many ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties (against him) and we have paid it?

“We need to find a way to with­hold his pen­sion, and the only way is if he faces a crim­i­nal case. So we need the SIU to work fast. If the SIU find there’s a prima fa­cie case they will be able to go to the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Author­ity and get the case mov­ing. That will give us an open­ing to with­hold the pen­sion.”

SOUTH Africans look set to have more say in the new SABC ed­i­to­rial pol­icy, with the public broad­caster about to em­bark on a road­show for in­puts, The Star has re­li­ably learnt.

“It’s very crit­i­cal that all types of peo­ple in­ter­act with the (re­view) process to en­sure that there’s (an ed­i­to­rial) pol­icy that in­forms the public. Af­ter that, there would be road­shows,” said a source privy to the plans to de­velop new pol­icy.

The move comes af­ter the In­de­pen­dent Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Author­ity of SA (Icasa) in March ap­proved rec­om­men­da­tions to nul­lify the SABC’s ed­i­to­rial pol­icy of 2016.

The con­tro­ver­sial pol­icy, which was in­tro­duced by for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng, banned air­ing footage of vi­o­lent protests.

De­tails of the plans to re­view the pol­icy and the road­show are set to be re­vealed on Thurs­day when the SABC holds a me­dia brief­ing. “The fact that Icasa struck down Mot­soe­neng’s ed­i­to­rial pol­icy means we are back to the ed­i­to­rial pol­icy that was in place in 2004.

“At the time, the ed­i­torin-chief was the COO (chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer),” said the source. Mot­soe­neng had, while the act­ing COO, or­dered that the news depart­ment re­port to him, ef­fec­tively declar­ing him­self the edi­tor-in-chief.

The cur­rent SABC news strat­egy is out­dated, and this is a worry to the cor­po­ra­tion.

“In 2004, the ed­i­to­rial pol­icy did not take ac­count of devel­op­ments in the me­dia, so there’s a need to align that. So, there’s go­ing to be a public launch of the (re­view) process. The ed­i­to­rial pol­icy re­view is an im­por­tant mile­stone which re­verses the sub­ver­sion of ed­i­to­rial in­tegrity by Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng when he took con­trol of the news.

“The news (depart­ment) now re­ports to the GECO (gen­eral ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee) again, and now we are go­ing into a public con­sul­ta­tion phase for peo­ple to make in­puts about what prin­ci­ples should un­der­pin the SABC ed­i­to­rial pol­icy.”

Sources also re­vealed that there were pos­i­tive devel­op­ments re­lated to the SABC’s fi­nances, with im­proved ra­dio ad rev­enues as well as the sta­bil­i­sa­tion of TV rev­enues.

This fol­lowed Mot­soe­neng’s dis­as­trous quota sys­tem for ra­dio and TV, which saw the public broad­caster los­ing mil­lions in rev­enue.

“Li­cence fees have also im­proved, so things are look­ing up.”

Mean­while, the SABC seems to be pin­ning its hopes for a fi­nan­cial res­cue on bank guar­an­tees, as op­posed to a bailout, ac­cord­ing to sources.

The prospect of a bailout was un­likely be­cause rat­ing agen­cies have ex­pressed con­cern about the in­creas­ing trend of state-owned en­ti­ties re­ly­ing on this kind of fi­nanc­ing.

“Ap­par­ently the rat­ing agen­cies have flagged guar­an­tees and bailouts as is­sues of con­cern. But the word ‘bailout’ doesn’t ex­plain what we (the SABC) are do­ing. We need a guar­an­tee, and the gov­ern­ment is the sure­ty­ship.”

‘It re­verses the sub­ver­sion of in­tegrity’

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