Denise Williams
3 minute read
18 Jan 2017
2:54 pm

Parliament dismayed at leaking of SABC inquiry working document

Denise Williams

The document was distributed to MPs sitting on the committee and contains some far-reaching observations and recommendations.

Photo: Supplied

A leaked parliamentary working document on the affairs of the SABC board paints a grim picture, with recommendations that the full board be dissolved and deals with the controversial Gupta family axed.

According to the document that was sent only to MPs and is due to be discussed today, issues on the agenda include political interference, censorship of news and the alleged role and dodgy dealings with the Guptas.

The document recommends that alleged irregular deals between the SABC and the Gupta-owned The New Age Media should be investigated and terminated, should any impropriety be uncovered.

The report was drawn up by parliament’s ad hoc committee that recently concluded its inquiry into the affairs of the embattled public broadcaster.

The committee estimated that in 2015, irregular expenditure amounted to R3.4 billion – but last year it climbed to R5.1 billion. Supporting documents to explain where the money had gone to were missing. The board was singled out, because it did not execute its mandate to ensure that all monetary transactions were recorded.

The inquiry also concluded that payments were made without contracts and that tax clearances were questionable.

In addition, the suspensions and firings of employees were hotly debated in the hearings. The so-called SABC 8, who were fired and seven later rehired, testified of political interference and “undue influence” from the top echelon of the broadcaster, with Communications Minister Faith Muthambi fingered as playing a role in this.

“The enquiry had heard chilling evidence of the blatant disregard of journalistic values and ethics,” the report stated. “The SABC board made no meaningful intervention or, worst, were unaware of intimidation and threats experienced by the SABC 8.”

The eight claimed the newsroom was instructed to cover 70% “good news” and ignore protests. They also claimed they received threats to stop them from
testifying.

The draft document referred to a “crisis” at the SABC – particularly prominent in the lead-up to the 2016 local government elections.

During her testimony, Mu-
thambi couldn’t allay suspicions that the board was pressured into accepting former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng to a key executive position.

Evidence suggested the board had been “deeply divided” as to the role Motsoeneng should play.

As evidenced by a report by then public protector Thuli Madonsela, which talked of the “systematic purging” of senior staff, the committee said the remedial action and sanctions suggested by  Madonsela had to be enforced, the report said.

A deal with MultiChoice on the SABC 24-hour news channel was also “surrounded by controversy since its inception”, the inquiry found. Motsoeneng, who allegedly agreed to the deal, was found to have acted out of his scope of power.

The committee recommended that the board should be dissolved and the MultiChoice deal be “scrapped if found to be improper”.

All witnesses who perjured themselves during their testimony should also “face the firing squad and be sanctioned”.

But Vincent Smith, who chairs the ad hoc committee, expressed outrage at the leaking of a “working document”.

Smith said the document has no legal standing. “The working document was prepared as a foundation for a constructive meeting of the committee and was drafted for that purpose only,” Smith said.

“It has no standing as an official document of the committee until deliberations are exhausted.”

MPs are set to meet on Thursday and Friday to discuss the document. A final report will be completed by February 15 and sent to the National Assembly for debate.

– Additional reporting by African News Agency

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