Hlaudi hits storm clouds

SABC moves to re­coup mil­lions of lost rand

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - MAY­I­BONGWE MAQHINA

AS AXED SABC boss Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng headed to the CCMA yes­ter­day to seek re­course, his case ap­peared to take a turn for the worst.

Mo­ments after the dis­graced for­mer chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer failed to reach an agree­ment with his for­mer em­ployer at the Com­mis­sion for Con­cil­i­a­tion, Me­di­a­tion and Ar­bi­tra­tion, yes­ter­day, it emerged that the SABC in­terim board had in­sti­tuted le­gal pro­ceed­ings to re­coup the mil­lions of rand it lost dur­ing his dis­as­trous ten­ure.

Mot­soe­neng’s lawyer, Zola Ma­javu, said yes­ter­day the case is now headed for ar­bi­tra­tion.

The SABC is also gun­ning for Mot­soe­neng’s right hand man, for­mer chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, James Aguma, as it seeks to re­cover the mil­lions it lost in ad­ver­tise­ment rev­enue, among oth­ers, dur­ing the pair’s tur­bu­lent ten­ure.

Chair­per­son of the SABC in­terim board Khany­isile Kweyama said they had sought a le­gal opinion on the li­a­bil­ity of board mem­bers and group ex­ec­u­tives.

The ac­tion sought would see the SABC re­cov­er­ing the monies it lost from the ex­ec­u­tives who “know­ingly par­tic­i­pate in the mak­ing of de­ci­sions or ac­cede to de­ci­sions being made which are con­trary to the poli­cies of the cor­po­ra­tion, prin­ci­ples of cor­po­rate gov­er­nance”, in breach of leg­is­la­tion.

“Pro­ceed­ings have com­menced to ex­er­cise a lien over pen­sion pay­ments due to Messrs Aguma and Mot­soe­neng and ar­range­ments are un­der way to in­sti­tute ur­gent le­gal ac­tion if nec­es­sary,” said Kweyama yes­ter­day.

Kweyama was up­dat­ing Par­lia­ment’s port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on com­mu­ni­ca­tion on their progress in im­ple­ment­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions of the ad hoc com­mit­tee that in­ves­ti­gated the SABC board, which the Na­tional As­sem­bly adopted in March.

The Star re­ported last month that the SABC was 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 Mot­soe­neng cash­ing in on his pen­sion mil­lions.

With­out the procla­ma­tion, it would be dif­fi­cult for the broad­caster to re­cover the money.

Mot­soe­neng 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 archive.

Yes­ter­day, Par­lia­ment ratch­eted up the pres­sure on Zuma to sign the SIU procla­ma­tion that will pave the way for a probe into sev­eral con­tracts awarded at the SABC, in­clud­ing those dur­ing Mot­soe­neng’s ten­ure.

One ANC MP sug­gested that Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, as the leader of gov­ern­ment busi­ness, and Na­tional As­sem­bly Speaker Baleka Mbete, be roped in to en­sure the procla­ma­tion was signed.

This was as Kweyama ex­plained some of the ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

She said ir­reg­u­larly awarded con­tracts with Lorna Vi­sion, for tele­vi­sion li­cence fee collection, and The New Age news­pa­per, for busi­ness break­fasts, had been ter­mi­nated.

The con­tract with Sekela Xabiso was on sus­pen­sion and an­other with Mul­tiChoice was un­der re­view.

“The re­main­ing ques­tion­able con­tracts iden­ti­fied by the ad hoc com­mit­tee have been re­ferred to the SIU for foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Kweyama said.

How­ever, the SIU has yet to un­der­take its work while wait­ing for Zuma to sign the procla­ma­tion.

“We have been check­ing on reg­u­lar ba­sis what the progress is. We have set an of­fice so that by the time procla­ma­tion is passed, we don’t have to gather doc­u­men­ta­tion,” Kweyama said.

This did not sit well with some par­lia­men­tar­i­ans , who said an­swers must be ob­tained if there is no procla­ma­tion by the end of Au­gust.

The ANC’s Mzi­wa­madoda Kalako said it was im­por­tant that the SIU start work­ing be­cause peo­ple in the wrong were given lee­way oth­er­wise.

The ACDP’s Steve Swart said the chal­lenge was be­yond the SABC’s ca­pac­ity and the SIU could not do any­thing un­til its au­tho­ri­sa­tion was granted.

“It is three months that we have waited for the procla­ma­tion. It ob­vi­ously in­hibits wind­ing up rec­om­men­da­tions be­cause SIU can’t act in the mean­time.”

The EFF’s Mbuyiseni Nd­lozi ac­cused Zuma of de­lay­ing restora­tion of sta­bil­ity in the SABC and af­fect­ing work com­mis­sioned by Par­lia­ment.

“Most im­por­tantly he is de­lay­ing jus­tice be­cause there is ev­i­dence of wrong con­tracts,” Nd­lozi said.

“It is un­ac­cept­able, maybe he is im­pli­cated... as Par­lia­ment to ex­press our­selves that it is three months. Why not sign an ur­gent procla­ma­tion?” he asked.

The DA’s Phumzile van Damme echoed the same sen­ti­ments. “It is very con­cern­ing that the pres­i­dent ap­pears to be sit­ting on this procla­ma­tion... It might be worth send­ing a letter to the pres­i­dent (ask­ing) ‘when are you to ap­prove the procla­ma­tion?’”

The ANC’s Si­sisi To­lashe said it was an un­ten­able sit­u­a­tion if there was no time­frame for sign­ing of procla­ma­tion. “If there are no time­frames, how can the leader of gov­ern­ment busi­ness (Ramaphosa) as­sist?”

She also said the de­lays in sign­ing the procla­ma­tion fed into per­cep­tions that the gov­ern­ment was cor­rupt and did not re­spect time­frames de­spite good work done through in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

The MPs also de­manded Mbete furnish the com­mit­tee with the re­port con­tain­ing names of peo­ple who mis­led the ad hoc com­mit­tee dur­ing its in­quiry.

The re­port was pre­pared by the le­gal ser­vices and is now in Mbete’s of­fice.

Pres­i­dent ap­pears to be sit­ting on this procla­ma­tion

PIC­TURE: ITUMELENG ENGLISH

FO­CUS: Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng and James Aguma are in the spot­light.

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