2002

2002

10 February 2002: Sam Sole reports in Sunday Tribune that Gugu Kunene, a woman radio reporter with the SABC in Durban has been working virtually full time for her own PR company, Zebra Synergies, and has a million rand tender with KZN transport MEC, S’bu Ndebele.

Kunene, who is employed at the SABC current affairs team in Durban is a member of Zebra Synergies Services, a marketing and public relations firm which has recently signed a twelve month contract with the Kwa Zulu Natal Taxi Council (Kwanataco).

There is only one other member of the close corporation, according to company registration records.

Sources say the contract was worth about R1million, a figure which was not disputed by Kwanataco general manager, Bafana Mhlongo.

Zebra Synergies handled the launch this week of the corporate logo for Kwanataco at a major taxi industry gathering at the International Convention.

Kunene was in attendance and obviously in charge of the organisation of the event.

A source at the SABC said she had been allowed by a ‘senior news manager’ to work on the early morning current affairs shift ‘apparently so that she could be free early to go and run her business’.

One staffer said there was a political conflict of interest because of the involvement of the ANC Natal chairman and Transport MEC, S’bu Ndebele, in the restructuring of the taxi industry: ‘There has always been pressure to do this minister’s stories. We always wondered why, but this time we have realised why.’

(The ‘senior news manager’ cited in Sam Sole’s Sunday Tribune article is believed by staff to be Snuki Zikalala. Ndebele, who was arrested for fraud, money laundering, bribery and corruption in 2015 telephoned Zikalala after an SABC reporter in Durban, Mandla Zembe, correctly reported that Ndebele had been chased out of a Durban stadium on 16 December 2005. Surrounded by gun-toting goons Ndebele stormed into the SABC news office and tried to intimidate Zembe into dropping the story. When Zembe refused to be cowed, Ndebele phoned Zikalala and demanded that Zembe be fired.)

May 2002: Zikalala leaves the SABC with a R2m golden handshake to join the Department of Labour as its chief communications officer

13 May 2002: Western Cape SABC Regional Editor, Jeffrey Twala, refuses a request by Sea Point news staff to cover the controversy over Premier Peter Marais’ attack on gays because it will be damaging to the NNP/ANC alliance. Instead a team is sent to cover a harbour masters conference – the Marais story is never carried on TV news bulletins

14 May 2002: Tuesday: The Marais anti-gay story continues to dominate headlines: “ANC set to confront Marais over gays – Lobby groups pile the pressure on the premier” - SAPA – Twala again refuses his TV news staff permission to cover this story

15 May 2002: Wednesday: Marais’ intemperate attack on gays continues to dominate headlines: “ANC accuses Marais of ‘gutter politics’ over gay outburst – Homosexuals ‘part of rainbow nation’ Cape Times and SAPA – Twala again refuses to let his reporters cover the story – any story which does not reflect favourably on the ANC at local, regional and national level is banned by Twala. This includes all the scams which resulted when the ANC, with the help of Marthinus van Schalkwyk, took control of the Western Cape and, in particular, the Cape Town municipality. On the watch of mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo and City Manager, Wallace Mgoqui, more than a billion rand was leeched out of municipal coffers through scams like Big Bay 1&2, Cell C, Jewellery City and N2 Gateway and the outburst against coloured’s Mfeketo’s spokesman and alleged lover, Blackman Ngoro was also not covered in a story which raged for nearly three months (except for a single press conference where Mfketo revealed that she was suspending Ngoro and she instructed the SABC to be present.) Yet not a single one of these stories was ever broadcast on the SABC because Twala forbade his staff from covering any story which did not reflect well on the ANC. News department heads like Zikalala, Pippa Green (radio) and Jimi Matthews (TV) were fully aware of what was going on because SAPA in Cape Town was covering these stories and those stories were going straight into the SABC computer system and because these scandals were being reported in Johannesburg newspapers like the Star. Nothing was done because this is the way in which the ANC had decreed it should be.

1 June 2002: The Hansie Cronje plane crash in George. The plane crashes early in the morning. This is Jimi Matthews’ first day on duty as the SABC’s newly appointed head of television news. George falls within the jurisdiction and news coverage area of Jeffrey Twala, the SABC’s Regional Editor in the Western Cape. Twala is utterly unable to organise a team to cover the event and, finally, with time running out, Matthews orders the SABC’s Port Elizabeth news office to spare no expense and to hire a helicopter and fly to the scene which happens. By noon with international news organisations running reports and obituaries at length with visual material, the only report that has been filed by Twala’s office is a three sentence radio report which was, in fact, not filed by the staff on duty but telephonically dictated by an off-duty senior reporter – one of those who Twala routinely dismissed as “leelywhites standing in the way of transformation”. This is how it was given to the bulletin reader: 13:30 “A medium size airplane (sic) has crashed near George in the Southern Cape. A spokesperson for the Airport Company, Charles Norvel, says the wreckage of the plane has been found on (sic) the mountains north of the town. Norvel says the plane was from (sic) Bloemfontein to George.”

No disciplinary action is ever taken by Matthews as a result of this gross ineptitude because he is aware of Twala’s strong connections within the ANC.

20 June 2002: The SABC announces the launch of “Tip-offs Anonymous” in its house magazine, Intekom. “To mark Fraud Prevention Week, the SABC is proud to announce the launch of an all-out campaign to combat fraud and dishonesty”. It involved a hotline system set up by Deloitte & Touche. “Moreover, in using this system as the basis of for combatting fraud and corruption, the SABC is complying with new legislation. The Protected Disclosures Act affords employees new rights for exposing wrongdoings in a company, as well as any legal protection they may need. By providing our staff with this anonymous reporting channel, the SABC is therefore making it easy for them to exercise their rights in this regard.”

It was a shockingly cynical scam.

When staff reported corruption they found themselves subjected to witch hunts and both management and successive boards simply ignored repeatedly proffered evidence by unions such as BEMAWU of corruption and allowed the looting to continue.

When the Dali Mpofu-era board of Eddie Funde and Christine Qunta et al were instructed in parliament on 30 April 2008 by Suzanne Vos (IFP) and Dr Pieter Mulder (FFP) to investigate the abuses of Jeffrey Twala in the SABC’s Sea Point office and to hand over a Deloitte & Touche forensic audit which recommended his dismissal, they simply ignored both instructions.

When concerns were raised with Mpofu about the abuses and looting by two of the people then working at the SABC, Matilda Gaboo and Mafika Sihlali he did nothing except halting the internal forensic audit into Gaboo and using taxpayers’ money in going to court to try and recover from the Sunday Times a leaked report which was already in the public domain.

When internal auditors started uncovering evidence if Sihlali’s corruption, he threatened them (they were women) with physical violence and one, Elsje Oosthuizen, had her house fire-bombed. So concerned was the SABC to the threats against Oosthuizen that she was given four bodyguards. All subsequently resigned from the SABC as a result of this intimidation.

Despite this, board member Christine Qunta described the allegations against Sihlali as “so much fluff”.

Qunta, angrily refused to accede to demands for suspension of Sihlali at a hearing in Parliament concerning the SABC in August 2007. When asked in parliament why the board had not suspended Sihlali, Qunta said that the board was going to take action against the person who had leaked the internal audit report alleging Sihlali's involvement in fraudulent practices. The SABC itself reported the matter in its online news service under the heading: "SABC to take action against audit report snitch". Referring to the action of the whistleblower (or "snitch"), Qunta told reporters: "The intention, it seems to me, was really a malicious intent… because there was so much fluff…” Her fury was directed to the revelation of the alleged abuse, not to the substance of the allegation.

Qunta seems not to have commented when Sihlali was arrested and released on bail in February 2012 after an investigation by the Hawks who seem not to have agreed with her contention that the allegations against him were, “so much fluff”.

The fact that the SABC was looted of more than a billion rand in the Mpofu, Funde, Qunta era and that the looting started again under the Ben Ngubane board with more than a million rand being diverted into the ICT Indaba scam in 2012 to finance Minister Dina Pule’s overseas trips with her alleged lover and her purchase of hugely expensive red-soled shoes reveals to what extent the SABC’s “Tip-Offs Anonymous” scam was simply an early-warning system to help evade detection. In the end former SABC staff members took their concerns to the Public Protector but the intimidation – which never occurred prior to 1994 – and in January 2017 SABC reporter was shot in the face with a pellet gun after she and other reporters had had their homes broken into and the brakes on their cars tampered with.

4 July 2002: SABC News Chief Executive, Barney Mthombothi, resigns after complaints from the SABC board about a Special Assignment programme about corruption at the Grootvlei Prison

16 July 2002: Lindiwe Sisulu and Charles Naqula visit Auckland Park to thank Mathata Tsedu in particular for the SABC’s favourable pro-ZANU PF coverage of the Zimbabwe elections – Krisjan Lemmer reports this in the Mail & Guardian of 30/8/2002

November 2002: The Mail & Guardian breaks the story that the Scorpions are investigating Jacob Zuma’s involvement in the Arms Deal scandal. The SABC suppresses the story for two weeks. Pat Rogers goes to the BCCSA which finds that it can only act on reports that have been broadcast and not on the SABC’s censorship by omission. Thereafter the SABC routinely suppresses breaking stories on the Arms Deal scandal and its investigative programme, Special Assignment never covers the story.