17 January 2012: Lulama Mokhobo is appointed as the SABC's new group chief executive officer. She previously chaired a mining company, Miranda Minerals, in which controversial Thai billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra played a role and which went into meltdown.
Communications Minister Dina Pule announced Mokhobo’s appointment as the SABC’s new chief executive a day after she quit Miranda’s board.
Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) president Hannes du Buisson described Mokhobo’s appointment as surprising, adding that she had never struck Bemawu as someone who would lead the SABC.
A Mail & Guardian investigation on 3 August 2012 reveals that Mokhobo is the aunt of businessman Phosane Mngqibisa, the alleged lover of Communications Minister Dina Pule. Two of the Mail & Guardian’s sources said that Pule had known that Mokhobo was the aunt of Mngqibisa and had pressurised the SABC board to appoint Mokhobo.
It then transpires that Pule lobbied top companies to provide R25.7-million in sponsorship for the inaugural ICT Indaba and that Mngqibisa had accessed this money to splurge on overseas trips for himself and Pule.
On one of the trips, according to a Sunday Times exposé on 2/9/2012, Mngqibisa bought in Barcelona a pair of red-soled Christian Louboutin shoes which Pule wore to the opening ceremony of the Indaba in Cape Town in June 2012.
What is intriguing, in the SABC context is that six months after Mokhobo is appointed, it transpires (according to a Sunday Independent story on 19 August) that the Corporation’s Chief Financial Officer, Gugu Duda, without SABC board approval, quietly diverted R3-million from the cash-strapped public broadcaster into the ICT Indaba’s constantly-looted coffers. What role then, did the aunt of Dina Pule’s lover play in getting SABC money siphoned off for the use of the pair of them on overseas trips and expensive red-soled Christian Louboutin shoes?
17 January 2012: City Press reports that BEMAWU, the SABC’s largest trade union, was surprised by the appointment of Lulama Mokhobo as the new Group CEO. Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) president Hannes du Buisson described Mokhobo’s appointment as surprising, adding that she had never struck Bemawu as someone who would lead the SABC.
29 January 2012: The Sunday Tribune reports that the newly appointed CEO, Lulama Mokhobo, is manipulating appointment protocols to ensure ANC deployed cadre, Hlaudi Motsoeneng - known as “The Conduit” because he is a Zuma spy within the SABC – gets the R2-million a year post as Chief Operating Officer. Part of the gerrymandering process is to only advertise the post internally and for only three days and to stipulate that a matric certificate is not a requirement – specifically because Motsoeneng does not have a matric.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng, a supporter of President Jacob Zuma, with neither a matric certificate nor top management experience is tipped to land the R2 million job as chief operating officer of the financially-crippled SABC.
This after the SABC decided to advertise the strategic, second-most powerful post, only internally, for only three working days. According to newly-appointed group chief executive officer Lulama Mokhobo, matric was not a requirement for successful candidates.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng, essentially an ANC deployee at SABC, has had the requirements for the job, one of the key positions in the corporation’s turn-around strategy, tailor-made to suit him because he has no matric and has no managerial experience at that level.
He is the same man fingered by a KPMG probe as having lied about having a matric certificate when he applied for the post of news executive for the broadcaster’s Bloemfontein office several years ago. Should Motsoeneng land the job, he would possibly become the only COO of such a major public institution without matric.
The move has angered workers in the financially struggling organisation. They are asking how a person without an undergraduate qualification could be the second-in-command of an organisation with a R4.7 billion turnover.
The Sunday Tribune learnt that Mokhobo advertised the job on Friday, but apparently deleted parts where academic qualifications were required, ostensibly to ensure Motsoeneng, who does not have a matric but has strong political backing, qualified for the position.
Staff at the SABC are now questioning the deletion of the academic qualifications from the advert and the three working days allocated to prospective candidates. Applicants have until Tuesday to apply.
They say the position needs a suitably qualified person and Motsoeneng, said to have Zuma’s ear, was not the right candidate.
The advert states that the person who would be appointed to the job should be a “commercially astute executive, with broad ranging experience of success in broadcasting”, have “well developed negotiation and relationship building skills at the most senior level” and the “ability to translate and promote the integration of new business objectives into financial, human capital and organisational development changes on an ongoing basis”. “A demonstrable passion for public service” is the last requirement for the job.
Approached for comment, Motsoeneng said “I don’t want to comment on this issue” and added “speak to the CEO. She is here with me” before handing over his cellphone to Mokhobo.
The CEO said the job did not require a degree and was open only to SABC employees. “We are looking for a candidate who understands the business of the SABC. We don’t have the time to be in a state of inertia. It does not require a degree to run a business operation. That does not require an MBA. Anybody internally can apply for this job. We are very clear that we are not opening it to everybody,” she said.
She said the position did not require technical skill but an understanding of how business operations are run. “You need the ability to oversee complex situations.”
Responding to claims that the advert is tailor-made to suit Motsoeneng, Mokhobo said: “If we (had already) decided on Hlaudi, we would have not advertised the position. We would have given it to him.”
The SABC has been asked to suspend its search for a chief operating officer, the communication ministry said on Monday.
Communications Minister Dina Pule had made the request to the board after reading a newspaper report on the process being followed to fill the position, said ministry spokesperson Siyabulela Qoza.
"The minister immediately requested the board to suspend the current search and to follow a normal and wider executive appointment process," he said.
"She wants to make sure the process is fair and that all applicants are considered." Qoza said he did not know if the SABC had acted on Pule's request.
SAPA was unable to reach SABC spokesperson Kaiser Kganyago on Monday afternoon.
The Sunday Independent reported that Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who was "an ANC deployee at the SABC" and a supporter of President Jacob Zuma, was set to get the job.
The position, the second most powerful post at the organisation, had been advertised only internally and applicants had been given just three working days to apply, the newspaper reported.
Motsoeneng was apparently going to get the job despite not having a matric certificate or top management experience. SABC chief executive Lulama Mokhobo reportedly said a matric certificate was not a requirement for the post. – SAPA
30 January 2012: Communications Minister, Dina Pule, intervenes after the Sunday Tribune reveals the unethical labour practices at the SABC through which Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s appointment as COO is being fast-tracked by the recently-deployed CEO, Lulama Mokhobo.
30 January 2012: The news that through its proxies at the SABC and on the SABC board the ANC is manipulating employment procedures to ensure that Jacob Zuma supporter Hlaudi Motsoeneng will get the most powerful position at the SABC throws employees into a panic.
February 2012: The most recent flare-up occurred in February 2012, when it was alleged that the board had attempted to "parachute" Hlaudi Motsoeneng into the position of Chief Operation Officer, despite the fact that the SABC was interdicted from making an appointment to that position by the High Court as the previous hopeful, Mvuzo Mbebe, believed that he had been given the green light by the previous Communications Minister, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri. Motsoeneng had previously been fired by the SABC in 2007 after an internal investigation into various wrongdoings, including the falsification of his qualifications. In the course of a year from his re-appointment to the SABC in 2011, he was promoted three times. "What instruction, which we as the SABC do not know about, does the board have from Luthuli House?" an unnamed official queried.
From Who Rules south Africa by Paul Holden and Martin Plaut (Jonathan Ball, 2012)
15 February 2012: Communications Minister, Dina Pule, announces the appointment of Ms Gugu Duda as the SABC’s Chief Financial Officer. Duda is to take up her position on 1 March.
Six months later Duda is under investigation for R3-million which was diverted into the ICT Indaba scam without board knowledge or authorisation.
17 February 2012: The Hawks arrest Mafika Sihlali - Dali Mpofu’s Elephant Consortium crony, who he appointed as head of the SABC’s legal department - on charges of fraud and corruption.
29 February 2012: Mafika Sihlali, the former head of legal services at the SABC and a man appointed by CEO Dali Mpofu, appears in the Johannesburg Commercial Crimes Court on charges of fraud. He is granted R15 000 bail.
6 March 2012: Parliament is told that the SABC has made virtually no effort to implement the recommendations of the Auditor General who, in his report of 18 September 2009 found rampant corruption.
18 March 2012: The Sunday Times reveals that the SABC had lost over one million viewers across all three channels in the prime-time news slot in the previous six months.” The newspaper reported that this was according the audience ratings by the South African Advertising Research Foundation (Saarf).
Media expert, Arthur Goldstuck, Managing Director (MD) of World Wide Worx, felt the decline in audiences was directly linked to poor content, which he said was a result of lack of leadership at the SABC and lack of vision by the broadcaster.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) also voiced its opinion on the state of viewership affairs at the SABC. The union said it was “not surprised by these developments as the SABC, particularly its television component has long ceased to be a public broadcaster and turned itself into a self-promotion propaganda instrument for certain factions.”
23 March 2012: Broadcast consultant Kate Skinner says that in five years as SOS co-ordinator she saw five SABC CEOs come and go.
3 April 2012: The Sowetan reveals that former and current SABC senior staffers have lodged a complaint against Auckland Park's acting chief operations officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng with the Public ProtectorThe complaint includes serious allegations of maladministration, corruption, SABC board collusion, unprocedural salary increments that increase the SABC payroll, and the now well-known issue of Motsoeneng's academic credentials. The list of complainants against Motsoeneng's appointment include former chief operations officer Charlotte Mampane and ex-SABC senior executive Phunelele Ntombela-Nzimande, wife of Blade Nzimande.
8 April 2012: Sunday World reveals that the complaint about Hlaudi Motsoeneng to the Public Protector also alleges that he “Promotes, suspends and dismisses people without following any procedure.
"Has violated the travel policies and unlawfully suspended the manager who headed the travel office in order to conceal his corrupt activities."
"Promoted and paid two unionists (CWU) who worked in the call centre almost R240,000 each. This resulted in the call centre salaries being increased. He instructs the head of human resources to increase employees' salaries willy nilly - the salary bill from June to October increased with (sic) R29m within three months of his appointment as COO."
Sunday World also reveals that he was promoted three times in one year. “In 2010 he became acting regional editor in the Free State.
“In June 2010 he became GM in the office of the CEO (Mokoetle).
“In November 2011 he was appointed acting COO, which catapulted him into the No2 position at the SABC.
“In February 2012 a dubious attempt was made to appoint him permanently to the job when it was advertised internally for three days only. Curiously, the ad stated that matric was not a requirement for the position.”
10 April 2012: SABC CEO, Lulama Mokhobo, places head of news, Phil Molefe, on “special leave.” She promises that a meeting will be held between her and Molefe to sort the matter out but, thereafter, constantly pleads illness which she says prevents the meeting from happening. Auckland Park sources say that Phil has fallen from political grace because, as Blade Nzimande says, Molefe is not doing what he should be doing – which is to prevent Julius Malema and COPE from getting any exposure whatsoever on SABC channels – exactly what the Zuma faction claims that the Mbeki faction nefariously did to it.
11 April 2012: The Communication Workers Union (CWU) an affiliate of Cosatu welcomed the decision taken by Mokhobo to put Group Executive of News and Current Affairs, Mr Phil Molefe on special leave
The CWU said that Molefe has a track record of been extremely hostile to trade union movement and was biased in terms of broadcasting. “This is what we and other progressive organisation have been raising about the manipulation of the SABC newsroom by senior people at the SABC.”
11 April 2012: The ANC Youth League said the action taken by Mokhobo against Molefe was politically motivated: “It is becoming clearer now that Makhobo was appointed to pursue factional agendas in the SABC, and not fulfil the public broadcasting mandate of the SABC.
“Placing Head of News Phil Molefe on a special leave is politically motivated, despite the fact that he has been at the forefront of award-winning initiatives in the SABC, such as Touching Lives, which has profoundly contributed to the socio-economic development of many people in South Africa.”
12 April 2012: Daily Maverick analyses why Phil Molefe was placed on “special leave”
13 April 2012: The Mail & Guardian analyses why Phil Molefe was placed on “special leave”.
The newspaper describes this in an editorial as ‘an absurd farce’.
20 April 2012: SABC board chairman Dr Ben Ngubane and senior news executive Alwyn Kloppers call a media conference to defend Hlaudi Motsoeneng
18 June 2012: Gareth van Onselen recalls what Cyril Ramaphosa said about the apartheid-era SABC and how the ANC was going to improve matters:
The ANC believes that unquestioning loyalty by a public broadcaster to a ruling party is incompatible with democracy – whether or not the ruling party enjoys the support of the majority of the population.
When the ANC wins the electoral support of the majority of South Africans, it will not seek to replace the National Party as the subject of the SABC’s slavish loyalty. And we want to establish both the principle and practice of that independence now.
The ANC is committed to public broadcasting which is independent of the government of the day, and which owes its loyalty not to any party, but to the population as a whole. In other words, we propose a broadcast service committed to providing full and accurate information to all South Africans, and one which is protected from interference by any special interests – be they political, economic or cultural.
If the SABC is to play a constructive role ahead of our country’s first experience with democracy, informing the electorate rather than attempting to persuade them to vote for a particular political party, it is necessary to replace those who currently control the SABC with others who are committed to democracy and to an electorate empowered by accurate and impartial information.
12 July 2012: Blade Nzimande, speaking at the SACP's national congress in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, gives a less than subtle instruction to the SABC to stop giving airtime to expelled ANCYL President, Julius Malema.
He said he was “ashamed of the public broadcaster" for feeding the public a "breakfast, lunch and dinner" of news about "people who have been expelled" from the ANC.
"Auckland Park is a shame!" he said. "Sooner or later, we will have to tell them enough is enough, because we are the (SABC's) listeners."
Describing the likes of Mr Malema as enemies of the SACP, Mr Nzimande said that instead of working to "unite our people as a whole", the SABC "runs with renegades".
3 August 2012: The Mail & Guardian reveals that Lulama Mokhobo, who was the surprise appointment in January 2012 as the SABC’s is the aunt of Phosane Mngqibisa, the “romantic partner” of Communications Minister, Dina Pule. The paper says it has received a dossier replete with allegations of corruption by the Pule:
Communications Minister Dina Pule is in the spotlight after a dossier of allegations against her was leaked to the Mail & Guardian this week.
The dossier, substantial elements of which were independently confirmed to the M&G by communication department officials familiar with the circumstances, paints a picture of a web of influence Pule is alleged to have set up in the department of communications, the South African Post Office and the SABC.
The documents go to great lengths to point out who the major players in the department, the post office and the SABC are and how they are connected to each other.
The dossier, which it is claimed was prepared by staff in the department, is detailed and appears to have been prepared with the aim of targeting Pule.
It alleges that Pule, alongside her alleged "romantic" interest, businessperson Phosane Mngqibisa, has connived to fill key positions in the department, the post office and the SABC through nepotism and the promotion of close colleagues
19 August 2012: The Sunday Independent reveals that the SABC board is investigating its group chief executive Lulama Mokhobo and chief financial officer Gugu Duda for allegedly authorising the spending of R3 million on the controversial ICT indaba, organised by the Communications Department. Mokhobo, who is the aunt of Communications Minister Dina Pule’s “romantic partner”, Phosane Mngqibisa, was appointed in January and Dudu in March.
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago - speaking for the CEO and CFO - confirmed the financial contribution to the ICT indaba.
He however said the broadcaster paid a R1m sponsorship fee in exchange for exposure, an exhibition stand and exclusive content coverage, among other things.
“The remaining R2m was trade exchange. This is the same model that we use for other events and many other awards. The SABC, like any other organisation, has the right to market itself,” Kganyago said.
He said Mokhobo and Duda did not have to seek board approval for sponsoring the event because this was permitted in terms of the SABC delegation of authority.
2 September 2012: The Sunday Times reveals that a pair of red-soled Christian Louboutin shoes which Communications Minister Dina Pule wore when she opened the ICT Indaba in Cape Town in June were in fact paid for by her “romantic partner”, Phosane Mngqibisa, with money siphoned off from corporate sponsorships for the Indaba. “The Sunday Times reported in June that MTN, Vodacom and Telkom - who were lobbied by Pule to pay the R25.7-million towards the event - were furious that millions in sponsorship fees were drawn from the account of the event organiser by Mngqibisa. Pule's own department chipped in another R10-million.”
7 September 2012: The Mail & Guardian claims that there had been a tense stand-off between political reporters and SABC head of TV news, Jimi Matthews. The reporters said the South African Broadcasting Corporation had effectively banned Malema from radio and TV news. This, they claimed, followed an instruction from ANC leaders aligned to the campaign to re-elect President Jacob Zuma as party leader in Mangaung in December.
But Matthews has rejected these claims as "nonsense". He told the Mail & Guardian: "I have not banned anyone. I have no desire or authority to do this. Those who say I did that have their own agenda against me." *
Matthews refused to confirm or deny the meeting between himself and political journalists this week.
Although the alleged decision to ban Malema has not been officially communicated to staff, SABC sources claimed this week that senior managers, including Matthews, interfered with the work of journalists from time to time to ensure Malema's clips were edited out of the news package before it went on air.
"No one has told us that he [Malema] was banned, but we can see it in their actions," said one SABC staffer, who asked not be named. "Every time we submit stories, the Malema clips are edited out. This has been happening for a while on TV. The decision is now being implemented on radio as well."
The journalist believes the Malema ban is being orchestrated from Luthuli House. "This is what happened in the run-up to the Polokwane conference, when Zuma and his supporters were given less airtime than former president Thabo Mbeki and his supporters," the reporter said.
"We told [management] it is embarrassing us. We reminded it that the basic principle of journalism is to cover everything that is newsworthy, irrespective of who is involved. Yes, Malema has been expelled from the ANC, but that does not mean we cannot give him coverage, especially when it is so clear that he still enjoys support from ordinary people. The SABC, as a public broadcaster, cannot cover ANC leaders only, but must cover all the people who matter in society."
Another said: "I have always taken Jimi as a genuine newsman, but he has changed. What he is doing now is exactly what Snuki Zikalala [the former SABC head of news] did to him. This is what happens every five years when the ANC goes to conference. But unlike before, when journalists were divided along factional lines, this time all of us are unhappy about what's happening."
*NB: Four years later Jimi Matthews proves himself to be a liar when he admits to Eusebius Mckaiser that he did in fact ban coverage of Malema. ‘Matthews admitted that he took the decision to censor Malema and the EFF. “I took the decision, but it was a decision bigger than Jimi Matthews, others also expressed the same view,” said Matthews.
7 September 2012: Corruption Watch expresses concern about the increasing number of newspaper investigations implicating Communications Minister Dina Pule in nepotism and corruption. The picture painted by these stories is of a “minister mad with power, using her position to manipulate the South African Post Office and the SABC.”
13 September 2012: The SABC’s largest trade union, BEMAWU, claims that its members in the Corporation’s news rooms have been instructed not to report on expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.
The Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (BEMAWU) is extremely concerned with what appears to be the censoring of the SABC’s News Reports. It has been reported to us by several of our members that they have been instructed to not report on ANY activities of the expelled ANC Youth League leader, Mr Julius Malema. The instruction went as far as to say that even if he is assassinated, or he dies in any other manner, it should not be reported on any SABC platform until Top Management has instructed otherwise. News staff have been warned also not to report on his whereabouts or what he is doing. This instruction apparently came from Solly Phetoe and Mike Seluma and was conveyed to all news editors around the country. A special meeting was called in some regions this morning to inform all news editors of this instruction.
BEMAWU regards this as a gross violation of the principles of journalism and also an attack on freedom of the press. As a public broadcaster the SABC is duty bound to report news in a fair, unbiased and accurate manner and without influence from top or any other management of the SABC. We have informed our members to not comply with this unlawful instruction and to report the news of the day without fear or prejudice and to judge what should go on air purely on the news value and principles of the editorial policy of the SABC. This reminds BEMAWU of the censoring of news by the apartheid government and total control of the public broadcaster by the ruling party. If management dare to touch any of our members ignoring this unlawful instruction, BEMAWU will defend our members and take the matter to the highest court.
We call on an urgent investigation of this sorry state of affairs at the Public Broadcaster and we demand that the strongest action be taken against those top managers responsible for this instruction.
In a statement carried in the Mail & Guardian, SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the allegations were not true.
"It is untrue that the SABC news department has issued any instructions banning Julius Malema. What news management has appealed for, is for more responsible and in depth reporting on the issues," Kganyago said
13 September 2012: Jimi Matthews publicly attacks his own staff. He appealed to staff for more nuanced reporting on Marikana and related stories. Matthews warned against lazy journalism and “running with the herd”.
“I am very disappointed with the turn of events. Instead of debate, certain members of my staff ran off to other media houses claiming that I had banned Malema from the airwaves.
“Nothing can be further from the truth. I asked for responsible journalism and intellectual engagement”. SABC news release
14 September 2012: Thinus Ferreira, author of the most authoritative blog on the South African television industry, “TV with Thinus” strongly criticises Matthews: “It's beyond shocking that the SABC's acting head of news Jimi Matthews would make statements chastising members of his own staff in public - things which a news editor (I've been one at various places; I know) and news executives do behind closed doors, in private, delicately, and handle as internal operational matters.
“Yet Jimi Matthews chose to say in a public statement yesterday from the SABC: "I am very disappointed with the turn of events. Instead of debate, certain members of my staff ran off to other media houses claiming that I had banned Julius Malema from the airwaves. Nothing can be further from the truth. I asked for responsible journalism and intellectual engagement."
“On the spectrum of possible things to do and say, this is so far towards the spectrum of "wrong", "mistake", and "no-no" that it boggles the mind. Surely someone like Jimi Matthews knows the SABC news staff by name. They presumably also have email addresses.
“Unhappiness like this would be better communicated internally like through a memo to news staff. Not to the whole outside world and during a week in which the SABC is besieged by multiple crises and a hungry press looking for and at all possible weak spots at the public broadcaster.
“To say something bad about your people - for any organisation - in public, even if it’s true, doesn't build self-esteem and trust. It further demoralises, breaks down trust and support, fosters resentment and creates bigger divisions.”
14 September 2012: IFP marches on SABC building in Auckland Park to protest anti- IFP bias in its news coverage
17 September 2012: In an editorial, Sunday World says it is concerning that Jimi Matthews’ claims to be basing the SABC’s television news coverage of Julius Malema purely on the basis of news values but that his expressed antipathy towards Malema echoes the sentiments of Luthuli House: Matthews said the decision on how to cover events involving Malema was based on news value and not popularity.
"I won't be stampeded into following the popular line," he told the Mail & Guardian.
He said they had led Tuesday night's broadcast with Malema speaking to mine workers at Goldfields.
But they had not broadcast Malema's address to members of the SANDF - though a reporter was assigned to it - "because of the low turn-out by soldiers".
He said: "Here is a man [Malema] who is exploiting the desperation of poor people, with promises that he is not able to deliver.
"This guy [Malema]. is supposedly unemployed, but he travels around. They must question and find [out] who is funding him." Very interesting, indeed, how Matthews walks into the punch of his accusers by revealing his own judgment of Malema. His pronouncements ironically show him forsaking the objective hat of a newsman for that of a politician, lending credence to accusations of biased news judgment.
Is it coincidental that his utterances - that "Malema is exploiting the desperation of poor people" - echo the sentiments of some ANC leaders?
Rather disturbing is the growing dissonance between the SABC's actions and public perceptions of its execution of its broadcasting mandate.
19 September 2012: MWASA (Media Workers Association of South Africa) pickets outside SABC's Auckland Park headquarters today, demanding "an SABC that works" and that the members of the dysfunctional SABC board resign or be replaced.
28 September 2012: President Jacob Zuma tells parliament that four people have been arrested on criminal charges and another arrest is imminent following a Special Investigating Unit probe into irregularities at the SABC.
Responding to a Parliamentary question, President Jacob Zuma said the unit had introduced special probes in SABC business units to assist the public broadcasters Board in identifying red flag areas.
Zuma says the SIU also assisted the Brixton Commercial Police Crime Unit, in eight criminal matters that related to their probe into the Public Broadcaster. The president says seven case dockets have already been completed, and others are nearing completion.
He says the SIU probe into the SABC included a range of irregularities. These include allegations of possible conflict of interest by some employees and certain board members, and the continuous payment of remuneration to SABC personnel who had been on suspension for excessively long periods.
29 September 2012: City Press reveals that six former SABC senior executive may face criminal charges and civil claims to recover millions of rands lost by the public broadcaster in irregular, fraudulent and corrupt deals in which they were allegedly involved.
1 October 2012: President Jacob Zuma reveals in parliament that the Special Investigation Unit which had been tasked with investigating corruption that occurred in the SABC between 1 January 2005 and 29 October 2010 was progressing well.
7 October 2012: The Sunday Times front page lead story exposes a litany of corrupt and deals and wasteful expenditure. Two months later. On 19 December, the Press Council rejected in its entirety a complaint laid by the New Age newspaper against this story:
The newspaper has established that the cash-strapped public broadcaster:
- Spent R196-million on a deal with Siemens which the SABC's internal auditors deemed an "irregular contract" that "delivered no significant value". SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago owns 10% of Siemens BEE partner Sedibeng, but says the deal was done before he arrived in 2006 and that he recused himself fromdiscussions involving Siemens;
- Was guilty of "irregular expenditure" in giving the scandal-plagued ICT Indaba R3-million in sponsorship, including R1-million cash;
- Agreed to give the Guptas' New Age newspaper free exposure worth millions on its Morning Live show, flood Auckland Park with thousands of newspapers staff don't want, and pay the paper R147251 to run advertorials;
- Blew R1.6-million on a July Handicap extravaganza for 200 people, including 46 SABC staff, this year, even after claims surfaced that its directors embarrassed the broadcaster at last year's event by demanding extra booze be served worth R32000;
- Bent its own rules to appoint politically connected Hlaudi Motsoeneng as chief operating officer at an annual salary of R1.6-million, then tried to suppress a report which found he had lied about failing matric twice;
- Hired Justice Ndaba as its turnaround-strategy head and allowed him to keep working even after discovering he'd apparently forged three degrees, including an MBA, until he quit after reportedly becoming involved in a prostitution scandal when in London on SABC business; and
- Has been told by the Special Investigating Unit to take disciplinary action against more than 300 staff for failing to declare their interests, while recommending criminal action in nine other cases.
7 October 2012: Ms Liezl van der Merwe MP, IFP Spokesperson on Communications calls on Communications Minister, Dina Pule, to intervene after a Sunday Times exposé on a deal struck between the New Age newspaper and the SABC: “Reports today that the SABC struck a deal to buy a 1000 copies of the ANC-aligned New Age newspaper every day, despite concerns from staff that the broadcaster was spending a fortune on newspapers that were not being read, coupled with the fact that it gave the newspaper free exposure worth millions on Morning Live, is more evidence that political interference has been built into the SABC system and ruthlessly exploited by the ANC-alliance. It is again abundantly clear that the SABC is not an independent public broadcaster, but a state broadcaster that panders to the ruling party”
12 October 2012: BCCSA orders SABC to correct a false news report which alleged that the SA Society of Anaesthesiologists (Sasa) was guilty of overcharging.
14 October 2012: Chairman of the board, Dr Ben Ngubane and CEO, Lulama Mokhobo attack the Mbeki-era SABC board of Eddie Funde and Christine Qunta and the Mbeki-appointed CEO, Dali Mpofu, in a Sunday Times article: “….. it became blindingly obvious that previous SABC boards and executive administrations drove a precious national asset into near bankruptcy. Suppliers were not being paid, content of value could not be acquired, and local talented producers (particularly fledgling companies) were all but decimated”
New board determined to clear up the SABC
15 October 2012: Sunday World reveals that Deloittes has been struggling since October 2011 to get R9-million which it is owed for the work it did for the SABC’s “turn-around” strategy.
19 October 2012: Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan tells the parliamentary standing committee on finance that the SABC management had to take "credible measures to stop wasteful and ill-considered projects and expenditure". He said the Treasury had declined the SABC's request in March for an amendment of the government guarantee targets because it had not adequately addressed the issues which created financial instability such as cost escalations in excess of revenue growth.
In reply to a question by COPE MP Juli Kilian, he said: "The SABC needs to demonstrate progress in achieving the original targets to which it committed”.
The SABC had only partially completed an implementation plan for a turnaround strategy
22 October 2012: The Sunday Times reveals that the SABC is under investigation by the National Consumer Council after outraged citizens and justice groups accused the Corporation of lying and described its debt collection modus operandi as "tantamount to extortion" and racketeering. Letters of demand, text messages and calls to customers from the public broadcaster's debt collectors have threatened blacklisting, even though credit bureaus stopped listing TV licence debt at the end of 2004.
Unreasonable demands by the SABC on consumers have included:
- A mentally disabled woman in Pretoria, who never owned a TV, being told to pay 25 years of licence fees that were "in arrears"; and
- A 22-year-old first-time TV licence-holder who, immediately after getting a licence, was back-billed for arrears to the age of 18.
1 November 2012: Thinus Ferreira of the TV with Thinus blogspot reveals on Channel 24 that the Auditor General has been asked by Parliament's portfolio committee on communications to investigate the ANC-appointed SABC board with specific reference to the fractious relationship between the board and one of its members, Cawe Mahlati.
In September the SABC board chairperson Dr Ben Ngubane shocked parliament when he announced that the SABC has "degenerated into serious dysfunctionality".
He revealed that the entire SABC board has unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in Mahlati and wants her gone. Mahlati has refused to step down.
In a highly embarrassing public spectacle on 18 September with the whole SABC board in parliament, Mahlati lashed back in parliament against "the rampant maladministration and corruption in the SABC board" under the "autocratic and patriarchal" leadership style of Ngubane.
In the SABC's latest annual report, the SABC missed most of its set strategic objectives
2 November 2012: Thinus Ferreira, webmaster of the “TV with Thinus” blogspot reveals that charges are being drawn up against the SABC's suspended chief financial officer (CFO) Gugu Duda and according to the SABC a disciplinary hearing "is imminent".
Duda was suddenly suspended mid-September on charges
She was appointed in March 2012 as the beleaguered SABC's permanent new CFO, when she replaced Robin Nicholson and took over from the acting CFO, Lerato Nage (now resigned).
The SABC board told parliament in September that Gugu Duda was allegedly responsible for financial irregularities.
The SABC now says that the forensic attorneys who have been investigating Gugu Duda presented their report to the SABC board this week. "Currently charges are being drawn up against her and a disciplinary hearing is imminent," says the SABC.
4 November 2012: The SABC having advertised that it is going to broadcast a commissioned documentary, Poject Spear, fails to do so and it later transpires that the documentary was shown to the ANC which vetoed its broadcast. This occurs again and again – the SABC commissions a documentary and then refuses to broadcast it because it is not a paean of praise for the African National Congress
Episode 6 – 04 November 2012
Spies, Lies & Stolen Billions
A probe into the SA Reserve Bank's affairs by a disgruntled shareholder has led to the discovery of a multi billion rand corrupt deal set up by the former regime that has major repercussions for the current government. Project Spear is an investigative documentary film told from the perspective of journalist Sylvia Vollenhoven. It explores the illegal lifeboats that were given to various business entities, mainly ABSA, by the apartheid government and the Reserve Bank in the old days. In recent times a British consultant, a former MI 6 Spy, has presented the government with an opportunity to recover some of these funds. The government first signed a deal with the consultant but then reneged, refusing to recover the money. The recovery plan is called 'Project Spear'. In an innovative departure from the documentary norm, Project Spear, uses the "Return to Burn B-Boys" in creative dance sequences to fill the gaps left by secrecy and absence of archive.
Watch “Truth Be Told “6 Part Documentary on SABC 2, Sundays at 21h00.
7 November 2012: The SABC's acting head of news and current affairs Jimi Matthews has ordered SABC News journalists and reporters not to use the words "Nkandlagate" or refer to it as a "compound" or a "homestead" in any stories about president Jacob Zuma's presidential home in KwaZulu-Natal which is supposed to be upgraded at the cost of a massive R238 million.
Previously the SABC News division was also told not to refer to the Marikana shootings as a "massacre".
Jimi Matthews sent out the following email to SABC News staff:
Your [sic] are hereby notified that, with immediate effect, President Zuma's Nkandla home should be referred to as the President's, or Mr Zuma's "Nkandla residence", and not a "compound" or "Homestead" or any other such term. Please also refrain from using imported terminology in reporting on the controversy surrounding the infrastructural developments around the residence, such as "Nkandlagate", "Zumaville" and such like.."
The SABC has not yet responded to a media enquiry made.
The COPE political party Juli Kilian said the email was indicative of "deplorable political censorship" and a "direct attack on freedom of expression and the editorial independence of the SABC".
"This is the latest incident of ongoing Luthuli House news manipulation. This deplorable political censorship is a direct attack on freedom of expression and the editorial independence of the SABC," says Juli Kilian.
"This does not only destroy the credibility of the SABC News, but the very integrity of the SABC as an independent public broadcaster. COPE condemns any form of censorship and partisan meddling into what South Africans should hear and what not. The SABC belongs to South Africans, not to a ruling faction of the ANC."
"The email is irregular and it contravenes the Broadcasting Act and the SABC license agreement with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa). This matter will be reported to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA)."
8 November 2012: Prof Jane Duncan, Highway Africa chair of media and information society at Rhodes University, says of Jimi Matthews’ internal email dictating that new staff must refer to Nkandla as President Jacob Zuma’s “home” that it was difficult not to arrive at the conclusion that Matthews was sanitising the news to cause minimal offence to the powers that be.
"While I can understand the sensitivities around the use of the word 'compound' – but not the use of the word 'homestead' – Jimi Matthews's email instruction goes way beyond what is needed to address this particular issue, and way beyond the legitimate exercise of editorial authority, and tilts over into out and out censorship," said Duncan.
Banning the use of "any such term" was unacceptably broad, she said.
8 November 2012: The Mail & Guardian questions the banning of the word compound by Jimi Matthews
10 November 2012: Andrew Donaldson, in his weekly column in the Weekend Argus describes the SABC radio programme SAFM as having apologised for having described President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla homestead as a "compound" in its news bulletins. The apology was the result of an instruction from SABC acting head of news Jimi Matthews.
An email from Matthews to his staff was read out in Parliament by Cope's acting chief whip, Juli Kilian, to wit: "Your [sic] are hereby notified that, with immediate effect, President Zuma's Nkandla home should be referred to as the President's, or Mr Zuma's, ‘Nkandla residence' and not a ‘compound' or ‘homestead' or any other such term. Please also refrain from using imported terminology in reporting on the controversy surrounding the infrastructure developments around the residence, such as ‘Nkandlagate', ‘Zumaville' and such like."
The closing "and such like" is the giveaway. It's one of his pet phrases, and so typical of Matthews, it's almost as if we can hear him using it right now, just tossing it out there at the end of another of his long-winded tales about swimming through shark-infested seas and being chased through a volley of rubber bullets by a sweating man named Odendaal. And such like.
The Matthews memo, however, smacks of censorship and political interference. Readers will recall that it was on Monday afternoon that Mac Maharaj, the Presidency spokesman, informed Johannesburg's 702 radio station of the sinister meaning of the word "compound". Helen Zille had used it in referring to Zuma's residence and this showed, ipso facto, that the Democratic Alliance is racist, Maharaj claimed, because the term was used during the apartheid era to denote single-sex living quarters for black people, especially on the mines. It was language "loaded with prejudice", he said. "She'd never use that for a white person's home."
This is utterly specious rubbish -- especially as Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, among other government members, had also used the term, quite correctly, in describing the chief's country crib.
Maharaj, the Ridge regulars will tell you, was a former transport minister who resigned in 1999 and joined FirstRand Bank as its highest paid non-executive director. His political reputation was somewhat sullied a few years later by newspaper reports alleging that he and his wife Zarina had received several large payments from Shabby Shaik, the convicted fraudster who miraculously rose from the dead after punching a reporter on a golf course.
In July last year, Maharaj was coaxed out of retirement by Zuma. Not many politicians get a second crack at establishing a legacy of full-blown ignominy, and the man certainly has grasped at the opportunity with relish, displaying a degree of zeal with his sophistry that is often quite breath-taking.
Anyway, on Tuesday, the morning after this bilge, SAfm, the SABC's "flagship" radio station, issued its startling apology. Was Matthews instructed to do so -- or was this a heat-seeking, brown-nosing own-initiative grovel? If the latter, then it suggests a new depth in toadyism.
12 November 2012: The SABC has suspended its chief audit executive, Lorraine Francois, but the public broadcaster has not announced the news, nor given any reasons.
The SABC chairperson, dr Ben Ngubane, informed Lorraine Francois by letter that she has allegedly been working against the interest and authority of the SABC board.
12 November 2012: In a surprising move, the FXI announced that the four day hearing scheduled between itself, ICASA and the SABC would not be taking place because the parties had reached an agreement. Here is how television blogger, Thinus Ferreira described it:
It took all of 5 minutes for the Freedom of Expression Institute and the SABC to settle their fight before Icasa without saying a word about it.
It took all of 5 minutes this morning for the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) to meet with the Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) to withdrawn from public scrutiny its intended case and hard-fought right to have a hearing before the country's broadcasting regulator, into alleged Blacklisting practises of the SABC.
Shock is reverberating through the broadcasting and media industry today at the FXI's unexpected withdrawal of an issue and a case dating back to 2006 - something the FXI went to court for after Icasa refused to hear the case, and which the South Gauteng High Court in January 2011 forced Icasa to hear.
That hearing into alleged Blacklisting of commentators and journalists by the SABC which was finally to be heard from today in a new hearing set to last this whole week, ended up lasting only five minutes with the FXI and the SABC withdrawing the case.
No details of the agreement between the FXI and the SABC have yet been released. I've asked the SABC earlier today about the case, and have as of yet received no response.
"Parties were engaged in a settlement agreement and the FXI hereby withdraws its complaints," advocate Nasreen Rajab-Budlender, acting for the FXI said during this morning's hearing.
Hamilton Maenetje, SC for the SABC, said the dispute had been resolved. "There is no complaint remaining. We ask for a termination of proceedings."
The terms of the settlement between the FXI and the SABC were not disclosed - ironic given that it’s the Freedom of Expression Institute and the public broadcaster.
It turns out that the FXI and the SABC have been meeting the past few weeks and last week hammered out a settlement between the institute and the public broadcaster.
The hearing, diarised to continue this entire week, would have cast a renewed spotlight on the SABC's news practises and reports since 2006 alleging that the SABC has been manipulated its news coverage through censorship by pre-deciding who the public broadcaster won't give editorial airtime.
"Sadly the issues of Blacklisting and censorship raised by this complaint remain as burningly relevant today as when they were first raised in 2006," said the Support Public Broadcasting (SOS) public pressure group in a statement before the hearing started this morning.
"To restore faith in the SABC's news coverage, we call on the SABC board, CEO and the acting head of news to publicly commit to news coverage that is hard-hitting, covers all points of view and ultimately holds those in positions of power to account."
See also Ed Herbst: The disturbing silence of the FXI lambs
14 November 2012: The Citizen, in an editorial, says that even though the FXI has reached a deal with the SABC to drop the ICASA investigation there could be no doubt that under news head Jimi Matthews, the SABC remained as much a craven lackey of the ANC as it had ever been.
More troubling is the false impression created that through this settlement the SABC is somehow redeemed; that because there is no longer a blacklist, credibility is restored.
In fact, under current head of news Jimi Matthews, the SABC is as craven as ever.
The banning of words such as “Zumaville” and “Nkandlagate”, along with the outlawing of “compound” as a description of Jacob Zuma’s publicly funded private homestead, all point to a one-sided political agenda. So, too, the instruction not to call the Marikana shootings a massacre.
Like his predecessor, Matthews is trying to skew news and views. In doing so he places the public broadcaster in breach of its mandate.
This week’s deal with the FXI must not be allowed to obscure the central issue of the SABC’s bias.
19 November 2012: As a result of a PAIA application by the SOS coalition, the Presidency releases three letters of resignation written by SABC board members to President Jacob Zuma in which the breakdown in trust with the board chairman, Ben Ngubane is highlighted.
20 November 2012: Cape Town - Suspended SABC financial officer Gugu Duda surprised many at the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) by making an appearance and trying to make her own presentation to MPs.
Committee chairperson Themba Godi cut Duda short when she tried to interrupt proceedings to give her own version of woes at the public broadcaster over the past eight years
MPs wasted little time in lambasting the SABC board and management members for the lack of internal control which led to the SABC receiving another qualified audit opinion for the 2011/12 book year.
"The result of this lack of internal control [was]... of the 66 planned performance indicators only 20 were achieved... this represents a 70% failure rate," ANC MP Roy Ainsley charged.
27 November 2012: IOL reveals that the almost bankrupt SABC is giving senior managers a R10 000 a month petrol allowance:
SABC grilled on fuel and contracts
Senior managers at the SABC are receiving petrol allowances of up to R10 000 a month under a system designed to replace petrol cards, which were previously a source of controversy.
The SABC board was back in Parliament and received a grilling from the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa).
SABC board chairman Ben Ngubane said the broadcaster had decided to get rid of petrol cards, but that the “new measures” were actually more expensive.
Acting chief financial officer Tian Olivier said the news team and outside broadcasting vehicles still used petrol cards, as did the sales team, but there were “controls” in place.
He conceded, however, that senior managers, while not being allocated petrol cards any longer, were allocated a petrol allowance – in his case, R10 000.
Scopa also heard that the broadcaster’s supply chain management policy had not yet been approved, and it had been operating without an internal audit committee for months.
ANC MP Roy Ainslie questioned Ngubane as to why the policy had not yet been approved when a recommendation to this effect was made more than two years ago.
“Why is it taking so long? Supply chain management is a vital area, and if there’s no policy, it must give rise to fraud, it must give rise to corruption, it must give rise to irregular expenditure,” an exasperated Ainslie said.
“But in the meantime, the organisation procures billions and billions of [content] – based on what? On no policy. It’s mind-boggling. It’s unacceptable.”
1 December 2012: In an editorial, Noseweek castigates the SABC for its attempts to suppress the broadcasting of its commissioned documentary, The Spear which asks why the ANC did nothing to follow up information it had received about the transfer of billions of rands out of the country during the apartheid era.
5 December 2012: On 5 December 2102 a scheduled Metro FM debate on the ANC’s Mangaung conference was cancelled at the last moment by Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Business Day political editor Sam Mkokeli, Sunday Times political editor S’thembiso Msomi and Andrew England, Southern African bureau chief for the Financial Times were in the SABC’s Auckland Park studios and ready to go on air when they were told that the debate had been cancelled because the ANC was not represented in the discussion.
Insisting that the ANC be present in any broadcast discussion which refers to the party effectively negates freedom of speech because all the ANC has to do to chill debate is to refuse to participate.
This decision was harshly criticised by Makhuda Sefara in the Star who said that Motsoeneng’s actions insulted the Struggle.
6 December 2012: The SABC broadcasts an hour-long, soft interview with President Jacob Zuma in which not a single question is posed about major concerns in the country. Here is how Ranjeni Munusamy described the interview on the Daily Maverick web site: To round off a rather pleasant day for Zuma, the public broadcaster aired a recorded hour-long television interview on a current affairs programme called A Nation @ Work. Zuma was able to speak at length, unchallenged, on the work of government and his perspectives on issues such as the Marikana tragedy, education and unemployment.
7 December 2012: The Cape Town Press Club expresses concern about repeated censorship by the SABC news department
"Presenter Siki Mgabedeli was due to interview Cosatu [president] Sdumo Dlamini, but an instruction was given apparently to cancel the discussion because the interview did not have an ANC participant."
The club said in the space of a week both the media and an alliance partner of the ANC had been on the receiving end of censorship within the SABC.
9 December 2012: Ferial Haffajee, the editor of City Press which says that the acting chief operating officer of the SABC, Hlaudi Motsoeneng is obsessed with watching adulatory film clips about himself. She also reveals that for the first time in the history of the SABC news management team, Motsoeneng has hired, at taxpayers’ expense, a bodyguard. Not even at the height of the PW Botha era, when Botha had declared a state of emergency and the country was wracked by a low-intensity civil war, did the heads of the various television and radio news departments at the SABC consider it necessary to have bodyguards
The SABC’s acting chief operations officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, is engrossed.
His eyes are glued to the TV in his luxurious perch on the 27th floor of the broadcaster’s headquarters in Joburg.
I am watching him watching himself intently on the TV.
Playing on the outmoded TV set is a recording of an internal broadcast from earlier this year. Held to welcome then-new CEO Lulama Mokhobo, all the broadcaster’s provincial offices had a turn to say something.
Each provincial rep welcomed the new CEO and then praised the acting COO like this: “Ntate Motsoeneng, the loss to the province (Free State, where he first worked), is a gain to the nation,” says one staffer.
The next adds: “Ntate Motsoeneng, you have saved the SABC a lot of money. We are behind everything you do.”
And another: “The SABC is becoming more stable. This is attributed to the acting COO. You are giving platforms to our concerns, fears, cries.”
So it goes for a good hour as each region welcomes the CEO and praises Motsoeneng to high heaven.
He is enraptured by his own image, perhaps it is his antidote to a fortnight which has seen him hog headlines for several acts of censorship at the SABC.
The DVD recording feels staged, but Motsoeneng is a staff favourite, according to many at the broadcaster.
9 December 2012: The Sunday Times makes Hlaudi Motsoeneng its Mampara of the Week
12 December 2012: An SABC decision to move editorial control of talk shows on politics and governance to news has far-reaching implications, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) says.
13 December 2012: The Times in its front page lead reveals that the SABC has canned an Interface interview with cartoonist Jonathan Zapiro, which was going to be broadcast on the Interface programme.
13 December 2012: It is surely time for an independent investigation into the news practices at the SABC, which are starting to resemble those of some state broadcasters north of the border. Editorial in The Times after Interface interview with cartoonist Jonathan Zapiro is canned.
14 December 2012: Acting SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng says the Corporation decided not to broadcast Zapiro’s Interface interview because it “lacked fairness and balance”. He then threatened staff saying would be “consequences” if this were to happen again.
16 December 2012: Sunday World reveals that the statebroadcaster has paid DeLoittes R50 million (R50 million!) for a ‘turnaround” strategy.
The details are revealed in a letter was sent from Sandile Gwala of DeLoitte Consulting to Finance Minister, Pravan Gordhan. The letter which made its way into the public domain when it was inadvertently sent to the wrong person decries the futility of drafting a turnaround strategy when the SABC’s board of directors was incapable of successfully implementing it.
In his letter Gwala asks the minister to deploy one of his own senior staff members to run the SABC or bring someone from abroad "as CEO for three years".
Gwala is scathing of the SABC board in his assessment: "The overall governance structure remains an area of concern for the SABC. This is underpinned by board instability, weakness in internal controls and a lack of leadership. There are critical political and commercial forces at play influencing the position of [the] SABC.
"Some new board members (not all) have recreated the board instability that we experienced before we commenced our project."
He then recommends that Gordhan's department send a strong leader to "save the ailing broadcaster".
19 December 2012: The Press council rejects, in its entirety, a complaint by the New Age newspaper about a report in the Sunday Times on 7 October 2012 headlined “Looting at the SABC laid bare”: The story, written by Stephan Hofstatter, Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Rob Rose, casted a wide net over various questionable transactions of the SABC. The article was based on forensic reports, board minutes and internal correspondence and the revelations disclosed that the SABC was at the same time looking to raise a further R6 billion to implement its digital broadcasting strategy. The story also focused on TNA subscriptions at the SABC, the exposure that the national broadcaster had given to TNA on its Morning Live show and the advertorials that the SABC paid for to TNA.