The commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Wednesday how former SABC CEO Lulama Mokhobo was “pushed out” of the broadcaster because she had “vigorously” challenged the then chair of the corporation’s board, Ellen Tshabalala.
Mokhobo told the chairperson of the commission, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that at the time there was a certain “level of desperation for her to go”, which she said was felt particularly by Tshabalala because she, Mokhobo, had challenged the former on a number of issues, including the agreement the SABC entered into with MultiChoice.
Mokhobo said Tshabalala, whom she said had been “abrasive” towards her, instructed then SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and a Mr Olivier to quickly conclude the agreement, though it was “fundamentally flawed” and contained clauses that “were totally improper”.
The commission heard from Mokhobo that the then minister of communications, Yunus Carrim, was frustrated at the time because stakeholders could not reach an agreement on the encryption of set-top boxes in terms of the broadcasting digital migration policy.
Mokhobo said it was important that the set-top boxes should have a control mechanism which would benefit the public, for example, to enable them to gain access to the internet, which to her was important because it was an expansion of knowledge to citizens “in far-flung parts” of the country.
“The benefits were just enormous,” Mokhobo said, adding that it was all thrown out when the MultiChoice agreement was entered into.
Mokhobo said she, Carrim and others were in agreement on encryption while Tshabalala, MultiChoice and others at the time were against it.
“So it was entered into unlawfully,” Mokhobo said, adding that the agreement was pushed to be concluded in her absence while she was on leave because she was an “encumbrance”.
Mokhobo said attempts to push her out of the SABC had happened previously, with rumours of her axing doing the rounds.
Furthermore, lies about her were spread, including one that she had shares at e.tv – which was in favour of encryption – and that her children were at the employ of the said broadcaster, which she said was “an absolute untruth”.
She was also called lazy and said to not be doing her job, Mokhobo told the commission, with Tshabalala in some instances undermining her authority and on several occasions dressing her down in front of staff, adding that “there was no decorum” on Tshabalala’s part because she, Mokhobo, had been opposed to doing things that did not adhere to policy.
Mokhobo told the commission that during her tenure the finances at the SABC “became extremely healthy” and she had managed to close some “leaking taps” – the improper spending of money.
“Because of that, the dislike for me increased phenomenally,” Mokhobo said.
Her last day of work was on 28 February 2014 after an agreement was reached between her and the SABC, the commission heard.