1 January 2010: Solly Mokoetle takes up his appointment as SABC CEO on a five year contract. He was appointed by the board’s interim chair, Irene Charnley (later implicated in an MTN bribery scandal) despite the fact that he had left the SABC under a cloud in December 2006 after a damning audit report compiled by Gobodo Forensic and Investigative Accounting in 2005. The report found he had badly failed in his corporate governance duties.
A year after he was deployed he was gone, happily pocketing a R3.4-million golden handshake – not a bad return for a year’s “work” in which he proved himself unable to implement a promised ‘turnaround strategy” and at constant loggerheads with the SABC board.
5 January 2010: COPE calls on Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda to explain the appointment of Solly Mokoetle as SABC chief executive officer.
Cope said in a statement it had learned that Mokoetle was "subjected to a disciplinary process" when he was chief operations officer at the SABC.
"Not only this, it was recommended that due to the nature of the charges he was found guilty of, Mr Mokoetle be criminally charged."
"Despite this, the minister has seen fit to appoint this person as CEO of the SABC."
15 January 2010: The new SABC CEO, Solly Mokoetle, vows to restore the integrity of the SABC
20 February 2010: Gareth van Onselen, DA Executive Director of Communications reveals in a press release that, with the ANC’s education policy a catastrophic disaster, the DA notified all media that Helen Zille would be the main speaker at a national education campaign in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria. An hour before the event, SABC TV pulled its cameras off the launch, refusing to give an explanation for why, and despite confirming that they would be in attendance a few days prior. Indeed they confirmed they would be there the night before.
Every other media outlet in the country was present at the launch to cover primarily the speech by DA Leader Helen Zille. Even SABC Radio was in attendance. It is indisputable that this event constituted significant news.
The DA tried to contact four or five key individuals at the SABC and none of them were able or willing to provide an explanation for why the cameras were pulled.
The public broadcaster's refusal to provide any explanation for why it withdrew its cameras suggests that it has an ulterior motive, and not one that has to do with accurately, objectively and fairly reporting the news to the South African public.
We will be taking the matter up with the head of news, Paul Molefe and look forward to the SABC's explanation.
12 March 2010: The Mail & Guardian calls Communications Minister, Siphiwe Nyanda the “Minister of Luxury”.
When in Cape Town Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda lives a five-star life at the city’s top hotels—courtesy of the taxpayer.
Since taking office in May last year, Nyanda has not spent one night in his ministerial residence.
Instead, he uses the lavish rooms of the Mount Nelson and The Twelve Apostles hotels at a minimum cost of R4 000 a night.
A Cabinet colleague of Nyanda told the Mail & Guardian that the reason Nyanda had apparently given for refusing to move into his Hooggelegen residence in sought-after Upper Claremont was because the public works department had not bought him a bed.
A senior communications department source confirmed this explanation was also doing the rounds in the department, but added that Nyanda was allegedly also unhappy that his house did not have a view.
Although Nyanda’s spokesperson strongly denied this, the department of public works confirmed on Thursday that Nyanda hadn’t moved in because of a delay with the delivery of furniture “to accommodate him”. Public works spokesperson Thamsanqa Mchunu confirmed that Nyanda’s furniture finally arrived on February 5 and February 26.
But communications department spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso told the M&G on Thursday the house “[was] not ready for occupation”. He confirmed that the communications department has been paying for Nyanda to live in Cape Town hotels since his appointment in May last year.
According to the M&G‘s information, Nyanda stays in the hotels an average of four nights when he visits Cape Town to attend Parliament. If he attended all National Assembly and special sittings since taking office, he would have spent about 88 nights in Cape hotels.
According to its website, The Twelve Apostles charges R4 915 a night for a luxury room and the cheapest suite available costs R8 055 a night.
The M&G was reliably told that Nyanda stayed in a “luxury suite” at this hotel.
The luxury suite at the Mount Nelson that Nyanda uses normally costs R11 095 a night, but hotel invoices in the M&G‘s possession indicate that he pays R4 995 nightly for an “accommodation package”.
If he splits his stays between the two hotels, he could easily have racked up a bill of R400 000 since May last year.
Rikhotso declined to provide a breakdown of Nyanda’s hotel stays, saying he “was not in a position” to do so.
Nyanda checked into the luxury suite at the five-star Mount Nelson this week for four nights. The M&G‘s photographer spotted him leaving the hotel with two bodyguards on Wednesday morning.
When the M&G called the hotel on Wednesday evening, we were transferred to Nyanda’s room and he answered the phone.
The M&G is in possession of two Mount Nelson invoices for Nyanda’s stays in February this year. From February 6 to February 12 he ran up a bill of R33 330 for six nights’ accommodation, food, mini-bar expenses and laundry services.
Between February 14 and February 19, the hotel billed Nyanda R21 417 for four nights’ accommodation and food.
The hotel confirmed that Nyanda stayed at the Mount Nelson from February 19 to February 23.
A policeman at the double-storey Hooggelegen mansion allocated to Nyanda confirmed that it was Nyanda’s official residence, but that the minister had not yet moved in. He said he thought this was because renovations were taking place.
From outside the house the M&G could see no sign of renovations.
Another source in the communications department said Nyanda wanted to swap his Cape Town mansion with that of Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, a neighbour of President Jacob Zuma. Rikhotso called the claim “malicious”.
Pandor lives in Groote Schuur Estate, where Zuma and most of his ministers reside.
“First the BMW, now this. It’s very embarrassing to leaders of the ANC,” a senior ANC national executive committee member remarked this week.
“How do you tell people to work together with us for a better future when a minister is willing to spend almost 10 grand in one night on accommodation?”
Last year Nyanda came under fire for spending R2,4-million on two luxury BMWs for his Cape Town and Pretoria offices.
Last week the M&G went on a conducted tour of Nyanda’s usual suite at the Mount Nelson. The sweeping marbled entrance to the Lord Nelson suite is breathtaking and the rooms are decorated in a modern colonial style.
Superbly done out by Cape decorator Graham Viney in creamy silk fabrics, it has a decadently lavish interior.
A mirror image of the neighbouring suite that talk show host Oprah Winfrey occupied when she visited Cape Town, it is surrounded by magnificent gardens.
Staff at the glamorous five-star Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, which stands like a glossy beacon above Llandudno Beach, said the minister booked “quite a number of rooms” when he came to stay.
Nyanda had stayed there recently, said a staffer, while another insisted that he had booked out of The Twelve Apostles last Thursday.
Surrounded by the Table Mountain National Park, this boutique hotel is decked out in an eclectic contemporary African style and boasts breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. It also has 24-hour room service and a luxury spa.
12 March 2010: The Mail & Guardian reports that opposition parties have slammed Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda’s “champagne and caviar” lifestyle.
Cope MP Juli Kilian added her voice to that of the South African Students Congress (Sasco) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) on Friday who criticised Nyanda for spending thousands of rands on hotel stays at the luxury Mount Nelson and Twelve Apostles hotels.
“It is insensitive to the plight of the poor and the tax burden of the middle class to scandalously waste public money on luxurious hotels. South Africans are battling to survive the effects of the economic meltdown. The minister cannot sustain a caviar and silk lifestyle at the cost of hard-working South Africans, who are battling to honour their financial commitments,” said Kilian.
Cope will further probe the matter “until all facts have emerged”.
Sasco earlier demanded of Nyanda to pay back the money spent on hotel accommodation while he waited for furniture to be delivered to his official residence.
“We are enraged and in fact we are disgusted as the South African Students Congress by this opulence so brazenly enjoyed by comrade Nyanda at the expense of the population,” Sasco said in a statement. “Thousands of students voted for the ANC out of the hope that it would deliver a better life for all and not a better life for its ministers. The ANC must reign in on comrade Nyanda otherwise he will cost us badly as the movement in the coming local government elections.”
Sasco called on government to deduct the hotel costs from Nyanda’s salary “as punishment”.
DA MP Lindiwe Mazibuko said on Friday her party will submit parliamentary questions to determine at what cost Nyanda has been staying at the luxury hotels.
Nyanda’s spokesperson confirmed to the M&G that he was staying at the hotels, but declined to confirm the total amount spent so far on luxury accommodation.
“Since it is unclear exactly how much has been spent on luxury hotels for the minister since he assumed office in May last year, we will be asking parliamentary questions to establish this,” said Mazibuko.
She added: “Minister Nyanda, having acquired the most expensive ministerial car to date at the expense of the struggling South African taxpayer, is no stranger to this controversy. The South African public cannot be expected to continue footing the bill for the ANC government’s taste for big spending—particularly while millions of our people continue to live in abject poverty.”
Kilian quipped that the ANC’s slogan should be amended to read: “Working together we can get more”.
12 March 2010: Kate Skinner of the SOS coalition reveals that the documentation relating to the alleged looting of the SABC by Matilda Gaboo, a close friend of Matthews Phosa, has been handed to the SAPS.
31 March 2010: Two years and eight months after it was launched, the costly “African Al Jazeera” folly of Snuki Zikalala, Eddie Funde and Christine Qunta, otherwise known as SABC News International, closes down. It has cost about half a billion rand, has an audience limited to, at most, a few thousand people and has produced no advertising revenue.
6 April 2010: The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) demands the immediate reinstatement of suspended SABC3 news anchor Mahendra Raghunath.
“His suspension is a continuation of the Snukification of the SABC news division by both acting head of news Phil Molefe and SABC TV news head Amrit Manga,” CWU spokesperson Matankana Mothapo said in a statement.
8 April 2010: ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema explodes in an abusive tirade during a news conference at Luthuli House against BBC journalist Jonah Fisher. Before demanding that Fisher leave, Malema said: “We don’t force anybody to come here. We would be worried if the SABC doesn’t come, but the rest of you to be honest, we really don’t care. SABC is our own but the rest, it’s OK whether you come or you don’t come. We don’t have a problem.”
25 April 2010: Loyiso Sidimba reveals in Rapport that the SABC’s former head of Programme Content, Mvuzo Mbebe, had, without authorization, spent more than a billion rand on programmes. He had also claimed R285 000 for petrol at a time when the Corporation was effectively bankrupt. http://188.8.131.52/argief/berigte/citypress/2010/04/26/CP/3/lsMbebe.html
The SABC sought to discipline Mbebe and the matter went to the Labour Court in Johannesburg. Among the concerns about Mbebe’s performance as indicated in the SABC’s submissions were:
- An acknowledgement of debt for R94.4-million which, without having the authority, he signed with Super Sport
- Paying more than R100-million over two years for Disney cartoons
- Purchasing 260 episodes of Days of our Lives for R46-million
- Approving three motivations of R13.4-million for unspecified licensing rights
- Buying 121 programmes for R18-million
- Entering into a licensing agreement for unspecified programme content costing R9.3-million
- Exceeding his powers by entering into agreements of more than R5.5 – million
- He was also charged with excessive spending for putting in petrol claims of R285 000 between January 2007 and July 2009
12 May 2010: A reply to a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary question reveals that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) spent R 725 000 on acquiring the rights to the film, Ungumuntu Ngabantu: Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, an inaccurate "documentary" account of the life of President Zuma. In reply to a DA question, the Minister of Communications described the documentary on President Zuma as 'factually correct'. However, the DA, on viewing the DVD said that significant portions of Mr Zuma's life had been omitted from this account. “In fact, remarkably, the documentary does not even deal with the corruption charges which were brought against Mr Zuma in 2007. The programme can rightly be described as propaganda since its purpose is clearly to promote the President, regardless of the facts, rather than to inform the public as to his history.”
21 May 2010: The National Union of Mineworkers (NUMSA) and Cosatu expressed concern that with the “seemingly unprocedural and flawed “ appointment of Phil Molefe as the SABC’s head of news by chairman Dr Ben Ngubane and Group Chief Executive Solly Mokoetle, the broadcaster was being turned into a “propaganda machine”.
“This appointment raises serious suspicions that the GCEO (SABC group chief executive Solly Mokoetle) acted to appease certain individuals who want to use the SABC as their propaganda spewing machine."
The union demanded that the appointment of a new news chief to fill the long-vacant post of Snuki Zikalala be done "through a transparent and open process".
It said the decision to appoint Molefe "compromises the board’s immediate mandate of rebuilding the public broadcaster from the board’s previous squabbles and shenanigans".
Molefe has been acting in the position since Zikalala left more than a year ago.
There was considerable confusion on Friday as to whether he had indeed been appointed on a permanent basis.
Key positions filled
Mokoetle on Thursday issued a statement saying: "The board and I are happy that this matter has been brought to finality as promised as this was a key vacant position that needed to be filled to stabilise the corporation."
But newspapers reported on Friday that Felleng Sekha, the deputy chairperson of the SABC board and head of the board's news subcommittee, said the board had yet to take a decision.
The Cape Times said Sekha recorded an interview for SABC's PM Live radio programme in which she distanced herself from the executive's decision but it was never aired.
The newspaper quoted fellow board member David Niddrie as saying: "I was surprised to learn of the appointment."
"There was a panel delegated to consider and recommend to the board ... We have not received those recommendations."
23 May 2010: The Mail & Guardian reports that the SABC’s board contends that the unilateral appointment of Phil Molefe as the broadcaster’s head of news by Ngubane and Mokoetle was unlawful.
The SABC board resolved that the purported appointment of the group executive news and current affairs head, Mr Phil Molefe is null and void and has no legal effect," spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said.
The statement follows a board meeting held after Molefe's appointment. Molefe had been acting in the position for a year.
"In a special board meeting the board heard legal opinion that the appointment was not lawful because it had not been made by the board in a manner required by the SABC's memorandum and articles of association.
"The articles of association and delegation of authority framework states that appointments at a group executive level must be made by the board," Kganyago said.
The ten members of the 12 member board who attended the meeting on agreed to continue with the "process of assessing candidates that had not yet been concluded".
"The decision taken by the board is not intended to harm or prejudice any candidate but is solely aimed at conforming to corporate governance rules.
"It should be stressed that the board regrets any embarrassment to any of the candidates for the position of chief executive news and current affairs," he said.
25 May 2010: The Media Workers Association of South Africa (MWASA) welcomes the decision by the SABC board to nullify the appointment of Phil Molefe as head of the news division.
"Mwasa is relieved at the decision by the SABC board to nullify the undemocratic process which resulted in Mr Phil Molefe being installed," Mwasa acting general secretary Ernest Dlamini said.
"We wish to applaud those men and women of integrity in the board who stood against manipulation by a few whose agenda is... anomalous with good governance in the SABC."
Phil Molefe, who until last week was the acting head of news at the SABC, was confirmed in his position by group chief executive Solly Mokoetle and board chairperson Ben Ngubane.
This was done without the approval of the rest of the board.
3 June 2010: Cape Town – Government departments were ordered not to splurge on 2010 World Cup tickets, spokesperson Themba Maseko said on Thursday after it emerged that state entities and the SABC spent nearly R6m on securing match seats.
"Advice has been given to departments, government departments, not to purchase, but we are aware that some agencies, state agencies, may be acquiring tickets for a variety of reasons," he told a post-Cabinet briefing.
Maseko declined to comment on the SABC's decision to spend R3.3m on 2000 tickets for the June 11-July 11 soccer extravaganza and buying sprees by other state bodies, including one government department.
The DA sharply criticised the buying spree and said it would ask Treasury to investigate all ticket purchases at all levels of government as cases of irregular expenditure.
"The question is why those who are well-placed to be able to afford tickets are now getting state-subsidised tickets, when many ordinary South Africans have been unable to get tickets," DA MP Niekie van den Berg said.
"If anyone should be getting state-subsidised tickets, it is poor South Africans who cannot afford them. Those who can afford tickets should pay their way to the matches; they should not get them free from the state, via the SABC or any other state entity."
He said the SABC could not justify buying tickets "given that entity's current financial status".
"In 2009, the SABC received a R1.4bn guarantee from the national Treasury. The guarantee was awarded with the condition that the SABC would institute cost-cutting measures."
8 June 2010: The SABC board sends a memorandum to Communications Minister, Siphiwe Nyanda, detailing an irrevocable breakdown in trust with board chairman, Dr Ben Ngubane. The catalyst was Ngubane’s unilateral and illegal attempt to appoint Phil Molefe as CE of News:
This memorandum sets out the details of and background to a purported appointment of a candidate the vacant post of group executive: news and current affairs (GE News) of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on 20 May 2110. It also sets out the background to and circumstances leading up to decisions by a special sitting of the Board of directors of the SABC on 22 May 2010. It's divided into four sections:
- The purported appointment of the GE News by the chairperson and events leading up to and consequent upon the purported appointment.
- Other material breaches by the chairperson of statutory requirements and governance protocols of governance protocols of concern to the Baard, including attempts to breach the Public Finance Management Act, and by the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO), including actions which the Board is advised constitute dereliction of duty.
- Decisions of the Board on 22 May 2010:
- The purported appointment is nuIl and void
- Unanimous decision by non-executives that their relationship with and trust the chairperson have irrevocably broken down.
- Initiatives by the Board to integrate the chairperson into Board, and to consult its statutory stakeholders (the Executive authority and Accounting Authority).
As is clear from the memorandum, the chairperson has
- Engaged in a consistent pattern of behaviour through which he has sought to usurp the proper authority of the Board
- Materially breached his statutory obligations under the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), the Broadcasting Act (the Act), and the requirements of the SABC Memorandum and Articles of Association (the Articles). In doing so he has placed the Board in broach of nine of the 12 duties set out in the Articles which are collectively binding on directors
- Placed both the SABC and individual directors at risk of serious financial liability and of potential civil litigation or criminal prosecution
- Delayed and prevented the development and implementation of coherent and statutorily-compliant process of turning the SABC around and re-establishing it as a financially sustainable entity.
The Board has taken all reasonable steps to attempt both to integrate the chairperson into a system which operates in a consistent and compliant manner, and to enlighten him as to the obligations of the Board collectively and of directors individually.
It has also repeatedly attempted to advise and inform the GCEO of his obligations and responsibilities.
July 2010: Helen Zille and Lindiwe Mazibuko of the DA hold a meeting with the chairman of the SABC board, Dr Ben Ngubane. During the meeting Zille asks Ngubane to repudiate what Julius Malema had said during his abusive tirade against BBC journalist Jonah Fisher three months earlier: “We don’t force anybody to come here. We would be worried if the SABC doesn’t come, but the rest of you to be honest, we really don’t care. SABC is our own but the rest, it’s OK whether you come or you don’t come. We don’t have a problem.”
Ngubane angrily refused to distance the SABC from Malema’s statement.
15 July 2010: Communications Minister, Siphiwe Nyanda denies “false and malicious” reports that he is going to dismiss his department’s director general Mamodupi Mohlala, following alleged disagreements over the issuing of tenders by the department and other matters. Business Day reported that Nyanda was expected to suspend Mohlala following repeated disagreements over tenders she refused to sign.
It was understood that Mohlala warned Nyanda this week that removing the administration of tenders from her would violate the PFMA. His spokesman, Tiyani Rikhotso, said: "Minister Nyanda dismisses the allegations contained in the report as false, spurious and malicious." Two weeks later, all these denials are proved to be untrue when Mohlala is dismissed.
16 July 2010: The Mail & Guardian reveals further details of Communications Minister, Siphiwe Naynda’s lavish lifestyle lived at tax payers’ expense:
While dining alone during his stay at the five-star Mount Nelson hotel in September last year, Nyanda did not stint on life’s finer pleasures, invoices reveal. The minister’s meal on September 8 last year at the hotel’s acclaimed Cape Colony Restaurant started with oysters, followed by a main course of springbok loin and was washed down with a bottle of mineral water and two glasses of Bordeaux-style red Meerlust Rubicon. The wine cost R330 and the meal for one took the bill to R700, tip included.
Two days later, Nyanda dropped in at the Planet Champagne bar at the Mount Nelson, where he ordered two glasses of the finest Hennessey French cognac, which cost the taxpayer R330.
Dining with two guests while staying at the five-star Twelve Apostles hotel in November last year, Nyanda ordered a bottle of Stellenbosch’s celebrated Rust en Vrede estate wine for R725, pushing the bill up to R1 660. http://mg.co.za/print/2010-07-16-highflying-minister-was-not-alone
23 July 2012: Despite denials less than a fortnight previously, Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda dismisses his Director General Mamodupi Mohlala. Business Day had reported that Mohlala had refused to approve tenders because they had been awarded “to people close to Nyanda” and his company, General Nyanda Security Services.
29 July 2010: The director-general of the Communications Department, Mamodupi Mohlala, who was dismissed by the Minister of Communications, Siphiwe Nyanda tells the Johannesburg Labour Court that she was instructed to suspend the awarding of tenders until Nyanda had approved them, and to flout employment regulations.
Mohlala lifted the veil on the reasons that led to her criticism of Nyanda in an affidavit filed at the Johannesburg Labour Court. In her appeal to be reinstated after being axed, Mohlala listed several instances that led to her 'invalid, unlawful and unfair' dismissal. She details several cellphone messages from Nyanda's chief of staff, Alfred Mashishi, in which the Minister instructed her 'that all tenders issued or still to be issued ... be suspended, until discussed and approved by the Minister'. Also in her affidavit is a letter from Mashishi, instructing her to suspend several tenders. Mohlala also claims that Nyanda wanted her to reinstate suspended human resources director Basani Baloyi and to drop all legal proceedings against her despite legal advice that a Labour Court ruling to reinstate Baloyi was flawed. Nyanda's spokesperson, Tiyani Rikhotso, said their legal team was studying the paper and was working on a response.
Mohlala also referred to a turbulent meeting with Nyanda on 16 July, which ended in an alleged instruction by the Minister to call a media conference where Mohlala was expected to deny all the allegations of tender interferences. According to a Sake24 report, Mohlala says she asked for time to think about it, but was sacked before the issue was discussed again.
However Juli Kilian, the COPE spokesperson on communication said her party, “...has all along warned that the appointment of Ms Mohlala was problematic – the process followed during the appointment process as well as her suitability for the post.”
She says Cope believes communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda erred when he allowed Mohlala to single-handedly eradicate the department's entire corporate memory, under the guise of taking action against corrupt officials, and replacing them with friends and acquaintances.
Almost all of the DOC's deputy directors-general have either resigned, or been placed on suspension following a forensic audit, with only permanently appointed deputy director-general Harold Wesso remaining.
Kilian says Cope supports the decision to find a more suitable head for this critically strategic department.
“Cope, however, believes that due process should be followed to dismiss her. We also believe the minister's decision to dismiss her should not be based on an irretrievable breakdown in trust between him and her, but rather on the basis of her lack of strategic leadership, and on the basis of irreparable damage done to the department and agencies that report to it,” Kilian says.
She adds that Cope believes the issue of allegedly awarding tenders to companies closely associated to the minister should be investigated. “Ms Mohlala's claims should not summarily be dismissed, but instead should be thoroughly investigated.”
13 August 2010: SAPA reveals that the Save our SABC" (SOS) campaign, a coalition of trade unions and NGOs, has written a letter to parliament’s portfolio committee on communications in which it blames the problems being experienced by the SABC board on the "persistent undermining" of the board by chief executive Solly Mokoetle and chairperson Ben Ngubane.
The coalition, whose members include the Congress of SA Trade Unions, the Freedom of Expression Institute and the Media Institute of Southern Africa, said in the letter that Mokoetle had ignored and over-turned board decisions and had been supported by Ngubane.
"SOS's understanding is that at the heart of the SABC's ongoing troubles is the persistent undermining of the governance role of the board," a statement from the coalition said.
"The most immediate manifestations of this are power battles over the performance of the group CEO, Solly Mokoetle.
"Mr Mokoetle has ignored and overturned board decisions and has been supported in this by the chair of the SABC, Dr Ngubane, who appears disinterested in the opinion of the majority of the board."
The coalition said Ngubane appeared to believe that he did not need the approval of his board on any matter, "or that their strong disapproval should sway his unilateral decisions.
"Board meetings have been constantly cancelled since May 2010, leading to a situation where no real interrogation and action is being taken against the chair.
"Further, no real oversight has been taken over key governance and financial issues for a number of months."
SOS had noted that there was "a very active and transparent" public nomination process for the new board, which in general provided a competent set of board members.
"However, over the last months, effective oversight and leadership of the SABC has suffered deeply due to a stand-off between the chair of the board and CEO and the rest of the board members.
"This has deepened the political, economic and governance crises the SABC has faced over a number of years.
"After eight months in office the board has not been able to draft a critical turn-around strategy for the corporation."
It said the prospect of the resignation of numerous members of the board would be devastating for the future of the public broadcaster.
"The SABC can only be stabilised and begin to thrive if the foundational governance principles are adhered to.
"At present the institution is being torn asunder for what can only be described as dubious reasons."
The SOS said without a functioning board the public would continue to see repeats on their screens, the independent production sector would continue to shrink alongside the SABC's income and the morale of SABC staff would continue to drop.
"The SABC will continue to lose audience share in an increasingly competitive environment," the letter said.
The broadcaster's board has been summoned by the communications committee to explain the apparent "crisis".
Committee chairperson Ismail Vadi said that the decision to call in the entire board on August 24 had been prompted by an apparent corporate governance crisis within the board.
13 August 2010: Helen Zille writes on His Masters Voice: How Zuma Neutered the SABC
20 August 2010: Glynnis Underhill writes in the Mail & Guardian about the growing discontent within the SABC board about the dictatorial behavior of chairman Dr Ben Ngubane
24 August 2010: The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) and the Press Gallery Association (PGA) welcomed the decision by the Western Cape High Court to grant an interim interdict against the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications holding a hearing of a briefing by the SA Broadcasting Corporation behind closed doors. The hearing would have discussed the SABC’s “functionality”, its turnaround strategy for the broadcaster and the appointment of SABC Group chief executive Solly Mokoetle.
A parliamentary spokesman had said that the decision to exclude the media and public was because of what emerged from the briefing “related to pending litigation or may lead to litigation’’ and the committee wanted to demonstrate its respect for legal processes.
However, Sanef and the PGA said they were deeply concerned by the committee’s decision which had the effect of undermining constitutional values of openness and transparency relating to the affairs of the SABC, a public body, and therefore adversely affecting the constitutional rights of the public to receive information of clear public interest and importance.
27 August 2010: SABC board suspends CEO Solly Mokoetle pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing.
27 August 2010: The Mail & Guardian reports that the newly appointed executive manager for stakeholder management at the SABC, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, is known by SABC staff as the “conduit” because of the close relationship he claims to have with President Jacob Zuma.
4 September 2010: William Saunderson Meyer refers in a Mail & Guardian ‘Thought Leader’ column to the fact that the SABC had (through Regional Editor Jeffrey Twala) approached the DA-controlled provincial government of the Western Cape and offered, in return for a mere one million rand, to feature its accomplishments on its Interface television programme. The the SABC’s apparent bewilderment, the DA had not only refused, but questioned the ethics of this approach.
The SABC has not a clue of how it should approach its job. In return for just under a quarter of a million rand (including R3 000 for toilet hire) the SABC has offered to feature the achievements of the Western Cape government on its flagship current affairs television programme, Interface.
The SABC is clearly taken aback at the Democratic Alliance-controlled Western Cape getting on its high horse over this. After all, it reasons, newspapers publish “advertorial” sections all the time.
The difference, of course, is that newspapers are profit-making entities and such advertorial is clearly marked, identifying it as puffery and leaving it little credibility. Insulated as it is by taxpayer funding from commercial pressures, the SABC should be tackling topics without fear or favour, not trimming its jib to the highest bidder.
7 October 2010: The Democratic Alliance holds a news conference to highlight the fact that 13 out of 14 DA-run municipalities had spent 100% of their Municipal Infrastructure Grant, for the previous financial year. In contrast to this, the DA, pointed out, 51 non DA-run municipalities spent less than 50% of their budget and 10 spent 0%. “And yet the SABC, despite being at the press conference, failed in its television and radio bulletins to mention the DA’s performance - the very purpose behind the press conference.
“On one SABC 3 bulletin, the DA was simply portrayed as criticising the poor performance of the ANC. On another SABC 2 bulletin, the SABC went even further than this, editing out all reference to the DA (i.e. excluding the generic visual references to the party contained in other stories).
“In fact, its reporter made sure the phrase “Democratic Alliance” wasn’t mentioned once in its sham bulletin on the press conference. In doing so, it suppressed the news; and the fact that where the DA governs, it delivers services to a higher standard than where the ANC does.
“In short, the SABC suppressed that information which put the DA in a favourable light. The only plausible reason can be that it was acting to protect the interests of the ANC.” http://www.da.org.za/newsroom.htm?action=view-news-item&id=8767
15 October 2010: SABC board member, David Niddrie, resigns
1 September 2010: The DA reveals that Jeffrey Twala (excoriated in parliament by the IFP’s Suzanne Vos for alleged corruption, human rights abuses on his staff and blatant news bias and the subject of an entire page in Die Burger on 14 July 2009 for the same reasons) had tried to get the DA to pay R217, 700 for positive coverage on its Interface news programme which the Party flatly rejected. Niekie van den Berg, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Communications said: “It is simply astounding to note that SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago has admitted that, in addition to attempting to sell space on flagship current affairs show Interface, the SABC has also been receiving payment from government in return for their appearance on SABC 2 news programme Morning Live, and unnamed radio shows.
“It is disturbing that Mr. Kganyago attempts to justify the SABC’s actions by claiming that what has happened is analogous to the use of newspaper advertorials. That is completely disingenuous. Mr. Kganyago acts as if there is no difference between commercial advertising and hard news content. If a newspaper runs an advertorial, it is clearly labeled as such and is not disguised as news or opinion presented objectively on its own merits. Likewise, it is accepted practice that a television programme that presents itself as an objective news programme should make judgments about what content to run, and what not to run, based solely upon the objective criteria of what is newsworthy. The fact is, these programmes – Interface, Morning Live and the unidentified radio programmes – are broadcasting government propaganda, on condition of being paid for it, and they are presenting these items as if they were ordinary news content. That is absolutely scandalous”.
4 October 2010: The Press Ombudsman dismisses the SABC’s complaint about a Sunday Times article published on July 11, 2010 and headlined SABC news boss Molefe bans Mbeki - Luthuli House refuses to say if it gave the order.
The adjudicating panel expressed concern that news boss, Phil Molefe, who is said to have given the order to ban the use of former President Thabo Mbeki from SABC news bulletins, refused to appear before it to testify. “The panel finds this strange, as he was a key person to the story. This did not help much to convince the panel of the claimed untruthfulness of the newspaper's story.”
The adjudicating panel also expressed the view that the SABC’s lawyers (Chuene Incorporated) had tried to mislead it:
“After repeated cross-questioning, the SABC conceded, towards the end of the hearing, that there had not been a "live interview" with Mbeki as Chuene had argued for most of the hearing - there was merely some pre-recorded footage of Mbeki at the Ghana flag-signing ceremony that had been flighted during the evening of July 2.
“Indeed, from the relevant footage, subsequently provided by the SABC at the panel's request, it is clear that Mbeki was in fact not interviewed - it was merely a sound bite.
“The panel's conclusion is that Mbeki was not "interviewed live", as Chuene led us to believe, and that it was telling that none of the SABC witnesses had sought to correct him until the panel asked for evidence of the interview.
“The panel was left with the impression that the SABC had tried to mislead it regarding the claim that Mbeki had been "interviewed live" after the so-called ban.”
7 October 2010: The Democratic Alliance holds a news conference to highlight the fact that 13 out of 14 DA-run municipalities had spent 100% of their Municipal Infrastructure Grant, for the last financial year. This was a significant and noteworthy achievement and demonstrated that, where the DA governs, service delivery is of a high standard. Out of the remaining 259 municipalities, the overwhelming majority of which are run by the ANC, the average spend was just 75% (indeed, 51 non DA-run municipalities spent less than 50% of their budget, 10 spent 0%).
In a subsequent media release, Gareth van Onselen, DA Executive Director of Communications, revealed that the SABC …. despite being at the press conference, failed in its television and radio bulletins to mention the DA’s performance - the very purpose behind the press conference.
On one SABC 3 bulletin, the DA was simply portrayed as criticising the poor performance of the ANC. On another SABC 2 bulletin, the SABC went even further than this, editing out all reference to the DA (i.e. excluding the generic visual references to the party contained in other stories).
In short, the SABC suppressed that information which put the DA in a favourable light. The only plausible reason can be that it was acting to protect the interests of the ANC.
Every one of the non-SABC radio stations that ran bulletins on this story carried the fact that DA administrations had comprehensively outperformed non-DA administrations, as did numerous other print and online bulletins. They carried that fact because that was the news - the very purpose of the press conference, the key statistic around which the DA’s communication was based.
Not SABC News. It suppressed that fact. In fact, its reporter made sure the phrase “Democratic Alliance” wasn’t mentioned once in its sham bulletin on the press conference. In doing so, it suppressed the news; and the fact that where the DA governs, it delivers services to a higher standard than where the ANC does.
17 October 2010: Only two months after defending his Director General Mamodupi Mohlala, the Minister of Communications General Siphiwe Nyanda attacks her.
19 October 2010: President Jacob Zuma accepts the resignation of four SABC board members, deputy chairperson Felleng Sekha and members Barbara Masekela, David Niddrie and Makgatho Mello less than a year after they were appointed.
The board felt isolated, as first the communications department and then Parliament's communications committee failed to intervene, despite the board on May 22 announcing a breakdown of trust with its chairperson Ben Ngubane.
The breakdown was over Ngubane's move to appoint Phil Molefe as head of news - while the board was reviewing candidates, it said. (SAPA)
31 October 2010: Eighteen months after he was appointed, Siphiwe Nyanda is removed from his post as Communications Minister. Few are unhappy to see him go. Here is how Wikipedia described his tenure in the post.
Nyanda was a controversial figure throughout the 18 months that he was minister of communications. Dubbed the “minister of luxury” by South Africa’s Mail & Guardian, Nyanda was alleged to have spent hundreds of thousands of rands living in a luxurious Cape Town hotel throughout his tenure because he was unhappy with the ministerial house appointed to him.
At the same time as the allegations surrounding his living arrangements came to light, Nyanda’s private business was under scrutiny. A company, in which Nyanada’s family owned 45%, called GNS Risk Management Services (subsequently renamed Abalozi Security Risk Advisory Services) was accused of impropriety in a tender process in March 2010. Amongst its numerous clients were several parastatals, including Transnet Freight Rail, passenger train company Metrorail, state bus company Autopax, and the Gauteng provincial government.
It later emerged that Transnet Freight Rail had been involved in the awarding of tenders without following the correct procedures. Amongst the tenders that were questioned was one security contract valued at ZAR55million, awarded to GNS Risk Management Services. Transnet’s CEO, Siyabonga Gama, was dismissed when the allegations came to light. However, Nyanda was not reprimanded.
In October 2010, Nyanda came under fire for the suspension of communications ministry director general Mamodupi Mohlala. It was reported that in July 2010, on the day that Nyanda axed Mohlala, she had reported tender irregularities worth ZAR70 million to the police for a fraud investigation and had reportedly called for disciplinary action against several senior civil servants.
Nyanda fervently denied the allegations, labeling them “false, spurious and malicious”. However, shortly after the story regarding the removal of Mohlala came out, Nyanda was removed from his position in the Ministry of Communications. Despite the numerous suggestions of political impropriety, Nyanda was subsequently appointed as a parliamentary counselor to President Jacob Zuma, a position he holds today.
- JACKIE MAPILOKO AND GLYNNIS UNDERHILL (12 March 2010). "When in Cape Town Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda lives a five-star life at the city's top hotels -- courtesy of the taxpayer.". Mail & Guardian. http://mg.co.za/article/2010-03-12-the-minister-of-luxury.
- South African corruption project. "Siphiwe Nyanda reminds me why we're doing this". South African corruption project. http://corruption-sa.posterous.com/siphiwe-nyanda-reminds-me-why-were-doing-this.
- ADRIAAN BASSON - (29 January 2010). "Nyanda Inc makes millions from govt". Mail & Guardian. http://mg.co.za/article/2010-01-29-nyanda-inc-makes-millions-from-govt.
- Mail & Guardian (29 June 2010). "Transnet: Gama is out". Mail & Guardian. http://mg.co.za/article/2010-06-29-transnet-gama-is-out.
- Mail & Guardian (17 October 2010l). "Nyanda fumes at allegations over corruption". Mail & Guardian. http://mg.co.za/article/2010-10-17-nyanda-fumes-at-allegations-over-corruption.
- Mail & Guardian (15 July 2010). "Nyanda lashes out 'false, malicious' report". Mail & Guardian. http://mg.co.za/article/2010-07-15-nyanda-lashes-out-false-malicious-report.
- VERASHNI PILLAY AND AGENCIES (31 October 2010). "Zuma replaces seven ministers in reshuffle". Mail & Guardian. http://mg.co.za/article/2010-10-31-zuma-replaces-seven-ministers-in-cabinet-reshuffle.
- Mail & Guardian (25 November 2010). "Nyanda to be Zuma's Parliamentary counsellor". Mail & Guardian. http://mg.co.za/article/2010-11-25-nyanda-to-be-zumas-parliamentary-counsellor.
31 October 2010: Roy Padayachie, who has been deputy minister in the Communcations Department since 29 April 2004 is appointed to replace Siphiwe Nyanda as Communications Minister. Within weeks, he is revealed by the Mail & Guardian to be just as profligate with taxpayers’ money as his predecessor who was named the “Minister of Luxury” and earns himself the name of Roy “Room Service” Padayachie.
4 November 2010: President Jacob Zuma gives the SIU the green light to investigate massive fraud and corruption at the SABC. There is evidence that some of the stolen millions have been placed in foreign bank accounts. This gives the SIU the right the right to access the accounts and documents of staff and companies suspected of a crime, and to seize assets where necessary.
The inquiry will include unlawful activities dating back as far as 2005.
The proclamation allows the SIU, which is empowered by law to inquire into and recover losses through civil lawsuits, to investigate the financial affairs of the broadcaster, paralysed by years of mismanagement and political interference, and to investigate the finances of companies and staff, as well as members of the corporation's board.
A senior SABC official said yesterday the board decided to approach the SIU for assistance after an initial investigation suggested the scope and sophistication of the crimes were "beyond the ability" of the SABC's internal investigation division.
The Department of Communications was approached to provide funding for the investigation, which required forensic research, which the minister approved.
Officials battled to quantify the amount lost over the past five years, but the SABC's annual report and a recent hearing by Parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) indicates that millions may have been stolen from the SABC, and just as much lost through negligence or poor procedure
4 November 2010: Claims on the SABC by businessman Robert Gumede that Mail & Guardian investigative reporter Sam Sole was corrupt were “outrageous” and “appalling”, noseweek editor Martin Welz said
16 November 2010: On its main SABC3 7 pm television news bulletin, the state broadcaster fails to mention something which has reverberated across the English-speaking word, the engagement of Prince William and Katherine Middleton, which has just been announced by Clarence House, but it does devote a lot of time to a visiting delegation from China.
21 November 2010: The Sunday Times reveals that Roy Padayachie spent more than R2 million on luxury hotel accommodation while Deputy Communications Minister, living it up at tax payers’ expense like one of his ANC predecessors in this portfolio, the “Minster of Luxury”, Siphiwe Nyanda. http://www.timeslive.co.za/sundaytimes/article773937.ece/Room-Service-Roys-suite-life-at-top-hotel
Room Service Roy's suite life at top hotel
Newly appointed Minister of Communications Roy Padayachie lived in a five-star hotel several days a week for four years at a cost of around R5000 a night - a few hundred metres from his official residence, which he deemed not good enough.
Padayachie cost taxpayers an estimated R2-million while living it up at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria. That excludes his room service bill.
He lived in the Sheraton between 2004 and 2008 when he was deputy to late minister of communications Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri.
He occupied the exclusive Club Floor suites, for which the department was billed at a government rate of between R5000 and R6000 a night - despite being given a house in the ministerial Bryntirion Estate, near the Union Buildings.
A government official privy to Padayachie's travels said he would spend up to four days a week in Pretoria when parliament was in recess.
The Sunday Times has estimated that if Padayachie spent a minimum of two nights a week at the hotel over a four-year period, his bill could have been as high as R2.3-million.
This week, he would not answer specific questions about how many days he had stayed at the hotel and what it had cost.
He was promoted to minister of communications in President Jacob Zuma's recent cabinet reshuffle. He succeeded Siphiwe Nyanda, who was axed after his controversial one-year stay in luxury Cape Town hotels that cost taxpayers R500000.
In a written reply to questions by the Sunday Times, Padayachie admitted that he had lived in the Sheraton, saying it was "unavoidable and not of my own doing".
He said the Department of Public Works was to blame, as it did not have his ministerial home ready for him to move into.
He did not respond to a claim made by one official that he had refused to take occupation of the house because he was unhappy with the furniture that public works had bought for the house.
He said the house had been allocated to him sometime in 2005, but had structural defects, which delayed his occupation.
However, in his response, he admitted that former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka had lived there in 2008 while her official residence, OR Tambo House, was being reno-vated.
Mlambo-Ngcuka is studying overseas and did not reply to questions at the time of going to press.
However, her office confirmed that she had lived in the house for a "few months".
Said Padayachie: "When the residence was ready for occupation, the house was then re-allocated to ... Mlambo-Ngcuka, who needed alternative accommodation while her official residence was undergoing renovations."
The Sunday Times can also reveal that Padayachie regularly rented a top-of-the-range E-class Mercedes-Benz during his weekend and official trips to his home town of Durban.
The car costs about R3000 a day to rent.
At one point, the department splashed out R75000 over a three-week period.
Padayachie, however, said the car was hired only for "official engagements" and that "it is mandatory for (me) to be accompanied by VIP close protectors, who drive and escort (me)".
He said he was satisfied that his expenditure during his time as deputy minister was in line with the regulations stipulated in the ministerial handbook and that he had not breached the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
The former director-general in the department, Lyndall Shope-Mafole, said she was aware of Padayachie's hotel stay, adding that issues of accommodation for ministers were dealt with by the Department of Public Works.
"The point I'm making is that this is not our call ... whether he is staying in a hotel or a house, it is not one of the issues that the DG of a department would actually be responsible for."
The Sheraton's marketing manager, Willie Williams, refused to discuss Padayachie's stay, saying that it was a private matter.
"We don't give out (such) information due to privacy issues ... it doesn't matter whether it's a minister or a (private individual). It's the confidentiality we have with our guests."
Public works spokesman Thami Mchunu said the department would be able to respond only next week, as "the department is still collating the information".
21 November 2010: Communications minister Roy “Room Service” Padayachie withdraws the controversial Public Service Broadcasting Bill pending further consultation, and wants to consider new models for funding the SABC and community media.
Padayachie’s decision follows complaints from concerned groups at public hearings held in Midrand last week. The draft bill had called for, among other things, the scrapping of TV licences and for an amendment to the Income Tax Act that could have resulted in up to 1% of personal income tax being set aside for public broadcasting.
22 November 2010: Tbe Democratic Alliance asks the Public Protector to investigate the profligate lifestyle of the ANC – appointed Minister of Communication, Roy “Room Service” Padayachie.
DA wants Padayachie's hotel stay probed
22 November 2010
Natasha Michael requests that Public Protector investigate Sunday Times report
Communications Minister's expenses: DA writes to Public Protector
The Democratic Alliance (DA) will today be writing to the Public Protector requesting that she investigate the new Minister of Communications, Roy Padayachie's, excessive accommodation bill (see Sunday Times report).
Reports in the media indicate that during his tenure as the deputy minister of communications, Mr. Padaycahie spent over R2 million of state funds on luxury accommodation and room service bills at Pretoria's five-star luxury Sheraton Hotel.
Such expenditure raises serious ethical questions about the use of public funds by members of the executive. While we can certainly understand that there is, from time to time, a need for ministers to stay in outside accommodation, there is a disturbing tendency of some members of President Zuma's cabinet to engage in excessive and self-indulgent spending on such items as luxury cars and protracted hotel stays at the expense of the South African people.
As such, I shall be asking the Public Protector to investigate. This falls within the Public Protector's investigative mandate, as it is clearly a public interest matter - public funds were used to fund this extravagant extended hotel stay. We will ask the Public Protector to investigate the state of the house allocated to Minister Padayachie, and to interrogate his claim that the house was structurally unsound. We need clarity on the reasons for the Minister's need to stay at a luxury five-star hotel instead of a more reasonable alternative in the immediate vicinity, and the reason that this accommodation bill has only surfaced now and was not picked up and acted upon as an irregular expense by the Auditor-General.
In a country beset by poverty and plagued by service delivery problems, such spending is unethical and immoral. It needs to stop and the South African public has a right to know if members of the executive are abusing their privileges.
Statement issued by Natasha Michael, MP, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of
Communications, November 22 2010