22 January 2009: The SOS coalition welcomes ICASA’s announcement that, in March 2009, it will look into the failure of the SABC to act upon the findings of the Sisulu/Marcus commission of inquiry into the SABC black listing scandal

1 February 2009: Dali Mpofu resigns as GCEO

19 February 2009: Legislation governing the SABC is set to change further, with the much-criticised Broadcasting Amendment Bill being further amended after President Kgalema Motlanthe refused to sign it into law.

And the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) has renewed its efforts to have the SABC's articles of association amended in line with legislation and to remove government interference in the broadcaster.

The FXI says the articles are unlawful and unconstitutional and should be amended, and unless this is done by the end of next month, it has promised to seek a court order compelling the minister and the SABC to do so.

The FXI has sent a letter of demand to Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, SABC chairwoman Khanyi Mkonza and acting group CE Gab Mampone asking the SABC to amend its articles of association.

The FXI say that the articles, last amended in 2006, are unlawful as a result of the high level of interference from the communications minister they permit in the affairs of the SABC.

The articles conflict with the provisions of the Broadcasting Act and section 16 of the constitution, according to the FXI.

The problematic areas include the minister having veto power over the appointment of executive directors and the president having the power to appoint the chairman and deputy chairman of the board.

The minister also has veto power over the appointment of the group CEO and can approve the terms of his or her contract.

The FXI has also objected to the level of control the executive arm of government exerts over the SABC. This arises because the presence of the communications minister, who represents the government as the sole shareholder, is automatically the quorum for the SABC's general meeting.

Since the SABC board is bound by the resolutions taken at the general meeting, this gives the executive arm of the government direct control over the SABC.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications has amended the controversial Broadcasting Amendment Bill after Motlanthe refused to sign it into law, the committee said on Friday. – Business Day

4 March 2009: BCCSA reprimands the SABC for broadcasting an unbalanced and blatantly biased programme seeking to create the impression that only the security forces and IFP members committed atrocities during the struggle against apartheid.

5 March 2009: Acting CEO Gab Mampone admits at a Johannesburg press conference that the SABC expected a loss of R784m for the financial year end

10 March 2009: The Broadcasting Amendment Act no 4 of 2009 is gazetted thus enabling the Zuma faction to dismiss the Mbeki-appointed board. This is the beginning of the end of Qunta, Zikalala et al

To amend the Broadcasting Act, 1999, so as to delete ‘‘frequency planning’’ as one of the fields of qualifications, expertise and experience which the members of the Board of the South African Broadcasting Corporation Limited must have when viewed collectively; to provide for the removal of a member of the Board from office and for the resignation of a member; to make provision for a resolution of the National Assembly calling for the removal of a member and for the dissolution of the Board; to provide for the appointment of an interim board; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

14 March 2009: The Communications Workers Union (CWU) alleges that the SABC board spent almost half a million rand on its 2007 Xmas party

22 March 2009: The Sunday Times reveals massive looting at the SABC, allegedly by a close friend of Matthews Phosa, Matilda Gaboo.

SABC boss blows millions on dud shows

Executive also stands accused of handing out contracts to friends

Rowan Philp

A former SABC executive is under investigation for allegedly wasting tens of millions of rands on useless programmes and giving contracts to friends – including a supplier who claimed to be the father of one of her children.

Matilda Gaboo, head of the broadcaster’s international programme acquisition division until May last year (2008), is alleged to have wasted at least R49 million in two years in over-payments and TV programmes that were not screened.

It has been established that the investigation into Gaboo, 45, was triggered after she dumped a bag containing R121 584 cash for business-class air tickets for a close friend, ANC treasurer-general Matthews Phosa and her child on the desk of a travel agent.

The Sunday Times is in possession of a preliminary internal audit, which investigated allegations of “mass corruption and gross mismanagement” during Gaboo’s three-year tenure in the department.

It found R38.7 million in wasted money as of September last year. A second audit in the SABC’s ongoing investigation, produced by legal firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr and Comperio Forensics, puts the irregular and wasted expenditure under Gaboo at R49-million as of this week.

This report, presented to the audit committee on Wednesday warned that the amount “could increase” because only 38 of 165 of Gaboo’s deals had been analysed.

With the SABC already projecting a R784-million deficit, experts said that a full audit might show that a single manager swelled the broadcaster’s overdraft by more than a R100 million.

A board member this week described the extent of the wastage as “a colossal scandal.”

The audits reveal how Gaboo:

  • Awarded R22 million in deals to a programme supplier Irfan Bux, a man who, according to the audit reports, claims to be the father of her six-year old daughter;
  • Paid Bux R652 800 for a wildlife series called Be the Creature, although he had paid just R81 600 for it and;
  • Paid UK supplier Mark Deitch more than R500 000 for consulting services and then gave him a contract for $657 000 on the deal.

The auditors said Gaboo appeared to have had such a close relationship with Deitch that she reminded him to get her “Clarins day and night cream” at the duty-free shop and to pick up UK football jerseys for her.

The documents detail how Gaboo had regularly bought programmes without consulting the SABC’s various channels on whether they needed them or had time slots to flight them.

Further details include her buying 173 titles representing thousands of episodes which have never been shown and whose licences have now expired, from movies such as Austin Powers to children’s programmes like Blob Family.

On Friday, Phosa confirmed that Gaboo had bought the airline tickets on his behalf, but said the statement in the audit reports that it was suspicious was incorrect and “defamatory”.

Audits found that on May 11 2006, “Ms Gaboo paid R121 584 in cash at Airwave travel for two business-class return tickets to Los Angeles. (We are) of the opinion that this is a suspicious transaction. It should be reported to the Financial Intelligence Centre.”

Said Phosa: “I remember very well she came to us for a loan, and she got that cash from the company … I was going on business myself.”

It is unclear why Gaboo would have taken a loan from Phosa’s company to pay for his airline ticket.

Gaboo now heads Eveni Investments, a company owned by Phosa’s group.

Her lawyer, Nicqui Galaktiou, said her client had not been given a chance to respond to the findings of the audits, despite numerous requests.

She accused the Sunday Times of “ambushing” and “sabotaging” her client “with allegations that she could not deal with in a vacuum and without access to the report.”

In a letter to SABC board chairman Kanyisiwe Mkonza, Galaktiou said Gaboo had been subject to a 10-hour investigation by auditors on September 25 2007.

The letter states that the conduct of the SABC had undermined her credibility and has adversely impacted on her ability to carry out her work and professional responsibilities and duties.

Broadcast, Electronic Media and Allied Workers’ Union president Hannes du Buisson said that they had warned about Gaboo’s spending three years ago.

“At the time, there were many complaints from buyers at M-Net that they couldn’t compete for programmes because Matilda had pushed the prices (so high).”

An SABC board member said: “What makes it worse is that the board has been calling for action on this since 2007, and has simply been ignored.”

Now “we’ve taken a resolution to recover whatever we can of the money lost, and to take criminal, civil and legal action against those responsible.”

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said the board had in 2007 instructed then group CEO Dali Mpofu to take action, but that he felt the charges needed to be investigated fully in order to protect Gaboo’s labour rights.

He said it was inaccurate to label the label the programmes as “un-needed” because expiring contracts were common. “This is what we call in the industry ‘the dogs and the fleas’.”

Deitch has denied a conflict of interest but said: “I did see a large amount of wastage at the SABC.” – philpr@sundaytimes.co.za

Sunday Times editorial


at 12:24 PM ·



Sunday Times Editorial

Mar 22, 2009

It would be easy to switch channels and write off the SABC as the Orwellian propaganda arm of the country’s ruling party.

It would be easy, but irresponsible. From its genesis as a crude apartheid-era state broadcaster to its current unwieldy incarnation as a public service broadcaster and public commercial service broadcaster, the SABC continues to flounder from crisis to crisis without fulfilling its true potential.

When the Broederbond was evicted from Auckland Park, hopes were raised that the SABC would live up to its mandate — to inform, educate and entertain South African citizens, to contribute to nation-building and nurture democracy, and make us proud of our rich cultural diversity.

But a succession of ANC political appointees to the corridors of SABC power has made the institution no different to what it was under the Nats.

Not only is the SABC mired in never-ending loops of mismanagement, cronyism and political interference, it is also a honeytrap for the greedy.

The Sunday Times this week reveals the wanton wastage of taxpayers’ money by the head of SABC’s international acquisitions department, Matilda Gaboo. Gaboo was appointed by former CEO Dali Mpofu, who oversaw her paying R38-million to friends for television programmes that have never been broadcast.

Even as allegations of mass corruption and gross mismanagement began to emerge, in as early as June 2005, Mpofu did nothing to discipline Gaboo or stop the spending spree. Let us not forget that Mpofu and the current SABC board were manoeuvred into the broadcaster’s hot seats by axed president Thabo Mbeki and his cronies.

A report by auditors Deloitte depicts a scary scenario of the antagonistic relationships in the SABC’s top echelons. It should come as no surprise that corporate governance at the SABC is, as a result, “under severe strain”.

The report identifies a “serious breakdown” in some authorisation, review and accountability structures and processes. It says the board operates in “crisis mode” and interferes in managerial and operational matters.

While we support Deloitte’s recommendation for urgent workshops to restore trust between the broadcaster’s board and its executive managers, and for an overhaul of the board’s structure, we would like to advocate something a bit more revolutionary.

When the next president appoints an SABC board, he should apply his mind to the Broadcasting Act 13(4)(a) and seek individuals who are suited to serve by virtue of their qualifications, expertise and experience in the fields of broadcasting policy and technology, broadcasting regulation, media law, frequency planning, business practice and finance, marketing, journalism, entertainment and education, and social and labour issues.

If the SABC is to attain the ideal of becoming a true public service broadcaster, the individuals appointed as its managers and board members need to be chosen based on skill and experience, as opposed to political sycophancy.

As difficult as this might be for ANC party bosses to grasp, the public broadcaster is meant to serve our democracy, not undermine it.

22 March 2009: The SABC response expresses regret that Gaboo’s name is mentioned as says it will attempt to find the whistleblower

22 March 2009: The DA comments on the Matilda Gaboo saga

26 March 2009: Christine Qunta, deputy chairperson of the SABC board resigns from the board. Businessman Peter Vundla, who also resigned, accused Qunta of constantly interfering in the day to day running of the SABC.

30 March 2009: The SABC’s bankruptcy is impacting on the freelance producers of television documentaries and soapies.

Production houses, together with unions, actors and musicians, are to stage an unprecedented march next week against the SABC for non-payment of nearly R60 million. But the protest could be too late as dozens of companies have had to retrench staff while others face imminent closure.

15 April 2009: BCCSA imposes the highest possible fine on the SABC. Special Assignment was fined R80 000 for a two-part programme that claimed professor Graham Fitch of the University of Cape Town had engaged in acts of sexual molestation. Fitch filed a complaint of defamation. The public broadcaster received a R30,000 fine for the first programme aired on 3 June 2008, and R50,000 for the second on 3 July 2008.

15 April 2009: The SABC vetoes the broadcasting of a Special Assignment TV programme which looks at the state of political satire in South Africa because it features the work of cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) who has been very critical of President Jacob Zuma who, in turn, has sued Zapiro for defamation.

30 April 2009: Zikalala’s contract ends and the Zuma faction do not renew it. Zikalala says he leaves “with my head held high” and attributes all criticism of him to white racism. “If it had been a white journalist, people would not have been so critical,” he said.

10 May 2009: Siphiwe Nyanda appointed Minister of Communications to replace the late Dr Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri. Within months he is splurging money on two million rand BMWs with all available options and spending his time, when in Cape Town at the city’s two most expensive hotels, the Mount Nelson and the Twelve Apostles in Llandudno despite having an official residence in the city. In little more than a year he is removed from office as corruption allegations and stories of dubious tenders awarded to his companies swirl around him. The apparent catalyst in his removal is when he dismisses his director general, Mamodupi Mohlala, after she thwarted his attempts to gain control of the tender awarding process in the ministry. Instead of being dismissed in ignominy he is given a sinecure in the Presidency. This was hardly surprising as he was an important ally of Jacob Zuma in the war of attrition against Thabo Mbeki and he posted a letter on the Friends of Jacob Zuma website accusing the media of being part of the vendetta against Zuma: http://www.friendsofjz.co.za/showarticle.asp?id=54

15 May 2009: The Mail & Guardian reveals how wasteful expenditure has reduced the SABC to bankruptcy.

16 May 2009: The Saturday Star reveals that the bankrupting of the SABC by internal looting is threatening the future of popular soapies

The future of the country's most popular soapies and dramas hangs in the balance this weekend.

The SABC has failed to pay nearly 20 production houses more than R40-million, and now many of the smaller ones have had to lay off staff to avoid bankruptcy.

Two months ago, the affected companies formed the Independent Producers Organisation (IPO) to negotiate and communicate with the SABC after the broadcaster's executives told them there was no money to pay them.

27 May 2009: The Mail & Guardian posts the Zapiro documentary on political satire on its website and so great is the traffic that the website struggles to cope

28 May 2009: The SABC says it has laid a charge of theft with the police against the Mail & Guardian after the newspaper had posted on its website a documentary on political satire featuring cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) – which the Corporation had refused to broadcast. The newspaper had more than 40 000 hits for this item causing the website to crash and forcing it to post it on a secondary site, zoopy.com

29 May 2009: Snuki Zikalala who helped bankrupt the SABC and destroyed its news credibility praises himself.

29 May 2009: SAPA reveals that with major television productions houses facing penury because the looted SABC is not paying for programmes already delivered and, furthermore, is not commissioning new programmes. They are planning a protest demonstration outside the Auckland Park headquarters of the state broadcaster.

A coalition of television workers plans to protest against the public broadcaster’s non-payment of millions of rands to independent producers which, it claims, has led to retrenchments throughout the industry.

The Television Industry Emergency Coalition (TVIEC), which claims to represent more than 80% of local content on air, said the protest would take place next Thursday. “The protest has been provoked by the public broadcaster’s nonpayment of millions of rands to independent producers and the subsequent retrenchments that are occurring throughout the industry,” the coalition said yesterday. Production companies, industry organisations, unions, friends of the industry, soapie stars, actors and technicians were expected to take part in the action. The coalition said the protest, scheduled to take place in Johannesburg and Cape Town, had not only been sparked by anger over nonpayment, but also by “much deeper and more significant issues”.

These included “unfair terms of trade, unsustainable business relationships with the content creators, unfair rights ownership and a deep arrogance manifested in the heavy- handed management style the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) displays”. The coalition said it had held several meetings with the SABC in past months, but had not received any “credible feedback”. “Crews and cast are without work, production companies are facing closure and viewers are being cheated of quality programming.

“Estimates of up to R58m owed have been made, but it is not possible to confirm this amount as the SABC has been unwilling to reveal the extent of the debt,” said the TVIEC. The SABC is facing a R784m deficit this year. It has been plagued by in- fighting between its axed CEO Dali Mpofu and its former head of news, Snuki Zikalala, while at least three board members have resigned since March. Beeld newspaper reported yesterday that local producers had received a text message from the SABC, telling them to stop all new production. Several newspapers had reported that popular soap operas such as Isidingo and 7de Laan might be pulled off air because of nonpayment. The coalition said budgets were now lower than they were seven years ago. “This while SABC management takes home exorbitant fees and performance bonuses - some bonuses exceed an entire year’s production fee for a major daily soap - and enjoy first-class air travel, five-star hotel suites and lavish entertainment,” it said. SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said he was not aware of the planned protest. “We are finalising a follow-up meeting between them and us.

“We are trying to find a relevant date for that,” he said. Kganyago said the SABC was also due to meet disgruntled unions yesterday to discuss the implementation of salary increases. Sapa

8 June 2009: Business Day reveals that while the financial plight of the SABC has received a lot of attention and grabbed headlines, what is less well known is the effect that this was having on independent film production companies that rely on SABC commissions to survive.

Charl Blignaut, of Mojo Movie Factory, which produces the programmes Tshisa, Moferefere Lenyalong, and Mtunzini.com, said his firm had waited for final payment from the SABC for a year. "After eight months, they came up with a dodgy claim that we owed R40000 in breakages and had us resubmit the invoice.

"We have it on record that those producers whose programmes have been delivered are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to payment," Blignaut said.

"Our doors are closing, our houses are on the market, our children are being pulled out of varsity and actors are starving."


8 June 2009: In a Mail & Guardian Thought Leader article Michael Trapido sums up corruption at the SABC citing former television chief Molefe Mokgatle, corporate communications head, Thaninga Shope and Matilda Gaboo.

11 June 2009: Bheki Khumalo, Andile Mbeki and Desmond Golding resign from the SABC board

12 June 2009: In a hard-hitting editorial, Financial Mail editor, Barney Mthombothi, compares the SABC to George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Shame or embarrassment does not even begin to capture the amalgam of utter madness, incompetence, greed, and vanity that has reduced a once proud institution into the butt of jokes and ridicule. George Orwell must have had the SABC in mind when he penned Animal Farm, his classic novel on how greed and wickedness can betray a revolution. The pigs have taken control at the SABC, and they're merrily trashing the place.

18 June 2009: ICASA’s Complaints and Compliance Committee says it has no authority to rule on internal journalistic matters of the public broadcaster and it thus declines to uphold the appeal by the FXI against the failure of the SABC to act on the blacklisting scandal report of the Sisulu/Marcus Commission of Inquiry.

24 June 2009: It finally dawns on the Mbeki-appointed board that the Zuma faction is determined to get rid of them by hook or by crook. Christine Qunta tells parliament it is by crook. She said she was “amazed” by the level of the ANC’s interference in the SABC.

“Phone calls and demands made to board members … I was shocked by the ANC’s meddling,” she said after the sitting of the committee.

She referred to Blade Nzimande, secretary general of the SACP, who also interfered in the SABC’s business, but did not want to elaborate on the details. “I am an ANC supporter, but that was just too much and completely unacceptable.”

Qunta read a statement on behalf of nine board members (herself, Mkhonza, Tlakula, Alison Gillwald, Gloria Serobe, Desmond Golding, Andile Mbeki, Fadiela Lagadien and Nadia Bulbulia) in which they objected to the manner in which an investigation into the Corporation was being conducted. Three members (Bheki Khumalo, Peter Vundla and Ashwin Trikamjee) distanced themselves from the statement.

26 June 2009: Organised labour and specifically the unions at the SABC send a memo to acting COO, Gab Mampone, detailing the endemic corruption at the Corporation and setting out who they thinks is responsible and the amounts involved. www.tvsa.co.za/downloads/ToBeReadAtHQ.doc

26 June 2009: Massive debts and a spate of top-level resignations have pushed South Africa's public broadcaster to near-collapse, threatening a network once styled as the voice of the country's democracy. The resignation of eight of the SABC's 12 board members as well as its chairman in recent weeks are just the latest in a string of scandals plaguing the debt-ridden broadcaster.

The board no longer has enough members to take binding decisions. Workers are on strike over a pay dispute, independent producers fume over lack of payment and a deadlock over how to proceed means no decisions are being taken at any level. "If the board does not function, the SABC does not function. The legal constraints and protection of its own statutes (mean) that if the board does not meet, the SABC literally grinds to a halt," said board member Alison Gillwald.

She was addressing parliament's communications committee, which on Thursday opened an inquiry into what committee chair Ismael Vadi termed a "lack of effective corporate governance." Gillwald said members had resigned in the middle of an incomplete audit process. The hamstrung board cannot now take decisions on salary increases or on critical expenditure for coverage of the 2010 football World Cup.

The SABC is crippled by over 800 million rand (US$98 million) in debt and is seeking a two billion rand cash injection from the government. Newspaper reports have outlined 40 million rand owed to producers, threatening to sink popular local soap operas, the network's bread-and-butter advertising vehicles. Even parliament seems unsure how to proceed, with the committee struggling to agree whether the enquiry should continue and where the blame lay for the rot at the SABC.

30 June 2009: Hansard reveals that Parliament has adopted the Report of the Portfolio Committee on Communications on the inquiry into the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Board and recommends, to the appointing authority, the dissolution of the Board as envisaged in section 15A(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act (Act No 4 of 1999), as amended by the Broadcasting Amendment Act (Act No 4 of 2009); and upon the dissolution of the Board, instructs the Portfolio Committee on Communications to proceed immediately with the process of recommending –

  • five persons for appointments to an interim Board as contemplated in section 15A(3)(a) of the Act; and
  • one of the members of the interim Board as the chairperson and another member as the deputy chairperson as contemplated in section 15A(4) of the Act.

3 July 2009: ICT personalities Irene Charnley and Suzanne Vos are appointed as non-executive directors to the SA Broadcasting Corporation's (SABC's) interim board by Parliament.

14 July 2009: Die Burger devotes a full page to Jeffrey Twala’s abuses in the SABC’s Sea Point news office which has seen this office, once the leading SABC regional office in the country, lose staff at an unprecedented rate and continually being scooped on major news stories by rival news stations such as e.tv and Cape Talk. Even though the article in Die Burger brings the SABC into disrepute, the SABC does nothing because Twala has long-standing connections with senior ANC political figures from the Easter Cape such as Ngconde Balfour and Makhenkesi Stofile


16 July 2009: SAPA reveals that the newly-appointed Communications Minister, Siphiwe Nyanda, has lost no time in splurging on not one, but two top-of-the-range BMWs fitted with every available option.(He later becomes known that “the Minister of Luxury” as the Mail & Guardian calls him, also stays at Cape Town’s ultimate in luxury hotels, the Mount Nelson and the Twelve Apostles at Llundudno whenever he is in Cape Town – which is often – and that while there he sips the finest wines and whiskies at tax payers’ expense.)

In a written reply to a parliamentary question, posed by the Democratic Alliance, he said the new vehicles—both 2009 BMW 750i models—cost R1 135 500 each.

His reply also reveals the cars are fitted with R148 400 worth of extras, including, in the Pretoria-based vehicle, a R23 400 “rear-seat entertainment” system and a R5 600 “high-gloss satin chrome” paint job.

Nyanda said the existing official vehicles available for him had either done more than 120 000km, or were more than five years old, and in terms of the Cabinet-approved Ministerial Handbook he was entitled to new ones.

“The vehicle for use in Cape Town was nine years old, and had reached 115 072km. The vehicle for use in Pretoria was four years old, and had reached 137 194km,” he said.

His new Pretoria vehicle has an array of extra features, including a R35 800 “innovation’s package inclusive of rear view camera, ceramic surround for controls, ambient interior lighting, adaptive headlights, high beam assist, lane departure warning [and] lane change warning”.

Its Cape Town twin is fitted with a three-spoke leather steering wheel. It too has a rear-view camera.

In a statement on Thursday, DA communications spokesperson Lindiwe Mazibuko described the purchase of the vehicles as “frivolous and a massive waste of public money”.

Her party would be submitting follow-up questions on the matter.

“During this time of economic crisis when hundreds of thousands of ordinary South Africans are losing their jobs and businesses across the country are shutting down, government should be setting the tone for austerity and sound financial management,” she said. – Sapa

26 July 2009: SABC chief financial officer Robin Nicholson told an urgently convened parliamentary inquiry into the SABC board that it had left the public broadcaster in a mess: “The board got a motor car that was rusty, with the wheels wobbly, and drove it off the cliff”, he told the inquiry.. Desmond Golding, a former member of the board said the SABC was “thick on wastage and inefficiency and thin on accountability”. He said the SABC had been “pillaged” by corrupt staff.

28 July 2009: Communications Minister, Siphiwe Nyanda, appoints 12 industry experts to investigate problems at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

This was to “ensure a turnaround of the situation at the SABC and Sentech”, a statement said.

“Several meetings were held between the department [of communications], the SABC and Sentech to look into challenges faced by the two organisations. A 12-member team was subsequently appointed.”

The team comprises “industry and labour experts”.

It will advise the minister on “strategies to ensure that the public broadcaster achieves its constitutional mandate of providing quality and reliable public broadcasting services to the public”.

The team will conduct a review of the SABC’s human resource needs, advise the minister on the best funding model for the broadcaster and decide if the current business model between the SABC and Sentech should be changed.

The team will also review the business plans of the SABC and Sentech. (Mail & Guardian)

11 August 2009: Business Day reports that SABC News International, the corporation’s grandiose plan for an “African Al Jazeera” was bankrupt and increasingly dysfunctional

11 August 2009: Kevin Davie of the Mail & Guardian analyses the bankruptcy of SABC News International

14 August 2009: A settlement and a Restraint of Trade Agreement is signed between the chairperson of the interim board, Irene Charnley and the former GCEO, Dali Mpofu.

16 August 2009: The chairperson of the SABC interim board and MTN’s former head of North African and Middle East operations, Irene Charnley, announces that taxpayers were going to have to reward Dali Mpofu - on whose watch the SABC was bankrupted and had its news credibility destroyed - with R13.4 million to ensure that he would go away and keep quiet. This sum includes a restraint of trade agreement of R4.4m which the SABC does not have: “The Restraint of Trade payment related to this is based on the potential loss of earnings arising from restrictions placed on Adv Mpofu. An amount of R4.4m has been agreed on, and the Department of Communications has agreed to compensate the SABC in full for such payment.” Both Business Day and the Financial Mail unequivocally describe this as a bribe.

The R4.4 million was then paid by the Department of Communications even though this was reportedly not budgeted for.

(In June 2012, a senior former MTN executive, Chris Kilowan, tells a US civil court that he assisted Charnley to pay a two hundred thousand dollar bribe to Yusuf Saloojee, South Africa’s former ambassador to Iran, for his assistance in acquiring for MTN the mobile phone licence in Iran. Thereafter, the SA Department of Foreign Affairs suspends Saloojee before reinstating him a few months later.)

7 September 2009: Bizcommunity reports that a bankrupt SABC is closing down some of its international bureaux:

We are closing down another five of our international news bureaux in Beijing (China), Dakar (Senegal), Brussels (Belgium), Sao Paulo (Brazil) and one of the two offices in New York (US),” Prof Phil Mtimkulu, interim board deputy chair standing in for absent chair Irene Charnley, told a press briefing held late last week, Friday, 4 September 2009, at the SABC headquarters in Johannesburg.

He also said the SABC is scaling down its news operations in other international countries, actively keeping SA correspondents in London (UK), Harare (Zimbabwe) and the United Nations in New York, but contracting locally-based journalists from Kenya and Nigeria to file reports from these countries.

The process of closing these bureaux began on Friday and all closures will be fully completed by the end of December 2009. We are closing down another five of our international news bureaux in Beijing (China), Dakar (Senegal), Brussels (Belgium), Sao Paulo (Brazil) and one of the two offices in New York (US),” Prof Phil Mtimkulu, interim board deputy chair standing in for absent chair Irene Charnley, told a press briefing held late last week, Friday, 4 September 2009, at the SABC headquarters in Johannesburg.

He also said the SABC is scaling down its news operations in other international countries, actively keeping SA correspondents in London (UK), Harare (Zimbabwe) and the United Nations in New York, but contracting locally-based journalists from Kenya and Nigeria to file reports from these countries.

The process of closing these bureaux began on Friday and all closures will be fully completed by the end of December 2009.

16 September 2009: Bua News reports that the bankrupt SABC under an interim board had begun shutting down operations at five of its international news bureaus as it continued to scale down its operations in key African and international countries. The broadcaster would close its bureaus in Beijing, Dakar, Brussels, Sao Paulo and one of the two offices in New York.

The closing of the bureaus began on Friday while all closures will be fully completed by the end of the year. The SABC has already closed its offices in Jamaica and Kinshasa. However, the broadcaster will continue to have correspondents in Harare in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kenya, the United Kingdom as well as the United Nations in New York.

The SABC's interim board chairperson, Irene Charnley, said the broadcaster's continued presence in these countries would ensure that it could continue to deliver diverse and relevant African and international news and current affairs to its audiences.

According to the board, the closure of the offices was decided on after careful consideration of the broadcaster's mandate and the need to ensure that it brings its costs in line with its revenue. The approved budget for bureaus for this year was under R37 million. But Charnley explained that if the news bureaus had continued, this spending was projected to have been R60 million in excess of budget. "With the closures, including the costs related to shutting these down, we will save a minimum of just over R7 million," she said.

18 September 2009: The Auditor General submits a report detailing massive corruption: http://www.pmg.org.za/files/docs/090922agreport.pdf

24 September 2009: Report by auditor general reveals that Dali Mpofu and Mafika Sihlali signed off a R1.7-billion deal without authority. No action is taken.

2 October 2009: The Mail & Guardian reveals that four top executives at the crisis-ridden SABC—including chief financial officer Robin Nicholson and the group executive of content enterprises Mvuso Mbebe—have been asked to supply reasons to the interim SABC board why they should not be suspended.

5 November 2009: Bantu Holomisa of the UDM submits a letter to the chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications, Ismail Vadi, in which he seeks answers to the role played by Matilda Gaboo, a close friend of Matthews Phosa, in alleged corruption at the SABC.

8 November 2009: The Star reveals that the SABC has been paying a consultancy half a million rand a month.

17 November 2009: The SABC announces that it will not broadcast a documentary offered to it by Health E highlighting the role that President Thabo Mbeki’s AIDs policies played in the country’s rate of death as a result of the pandemic. The programme is then offered to eTV which agrees to broadcast it.

“The film looks at the havoc that Aids denialism has wreaked,” said 3rd Degree executive producer Debora Patta.

“It’s a damning documentary. We offered Mbeki a chance to respond, and he declined.”

Health-e said the SABC did not refuse to air the documentary, but took too long to decide whether or not to use it.

“They never refused to air it,” said Cullinan. “They took a long time to decide whether they wanted it. They never gave us a reason why.”

Cullinan said financial concerns forced them to look elsewhere to broadcast the documentary.

The documentary, entitled The Price of Denial, investigates the impact of former president Mbeki’s government’s denial about HIV/Aids and treatment for ordinary South Africans living with HIV/Aids. It was produced by Anna-Maria Lombard, winner of the CNN African Journalist of the Year 2009 Award for HIV/Aids reporting.

It quotes a 2008 Harvard University study, led by Harvard-based Zimbabwean physician Dr Pride Chigwedere, which found that Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang were directly responsible for more than 330 000 Aids-related deaths during their tenure.

17 November 2009: eTV’s investigative news programme, 3rd Degree announces that it will broadcast a documentary on the role that former President Thabo Mbeki played in the country’s AIDs crisis – after the SABC refused to screen it: http://www.theswitchboard.net/index.php?topic=21497.0;wap2

22 November 2009: Weekend Argus reveals that SABC political reporter, Sophie Mokoena, an avowed supporter of former President Thabo Mbeki who became a multimillionaire overnight when she was the recipient of Bato Bhonke shares from Tokyo Sexwale, is facing disciplinary action for calling rival radio station, 702, under a pseudonym to undermine the state broadcaster.

Weekend Argus has obtained a copy of the charge sheet, which says Mokoena is to be charged with bringing the SABC into disrepute, dishonesty, breaching her employment contract and contravening SABC rules and regulations.

Mokoena allegedly called Talk Radio 702 in July during the SABC pay strike, identifying herself as "Fatima" during a show hosted by Redi Direko and voicing an opinion about the troubles plaguing the public broadcaster.

Listeners called in after the show, saying they recognised the voice as Mokoena's.

The charge sheet notes that Mokoena misrepresented her identity.

"That conduct constitutes an act of dishonesty which has a direct bearing on your reliability, integrity and credibility as an SABC journalist, which situation in turn inflicts serious damage to the SABC news brand."

Under the charge of bringing the SABC into disrepute, Mokoena is accused of "making disparaging statements about the SABC and SABC management" when she called the talk show.

"Should these facts be proven, it will constitute an act of non-compliance with the duties of your contract of employment (and) alternatively contravention of SABC rules and regulations."

Mokoena is also accused of contravening employment regulations by taking part in a show on a radio station that operates in competition with the SABC without permission.

24 November 2009: Communications Minister, Siphiwe Nyanda announces that Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan had approved the SABC’s application for a R1.5 billion bailout.

According to the Treasury, a "draw-down" of R1bn would be made available immediately.

The remaining R473m would be subject to the broadcaster presenting a plan with clear revenue targets and cost-cutting measures, to enable effective oversight and monitoring

10 December 2009: The Paris-based agent for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) serves a summons on the cash-strapped South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) for money it claims it is owed for a R1-billion contract it signed with the broadcaster.

The contract was raised in Parliament in November 2009 by interim board member and advocate Leslie Sedibe, who described it as "shocking". Attempts were being made to renegotiate the contract, but CAF agent SportFive is understood to have served a summons on the SABC.

At the end of 2009 Mvuzo Mbebe, the group executive for content enterprises, signed a R1-billion deal for the TV rights to all CAF games in the next eight years. The corporation's interim board has since suspended Mbebe.

The extraordinary price paid for the contract was allegedly not authorised by the former SABC board, which was aware of the crippling funding crisis gripping the broadcaster. Mbebe signed the contract at a time of mounting SABC debt, when senior executives had already been briefed on two occasions about the broadcaster's financial crisis.

SABC sources told the Mail & Guardian the corporation's chief financial officer, Robin Nicholson, had repudiated the deal. Mbebe and Nicholson flew to Paris in February this year to renegotiate the contract. It is understood that the guarantee was dropped and the terms of payment renegotiated.

15 December 2009: President Jacob Zuma announces the new SABC board. In terms of section 13(3) of the Broadcasting Act, the President designated Dr Ben Ngubane as Chairperson of the Board and Felleng Sekha as Deputy. The other members are: Cedric Sabelo Gina, Phillipa "Pippa" Green, Peter John Harris, Barbara Masekela, Magathe Mello, Nkotomane Motsepe, David Niddrie, Claire O'Neil, Felleng Sekha, Suzanne Vos and Desmond Golding

17 December 2009: The Democratic Alliance on Thursday said new SABC chief executive Solly Mokoetle had undermined the public broadcaster's independence by saying he was accountable to Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda.

The party pointed out that he should rather consider himself accountable to the SABC board and to Parliament.

Mokoetle reportedly said in a radio interview that he considered himself accountable first to Nyanda.

"By pledging his allegiance to the government and not to the board Mr Mokoetla has made exactly the wrong start to his new position.

"His pronouncement undermines good corporate governance and the independence of a public broadcaster which is already on shaky ground," said DA spokeswoman and MP Lindiwe Mazibuko.