Former SABC CEO claims Hlaudi Motsoeneng boasted about being close to Zuma

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo says it is important to determine whether 'forces outside of the SABC' dictated what happened at the public broadcaster.

Former SABC CEO Lulama Mokhobo on Wednesday told the commission of inquiry into state capture that the public broadcaster’s former COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, boasted to her, on several occasions, about knowing, having late-night meetings with, and being close to former president Jacob Zuma.

Mokhobo was responding to the commission’s chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who sought clarity on an issue which he said was “strange”, which is that Mokhobo and another SABC executive were opposed to certain clauses in the proposed agreement at the time between the public broadcaster and MultiChoice while Motsoeneng and other executives were for it.

The agreement between the two entities was signed in 2013.

The commission heard that at a meeting between MultiChoice representatives and SABC executives held on 6 June 2013, officials from the latter did not speak in one voice on contentious clauses in the agreement, including one that would see the public broadcaster abandoned its position on the encryption of set-top boxes in terms of the broadcasting digital migration policy of 2008.

“Chair, this was a very, very sad time at the SABC where there was literally a chasm between the group executives between those led by Motsoeneng and those led by myself,” Mokhobo said.

She said the SABC board chair at the time held “clandestine” meetings with Motsoeneng and executives aligned to the former COO which she and the then group executive of technology – who was also opposed to abandoning encryption –  knew nothing about.

Mokhobo told the commission that she held the view that since the SABC was an organ of the state, it should adhere to government policy and the law.

“So it was not surprising that at the meeting there were two camps,” Mokhobo said.

Zondo said what was of particular interest for him was to determine whether “forces outside of the SABC were effectively dictating” what was happening at the public broadcaster and identifying those individuals.

“Because normally if you are the leader of an organisation, you are the head, everybody needs to accept that you are the head and you have the right to pronounce on certain issues,” said Zondo.

Mokhobo said for years, even prior to her arrival at the public broadcaster, the SABC had been contested terrain and that some officials at the organisation “reported” to people “in powerful places”, “and they would try to throw their weight around and impose their will”.

Mokhobo pointed out that former minister of communications, Yunus Carrim, testified on Tuesday that Motsoeneng was privy to certain matters that he should not have known about.

Mokhobo told Zondo that Motsoeneng, on a number of occasions, boasted about being close to Zuma and that on a number of times ministers would come to see the former SABC COO without dropping in to see her.

“There were other sub agendas and chair speaks of capture, certainly the interest of MultiChoice became paramount for Motsoeneng to the detriment of the SABC,” Mokhobo said.

Zondo said it was “very strange” that Motsoeneng supported the signing of the agreement including the contentious clauses which went against the position of the SABC and government.

Mokhobo’s testimony continues, watch live courtesy of the SABC:

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