10 January 2013: Thinus Ferreira on his “TV with Thinus” blog follows up on the Sunday World article - a consultant appointed by the SABC to help with the turnaround of an organisation that had been bankrupted in the Eddie Funde/Christine Qunta/Dali Mpofu/Snuki Zikalala era has urged the minister of finance, Pravin Gordhan to appoint an overseas person to get the state broadcaster out of a situation of endemic crisis
The consultancy company the SABC paid in 2011 to help the struggling South African public broadcaster with its Turnaround Strategy wrote to the minister of finance Pravin Gordhan telling him that "the ailing broadcaster" is suffering from "a lack of leadership".
An external consultant involved with helping the SABC with its Turnaround project wrote to the minister that the SABC would be better served by a CEO from overseas for 3 years and that the struggling SABC's governance structure "remains an area of concern".
Sandile Gwala, a partner at Deloitte Consulting, wrote to the minister of finance, imploring him to appoint a CEO from outside of South Africa to run the SABC for 3 years or one of the department's own senior staff members.
The SABC paid Deloitte millions to help with the struggling public broadcaster's Turnaround Strategy. In the Deloitte letter to the minister, the consultancy firm writes that "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 SABC."
"Some new board members (not all) have recreated the board instability that we experienced before we commenced our project."
Responding to a media enquiry made to Sandile Gwala and Deloitte, the PR company employed by the firm tells me that "Deloitte does not comment on private and confidential correspondence issued by the firm in relation to its clients and therefore will not be commenting in this regard."
The SABC didn't respond to a media enquiry made before Christmas 2012 regarding the letter and neither did Jabulani Sikhakhane the minister's spokesperson.
11 January 2013: The Star reveals that Hlaudi Motsoeneng, acting chief operating officer of the debt-crippled SABC, has ordered that millions of rand be spent converting surplus freelancers into full-time staff.
The Star can reveal that Motsoeneng issued the “instruction” through an internal memo on November 7, despite protests by the public broadcaster’s acting chief financial officer (CFO), Tian Olivier, and others.
In fact, Motsoeneng warned there would be “consequences” if the management and human resources failed to find the budget and implement the conversion during the 2012/2013 financial year.
According to internal memoranda seen by The Star, the decision means all permanent technical employees will be paid a full month’s salary, but be able to work only for three weeks a month because of the new oversupply of staff.
The conversion will cost millions in unbudgeted expenses to cover the erstwhile freelancers’ new human resources benefits.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has publicly called on the SABC to reduce its staffing complement and cut costs as it continues to service the R1 billion bailout granted by a private bank in 2009, after the Treasury signed sureties to save the SABC from its R800 million deficit.
Some managers have accused Motsoeneng of wasteful expenditure and flouting the Public Finance Management Act, according to internal correspondence.
According to an internal memo, the cost and other implications are:
- 7 million to convert 22 video editors into permanent staff members at scale 404.
- Staff members will now work a combined 324 hours less a month.
- R729 000 will be needed to pay six freelancers who would do the job usually done by the three video editors earmarked for the 24-Hour News Channel.
- R200 000 extra will be required to pay salaries between December 2012 and March.
- Employees will work a minimum of 24 hours and a maximum of 32 hours a week, even though the law required them to work a minimum 40 hours a week.
Acting SABC group executive for human capital services Keobokile Mosweu has denied the figures mentioned in the memo.
“The audit that we are conducting will give us the figure. It will give us the financial impact, not the R5 million that you have referred to because the figure is premature,” said Mosweu.
Motsoeneng and Olivier confirmed his instruction during an interview with The Star at the SABC’s Auckland Park headquarters this week.
However, they denied that the conversion would negatively affect the SABC’s financial positions and amounted to wasteful expenditure. They said they were merely doing what the Basic Conditions of Employment Act required of them.
Olivier also confirmed that he had refused to approve the conversion, but denied that he had said the freelancers were surplus to requirement.
“People came to me after this memo of the 8th and said ‘We need to employ’. I said ‘Whoa! Whoa!’
“I haven’t seen the request (for the posts). I have not approved anything, it is a fact, because they didn’t come to me with it yet. And in terms of the delegation of authority, any new post that does not have a budget yet must be approved by the CFO,” Olivier said.
Motsoeneng defended his decision, saying it was necessary to end the “abuse” of freelancers, comply with the law and retain skills. He said he had responded to complaints and concerns from the affected freelancers.
Motsoeneng conceded that Olivier had raised “red flags”. However, he said he was forging ahead to ensure the SABC’s sustainability.
15 January 2013: Ed Herbst analyses the situation at the SABC involving Hlaudi Motsoeneng, Lulama Mokhobo and Phil Molefe
17 January 2013: The SABC’s acting chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, has launched a witch-hunt for employees suspected of leaking damaging information about him.
This came after The Star’s report last week that Motsoeneng had instructed the debt-crippled corporation to spend millions it did not have converting surplus freelancers into permanent employees.
The Star has learnt that he summoned SABC employees to a general meeting at the public broadcaster’s headquarters on Monday and threatened to sniff out and fire those behind the leaks.
Four employees who attended the meeting said Motsoeneng announced that he had asked internal auditors and the corporation’s acting news chief, Jimi Mathews, to find out who had leaked the story and to recommend sanctions.
They said Motsoeneng maintained that he was launching “operation clean up” to flush out insubordinate managers who did not want to “be on the same page” with the executive.
He did not name them.
20 January 2013: City Press reveals that three of the country’s biggest state-owned companies are paying millions of rands to bankroll business breakfasts hosted by President Jacob Zuma’s close friends, the Gupta family.
24 January 2013: The Freedom Front asks the Public Protector to investigate the SABC in connection with its sponsoring of the New Age newspaper’s breakfasts
25 January 2013: The SABC once again vetoes the use of a commissioned program for fear of upsetting the ANC
30 January 2013: City Press reveals that the SABC has hounded a dead woman for the past 15 years for her TV licence money
3 February 2013: The SOS Coalition sends an open letter to parliament expressing concern about the resignation of board member Patricia Makhesha. “The reasons for Ms. Makhesha’s resignation have not been released, but media reports have speculated this was due to corporate governance problems.
“The working group notes with dismay that this is the seventh of the 12 non-executive SABC Board members to resign since 2010 when the board took office.
After an exhaustive Promotion of Access to Information Act request, SOS has managed to obtain from the Presidency the resignation letters of all board members, save for one, since 2010.
“These letters can be accessed on the SOS website, and make for depressing reading. What is startling is that where reasons are given for the resignations, they actually focus on two key factors: serious corporate governance problems and inappropriate ministerial interference.
“In light of this latest resignation, SOS formally and publicly calls upon the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications to hold a special hearing on the two deep-seated problems identified by outgoing SABC board members.”
3 February 2013: The Sunday Times reports that Communications Minister Dina Pule’s alleged lover, businessman Phosane Mngqibisa was paid a R6m “management fee” for the 2012 ICT Indaba despite not being involved.
The report further suggests that the conference organisers were forced by the Department of Communications (DoC) to hire Mngqibisa.
The Sunday Times cited two forensic documents which showed that Mngqibisa was not really involved in the organisation of the event, despite being paid R6-million
4 February 2013: Parliament’s communications committee is asked to hold a special hearing to get to the bottom of a spate of resignations of SABC board members, who have cited “intolerable interference” in the affairs of the board, multiple breaches of the law by the chief executive officer and the board chairman and failures of corporate governance as reasons for their going.
15 February 2013: The Mail & Guardian reveals that the SABC has been caught napping by the announcement of a 24-hour news channel by the Guptas.
26 February 2013: SABC announces that Hlaudi Motsoeneg will be removed from his position of acting COO with immediate effect
4 March 2013: SABC chairman, Dr Ben Ngubane, announces that he has over-ruled a board decision to remove Hlaudi Motsoeneng from his position as acting COO.
4 March 2013: The SABC denies that Ngubane has the power to overrule a decision by a properly-constituted SABC board to remove acing COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, from his position.
5 March 2013: Communications Minister, Dina Pule, asks parliament to urgently review the SABC’s board fitness to hold office.
8 March 2013: A strike at the SABC is threatened as the broadcaster seeks to reverse salary increases awarded in December 2012 under Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
10 March 2013: City Press reveals that Hlaudi Motsoeneng, recently removed as COO, refuses to leave his office.
10 March 2013: The DA calls for the SIU (Special Investigating Unit) to urgently appear before a parliamentary committee to present a report on the status of its probe into SABC corruption.
11 March 2013: The chairman of the board, Dr Ben Ngubane and his deputy, Thami ka Plaatjie, resign.
11 March 2013: Zuma gets Ngubane resignation letter – DA and IFP urge that he accepts
14 March 2013: Communications Minister Dina Pule lashes out at the SABC board.
Communications Minister Dina Pule has lashed out in a scathing letter at the SABC board for the suspension of the corporation’s controversial chief financial officer Gugu Duda, the appointment of her replacement and the reinstatement of acting chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, which she described as “unprocedural.
17 March 2013: The Sunday Independent, quoting from a leaked forensic report commissioned by SABC board chairman, Dr Ben Ngubane, claims that communications minister Dina Pule connived at the appointment of the corporation’s Chief financial Officer, Gugu Duda by holding secret meetings with her months before she was appointed. Duda was not the board’s choice for this position but they were given no option but to appoint her.Duda was later suspended for diverting R3m into a bank account for the ICT Indaba, an account from which Pule’s alleged lover, Phosane Mngqibisa, subsequently drew millions of rands.
19 March 2013: Pippa Green resigns from the SABC board and says the SABC should be broken up
19 March 2013: Suzanne Vos resigns from the SABC board and tells parliament that the board’s implosion was the result of the interference of Communications Minister Dina Pule and the unilateral and often illegal actions of board chair, Dr Ben Ngubane.
19 March 2013: SABC board members blame Pule for mass resignation.
20 March 2013: Rebecca Davis describes the shambolic meeting in parliament which saw the SABC board dissolved.
22 March 2013: The Mail & Guardian reveals board member Pippa Green’s resignation letter in which she, like Vos, cites interference by Pule as a major factor in her resignation.
24 March 2013: The Sunday Times reveals that Phosane Mngqibisa, Communications Minister Dina Pule’s lover, engineered getting friends and relatives on the boards of the Post Office, Sentech, Usasa and the SABC with the full knowledge of Pule.
The Sunday Times has established that Mngqibisa engineered the appointment of his close relative, Lulama Makhobo, to the post of SABC CEO, as well as one of his friends, Gugu Duda, as chief finance officer at the broadcaster.
A former confidante and business partner of Duda, Nomakhaya Malebane, gave the Sunday Times a blow-by-blow account of Mngqibisa's role in the appointments.
"I was at Gugu's house on December 8 2011 when she was informed that Phosane was arranging a secret meeting between her and the minister. A series of meetings took place before all parties went on Christmas holidays," Malebane said.
"Phosane gave Gugu three choices: to be a CFO at either the SABC, the Post Office or Post Bank, and she chose the SABC."
On Friday, Duda would not deny or confirm Malebane's allegations. She admitted speaking to Mngqibisa about the SABC at the time, but claimed the call was about other matters. She did not elaborate. But Duda did not deny sending her CV to Pule's office, instead of to the SABC board - as well-placed sources at the broadcaster claimed. "I was on the market and I sent my CV to everyone," she said.
When the SABC board initially recommended a candidate from the Eastern Cape for the position because Duda's CV was still stuck at Pule's office, the minister refused to endorse the board's decision and asked for a second round of interviews.
"Before the second round of interviews, Phosane was lobbying at least five board members to give Gugu the job," said Malebane.
This was confirmed by former SABC board member Pippa Green, who said in her resignation letter sent to Zuma this week: "The name the board submitted to the shareholder for the position of the CFO ... was rejected out of hand. We were told to submit three [names], including the name of a person whose CV came to us suspiciously late. This was the CV of the person whom the minister subsequently appointed and who turned out to be a major disappointment for the board."
Malebane told the Sunday Times that she prepared all the documents that Duda needed for the interviews, first with Mngqibisa and later with the SABC board
24 March 2013: Marian Shinn, DA shadow minister of communications, reacting to the Sunday Times report, calls on President Jacob Zuma to dismiss Pule.
25 March 2013: Jonathan Jansen, the vice chancellor and rector of the University of the Orange Free State, slates Communications Minister Dina Pule calling her incompetent and corrupt.
27 March 2013: Communications minister, Dina Pule, speaking to Talk Radio 702 DJ Eusebius McKaiser, denies a romantic link between herself and businessman Phosane Mngqibisa. Subsequently, on 5 May the Sunday Times accuses her of lying, quoting four diplomats as saying that he accompanied her on numerous overseas trips. On June 2, the paper again accuses her of lying, publishing an official government document in which she cites Mngibisa as her “spouse”.
27 March 2013: The Communications Ministry says that it has received no official communication from the former SABC board and thus, technically, Hlaudi Motsoeneng is still the COO.
28 March 2013: The Times reports that a panel of nine people has been appointed to investigate the nature of Communications Minister Dina Pule's relationship with businessman Phosane Mngqibisa
30 March 2013: Hlaudi Motsoeneng issues a statement via SAPA to say that from 1 April the English tv news bulletin would run from 6:30 – 7:30 to “ … allow an opportunity to give coverage to stories from the respective provinces.”
31 March 2013: The Sunday Times reports that Parliament’s ethics committee, chaired by Ben Turok will interview Communications Minister Dina Pule for five days, starting on April 22, to ascertain what role has been played by her alleged boyfriend/lover, Phosane Mngqibisa in various allegations of corruption. (“Ethics committee to probe Pule and her partner – MPs want to know if minister transgressed rules”)
8 April 2013: The Department of Communications reveals that President Jacob Zuma has endorsed the interim SABC board recommended by Parliament.
8 April 2013: Opposition parliamentarians accuse Communications minister Dina Pule of not being interested in her job.
10 April 2013: DA lays charges against Communications Minister Dina Pule and others
12 April 2013: Saying that it feared that the SABC could be placed under administration the trade union, MWASA, called for it to be changed into a Chapter 9 Institution. “A perpetual dark cloud of depravity, ineptitude, self-interest and corruption looms large over the SABC."
18 April 2013: Writing in Business Day, columnist Carol Paton says: Allegations about the abuse of office and government funds by Communications Minister Dina Pule have filled pages of newsprint this year and last, without a word of comment from the ANC
21 April 2013: The Sunday Times alleges that Communications Minister Dina Pule blew R2.6-million on a recruitment deal that led to the appointment of cronies of her boyfriend, Phosane Mngqibisa, to the boards of key parastatals.
22 April 2013: The Sunday Times responds saying that Pule is attacking the messenger instead of providing a detailed response to the allegations against her
22 April 2013: Marian Shinn of the DA slates the Pule press conference and calls on Pule to wait until the parliamentary enquiry into her conduct is complete.
5 May 2013: The Sunday Times accuses communications minister, Dina Pule, of lying about her romantic link to businessman Phosane Mngqibisa – a link which she had previously denied on 27 March in an interview with Talk Radio 702 DJ Eusebius McKaizer.
According to the Sunday Times report four diplomats, some of whom will testify in parliament’s ethics committee hearing into alleged misconduct by Pule, said that Mngqibisa was treated as Pule’s romantic partner on three international trips.
15 May 2013: The Sunday Times reveals details of Dina Pule’s overseas trips with her married lover, Phosane Mngqibisa
17 May 2013: Plans to screen a documentary about a corrupt apartheid deal at a fringe event during the Franschhoek Literary Festival were halted after the SABC served papers on journalist Sylvia Vollenhoven, who made the film.
From: Sylvia Vollenhoven <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: 17 May 2013 1:44:42 PM SAST To: Peggy Mabaso <PMabaso@werksmans.com> Subject: Re: SABC / SYLVIA VOLLENHOVEN & VOLLENHOVEN & APPOLLIS INDEPENDENT
I have no intention of screening a documentary on the Arms Deal because I never made one.
I made a documentary for the SABC's Truth Be Told series called Project Spear that deals with apartheid corruption and latter day consequences.
Your letter has been noted and I will not be screening this film at the Franschhoek Literary Festival tomorrow.
I have been writing to the SABC for many months now. They have showed no interest in screening this film, made with public funds. It was on the schedule last year but was taken off with no public explanation.
The last I heard from the SABC I was given an undertaking that they were prepared to sell the rights. I was told that a Business Plan was doing the rounds at the SABC and that I would be able to buy the rights for Project Spear. Could you please ask your client what has happened to these negotiations. We have been raising money to buy the rights but all my attempts to make progress with this issue has met with silence since the time when I was told that they were preparing the business plan for the sale.
19 May 2013: In an interview with City Press Sylvia Vollenhoven compares the actions of the SABC in attempting to suppress her commissioned documentary, “The Spear” with those of apartheid era police:
“In the old days, we had cops doing the dirty work. Now, we have highly paid attorneys working on hourly rates doing it – using even more public money to put a stop to a film made with public money.”
23 May 2013: Business Day carries the following letter relating to the frantic efforts by the SABC to prevent the public screening of Sylvia Vollenhoven’s documentary on NP/ANC corruption, Project Spear.
LETTER: SABC back to old ways
I am surprised you have not picked up on the story from the Franschhoek Literary Festival.
The SABC sent two high-priced lawyers to ensure Sylvia Vollenhoven, an independent film producer and much-respected former SABC producer, did not screen her documentary on corruption from the past and its influence on the present.
Her film, Project Spear: Spies, Lies and Stolen Billions, followed the trail of more than R1bn nested in secret by the former apartheid government. A former British MI6 spy offered to help our government recover the stolen loot but was ignored.
The SABC hired the high-priced law firm to halt Ms Vollenhoven and the editor of Noseweek from screening the film to a small group of people.
That has people like me worried because I worked at the SABC as an editorial trainer in the 1990s to help people like Ms Vollenhoven transform it from government lap dog into a broadcaster producing top journalism.
This is the latest in a series of incidents in which the SABC has reverted to its habits as official apologist and censor.
2 June 2013: The Sunday Times again accuses communications minister Dina Pule of lying about her romantic link to businessman Phosane Mngqibisa. On 5 May the paper said it had testimony from four diplomats who said that Pule had made repeated overseas trips with Mngqibisa. Now the paper publishes a government document in which Pule nominates Mngqibisa as her “spouse”. On 27 March Pule denied any romantic link with Mngqibisa saying in an interview with Talk Radio 702 DJ Eusebius McKaizer that the businessman was only a “comrade”.
The Sunday Times reported today (2 June 2013) that it has documents where communications minister Dina Pule had nominated Phosane Mngqibisa as her spouse to accompany her on official visits to Mexico in September 2009.
Pule previously denied that she was romantically linked to Mngqibisa. She said that she only knew Mngqibisa as a comrade, but has “nothing to do with him”.
One document – which was published by the Sunday Times and came from the Office of the Deputy Minister – stated that Mngqibisa was nominated as Pule’s spouse. Pule was the deputy communications minister at the time.
The newspaper report highlighted that “Mngqibisa, a father of three, was married at the time”.
Former communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda confirmed that he approved the trips with Pule and her spouse. However, he said that he was not aware who the spouse was.
The report added that Pule and “her spouse” took 20 trips together since 2009, with the last one on 7 June 2012 – the last day of the controversial ICT Indaba.
2 June 2013: SABC Spokesman, Kaizer Kganyago, tells the Sunday Independent that the corporation has reached an agreement with former news head Phil Molefe who has been on suspension with full pay for more than a year.
4 June 2013: Two days after Kganyago was quoted in the Sunday Independent as saying that a settlement agreement had been reached between the SABC and Molefe, Stephen Grootes of Eyewitness News says Molefe refutes Kgnyago’s claims. The story is headlined “SABC are liars – Phil Molefe”.
Molefe’s lawyers said they don’t know where the SABC’s claims in the Sunday newspaper came from because they have not reached any settlement with the corporation.
They said they were still preparing to go to the Supreme Court of Appeal over an earlier court ruling on his suspension.
The SABC said the board dealt with the Molefe issue but that it could not go into details about the matter.
4 June 2013: Authoritative television commentator, Thinus Ferreira, disputes the claim by communications minister, Dina Pule, that her department spent R758m on local content in 2012.
13 June 2013: The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry calls for communications minister Dina Pule to be suspended pending the outcome of a series of investigations against her.
“We are disappointed at the lack of action taken by the president given that the minister’s public office is under investigation for serious allegations of corruption,” says chamber executive director Viola Manuel in a statement. “It undermines the promises made to fight corruption, which has a ripple effect on the confidence to govern important initiatives such as broadband.”
22 June 2013: Press ombudsman Johan Retief entirely dismisses all three complaints by Communications Minister Dina Pule against the Sunday Times.
29 June 2013: Die Burger carries a story about “Project Spear” the SABC-commissioned documentary on how the apartheid regime, in collusion with the ANC, moved more than R30 billion of stolen money offshore before the 1994 democratic elections. The documentary was made by Sylvia Vollenhoven but and it was scheduled for broadcast in January this year. The state broadcaster refused to broadcast it, allegedly due to political pressure, and interdicted van Vollenhoven when she attempted to show extracts from the documentary at the Franschhoek Literary Festival (See Timeline 17 May 2013)
30 June 2013: Winnie Mandela tells Britain’s ITV News that the family were deeply offended by the ANC’s visit – televised by the SABC – to a clearly confused and ailing Nelson Mandela:
In excerpts published on the ITV website, she added: "It was insensitive, it compromised the family, compromised his dignity and it should have never been done."
Zuma said at the time Mandela was "up and about", a description that was clearly at odds with televised footage that showed the revered ex-leader frail and dazed, sitting frozen in an armchair.
30 June 2013: Charl Blignaut of City Press reveals that the SABC is preparing to go to court to prevent Sylvia Vollenhoven, a former SABC reporter and producer who was commissioned to produce a documentary for the SABC2 series Truth be Told, from airing the program or from even discussing the matter in radio interviews. The documentary, “The Spear” tells of how R3 billion was siphoned out of government coffers during the apartheid era.
“It questions why the ANC allegedly refused to take action to punish apartheid leaders”.
9 July 2013: President Jacob Zuma holds a press conference in parliament and, among other changes, announces that Communications Minister Dina Pule will be replaced by Yunus Carrim, the deputy minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs.
Then, abruptly and without taking questions he walks out . . . exactly four months and one day after his spokesman Mac Maharaj had rejected a rumour that she would be replaced.
10 July 2013: Forty five minutes after being sworn in, the new Minister of Communications, Yunus Carrim, expresses concerns about the SABC: “We are all excruciatingly aware of the need to stabilise the SABC board and its management. We need to improve its performance.
“We simply have no choice. The public out there, the business community, trade union movements and society have reached a limit of tolerance about the difficulties we have been having in the SABC.
10 July 2013: The communications industry reacts with surprise to the appointment of Carrim, a member of the SACP and someone with strong struggle credentials, saying he has no experience in the sector. It points out that there were several more obvious choices and the motivation of President Zuma in appointing Carrim is questioned.
10 July 2013: Marian Shinn, Democratic Alliance shadow minister for communications issues a press statement saying that three months after the DA laid charges of corruption against Pule on 10 April, the police had made no effort to investigate Pule.
11 July 2013: Itweb publishes a timeline of Dina Pule’s tenure as Communications Minister
11 July 2013: 2 Oceans Vibe News reveals that the SABC is going to sue noseweek and its editor Martin Welz after the magazine carried an article in its issue about Sylvia vollenhoven and her SABC-commissioned documentary, “The Spear”.
11 July 2013: Julius Malema launches his new political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in Johannesburg and lashes out at the media in general and the SABC in particular. This is posted by SAPA on YouTube:
“The SABC is run from Luthuli House, in Jackson … oh … Jack Daniels Mthembu’s (laughter) office er.. Luthuli House, Sauer Street, that’s where the SABC is ran (sic). And when I came here I didn’t expect them because I know how we used to run them when we still there.
“And they can’t tell me it’s wrong, I’m lying -we used to do it. (laughter)
They will be called to Luthuli House, they will be told which story to cover and which story not to cover.
“Comrades in the SABC operate like it’s the eighties, scared they are going to be fired.”
22 July 2013: The Hawks confirm that they are investigating former Communications Minister, Dina Pule, for corruption. Nothing further is ever heard about the ‘investigation’
23 July 2013: Business Day reports that almost a hundred names have been put forward for the SABC board.
23 July 2013: The Daily Maverick carries report by UK documentary producer Inigo Gilmore about how he was refused access to SABC archive footage when he was researching his documentary into police brutality in South Africa.
In addition, when I approached SABC to access the full footage their cameraman filmed that day, I drew a blank. After an exchange with the channel's archive department I was informed that they would not release the video to me, and told me that this was a "top management decision.”
His documentary, South Africa’s Dirty Cops was broadcast on the acclaimed British television programme Channel 4 Dispatches.
The SABC sells archive footage on a daily basis and has done so since the SABC began its television service in 1975. Since then it has generated a significant income from this source. This raises the question of why the Tatane footage should be any different.
Gilmore worked in South Africa for the Guardian for several years so has a good understanding of the country. He says the programme on police brutality in this country has been offered to several local networks including the SABC without response.
23 July 2013: Public Protector Thuli Madonsela confirms that, like the Hawks, she is investigating former Communications Minister Dina Pule
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said on Monday evening that her office was nearing completion of at least two investigations involving Ms Pule.
The first was about the chaos within the previous SABC board that led to Parliament replacing it with an interim board.
The second is also related to the ICT Indaba.
26 July 2013: Media experts and trades union express concern about the viability of the SABC’s proposed launch of a 24-hour news channel:
Broadcast, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union president Hannes du Buisson says it is morally wrong for the public broadcaster to launch this channel.
"They speak of their public mandate but I have a strong feeling that they may be in breach of the Broadcasting Act and possibly their licensing agreement with Icasa (the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa).
"It boggles the mind that they are using public funding to broadcast on a platform that the majority of the people who pay TV licences can’t reach," Mr du Buisson says. "They are supposed to be free-to-air and to broadcast in multiple languages, but one presumes that once they are on DStv, the news will only be in English — which is against their mandate."
31 July 2013: President Jacob Zuma addresses the Black Business Council at a dinner in Gallagher Estate, Midrand and lists the ANC’s achievements. The SABC interrupts scheduled programming to carry the speech live which upsets opposition parties. The SABC rejects this criticism.
1 August 2013: Live SABC television coverage of a speech by President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday night smacked of electioneering, the Democratic Alliance said.
“In fact, the president's speech sounded much like an election speech,” party spokesman Mmusi Maimane said on Thursday.
“He used the opportunity to rattle off a list of supposed government achievements.”
Maimane said he would insist on an explanation from SABC head of news Jimi Matthews.
No explanation waas ever provided by Matthews
1 August 2013: The SABC launches its 24-hour channel with President Jacob Zuma as the guest of honour and with acting COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng sitting alongside him while CEO Lulama Mokhobo was relegated to being the MC.
Zuma called for sunshine journalism and Motsoeneng had harsh words for his critics.
The head of news, Jimi Matthews, said that all the “checks and balances” were in place to prevent the channel from becoming a government mouthpiece.
"I am not quite sure where it comes from that the channel could be used as a propaganda tool. I am not sure how it would be any different to the operation I oversee at present. It is not like a 24-hour channel is a beast on its own. It still resides in the newsroom, with all the same management team, and all checks and balances. How it would somehow become a tool for some political entity confounds me a bit," Matthews said.
1 August 2013: The ANC issues a statement congratulating the SABC on the launch of its 24-hour news channel
It is the hope of the ANC that the Public Broadcaster will bring to South Africans accessible and informative news content from around the country and the world with no fear or favour. We further trust that this platform will not be yet another hourly regurgitation of stale content which can no longer be considered news, but rather a critical assessment and exposure of the best and worst in our society, anchored firmly on the hope and determination of ordinary South Africans to be part of solution, building a common nationhood.
2 August 2013: Hlaudi Motsoeneng, with his hallmark bragadocio, lauds his own achievements
4 August 2013: The Sunday Times makes SABC acting COO its Mampara of the Week:
Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who describes himself as the “engine” of the Zuma broadcasting operation in Auckland Park, was revving it up at the chaotic launch this week of the SABC’s new 24-hour news channel.
Group CEO Lulama Mokhobo was relegated to programme director for the evening while Hlaudi hobnobbed with No 1 and got to make the keynote speech. Zandile Tshabalala, interim chairwoman of the board, barely got a look in.
Promising to tell South Africa’s “success stories” for 24 hours a day, Hlaudi boasted: “We can cross to any country in Africa, including New York.” Someone should buy this overreaching mampara an atlas.
4 August 2013: The Sunday Times in its Hogarth column pans the launch on Friday August 1 of the SABC’s 24-hour “international” news channel.
Lights, camera, action . . . er, hang on a moment
No one could have scripted a sillier episode of our own Faulty Towers than Thursday’s launch of the SABC’s 24hour news-free channel. The only saving grace was that it ran on the exclusive DStv network, so ordinary South Africans were spared the latest abuse of their taxes and VAT contributions.
Open microphones catching presenters unawares, impromptu colour bars, bad camera work and cringe-worthy dialogue made the show feel like an Idols audition in Tweebuffelsfontein.
A clip of the first false start was still feeding a digital virus when anchor Peter Ndoro interviewed interim SABC chairwoman Zandile Tshabalala and kept calling her Andile.
“A point of correction: My name is Zandile. Zandile. Not Andile,” she said pointedly before going on to preview the riveting menu of hope and good leadership that will be the new channel’s secret recipe.
“Sorry, sorry for that mistake,” Ndoro grovelled as he watched his Christmas bonus go down the drain.
4 August 2013: The news breaks that Sylvia Vollenhoven, producer of The Spear which was commissioned by the SABC and then canned because of the questions it asked about the ANC, is to take her case to court.
6 August 2013: Marian Shinn, DA spokesperson on communications reveals that the SABC has spent almost R20 million on corruption investigations and resolving staff dismissal disputes but only 14 cases have been reported to the SAPS and of the 14 only one has been concluded.
6 August 2013: The Legal Resources Centre reveals that it will be assisting free lance producer Sylvia Vollenhoven in her court action against the SABC over her documentary Project Spear which was vetoed by the ANC after the documentary question why the ANC had never followed up information of the transfer of billions of rands out of the country by apartheid era people.
7 August 2013: A multi-parliamentary disciplinary committee which investigates former Communications Minister, Dina Pule, for malpractices finds her guilty of all but one of the charges levelled against her.
Dina Pule found guilty and fined
A report detailing misconduct by former communications minister Dina Pule has recommended that it be referred to the police and the National Prosecuting Authority for possible investigation.
The report, which was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, found that Pule had "wilfully misled" Parliament's ethics committee by denying her romantic relationship with a man who allegedly made millions from sponsorship deals with her former department.
The report was compiled by a nine-member, multi-party panel which recommended that Pule be docked a month's salary, and that she be reprimanded in the National Assembly by Speaker Max Sisulu.
The ethics committee adopted the full report, which was sent to the National Assembly for approval.
Pule was found guilty of failing to disclose the interests of her romantic partner Phosane Mngqibisa.
He benefited financially from the sponsorship of last year's information and communications technology event, the ICT Indaba, which her department hosted in Cape Town.
"We found her guilty of failing to declare her relationship with Mr Mngqibisa," said joint committee chair Ben Turok.
"She failed to declare the fact that he received material benefits which are financial and otherwise, and in failing to do so she broke the rules of the code of conduct of Parliament."
The panel's report was sent to the National Assembly (NA) and to Pule. Turok said the penalties could be imposed only if the NA approved the report.
"We are recommending a reprimand by the Speaker in the House, a 30-days' salary equivalent fine, and 15-days' suspension from all the committees in Parliament," Turok said.
The Democratic Alliance welcomed the findings.
"The DA is pleased that the multiparty ethics committee was unanimous in its decision to impose the strictest possible penalties available to Parliament in this case," said MP Diane Kohler-Barnard, who served on the committee.
Pule consistently denied during panel hearings that Mngqibisa was her permanent companion, insisting he was a "friend".
However, testimony showed that he accompanied her on various trips abroad and had shared her hotel suites.
According to the report: "Honourable Pule's testimony under oath regarding her relationship with Mr Mngqibisa is inconsistent with the facts, as is her statement regarding Telkom."
Telkom was one of several sponsors of the ICT Indaba.
Pule claimed the sponsorship from Telkom had been obtained prior to her becoming communications minister last year.
"However, the contract of sponsorship is signed on 10 May 2012, when Honourable Pule was already in office," the report stated.
"The committee notes the concealment of the relationship by Honourable Pule enabled Mr Mngqibisa to gain improper financial benefit."
Pule was cleared of only one of the allegations against her.
"On the allegation that the Honourable Pule breached paragraph seven of the code [of conduct of Parliament] in that she received a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes as a gift from Mr Mngqibisa, the panel finds that there is no breach. There was not sufficient evidence to prove the allegation."
Pule was sacked from Cabinet in a reshuffle by President Jacob Zuma last month, but she remains an MP.
The Times 8/8/2013
MPS put boot into lying Pule
High-flying former minister gets public reprimand and a suspension
PARLIAMENT’S ethics committee reserved its harshest sentence ever for disgraced former Communications Minister Dina Pule after she was found guilty of “wilfully misleading” MPs.
She will receive a public reprimand from National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu and the committee has recommended that her salary be suspended for a month.
She will also be suspended from parliament for 15 days.
Pule was demoted to an ordinary ANC backbencher after being fired by President Jacob Zuma from the cabinet last month.
The sanctions are the result of a lengthy inquiry by parliament’s joint ethics committee following a series of Sunday Times reports.
The reports detailed how Pule’s boyfriend, Phosane Mngqibisa , went on numerous overseas trips with the now-disgraced minster at the taxpayers’ expense.
The newspaper also reported that a company he owns, Khemano, allegedly pocketed R6-million for organising the ICT Indaba in Cape Town in June last year.
Pule had earlier denied the allegations and any romantic links to Mngqibisa, dismissing them as a smear campaign.
But yesterday the ethics committee — led by veteran MP Ben Turok and Lemias Mashile — found that:
- Mngqibisa was “the de facto permanent companion/spouse”, with their relationship tracked back to 2009 when she was still deputy minister in the Presidency;
- Mngqibisa, through that relationship, obtained government funding for trips abroad and took part in official meetings of the Communications Department despite not being its employee;
- Mngqibisa and Khemano enjoyed financial benefits from the department “as a result of his relationship with Pule” and admitted to pocketing R600 000 from the indaba;
- Pule had not declared the financial benef its enjoyed by “her de facto spouse”, with her declarations between 2009 and 2012 being incomplete; and
- Pule ‘‘wilfully misled’’ the ethics committee panel that investigated her on these matters and never admitted any wrongdoing and that several officials from the communications department might have committed perjury in their evidence.
The committee did not make any finding on allegations that Mngqibisa had bought expensive Christian Louboutin shoes for Pule while they were on a government-sponsored trip to Barcelona.
The ethics committee could not corroborate this claim.
“There was one charge on which we failed to prove [and] that is the shoes,” said Turok.
“But on the rest, we succeeded and she was found guilty on them. She submitted two affidavits in which she denied [all the allegations],” he said.
Turok said officials who appear to have lied to parliament to protect Pule would be reported to the Office of the President and the Public Service Commission for further action.
He said the matter would also be referred to the police and the National Prosecuting Authority for investigation in terms of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities Act.
The national legislature’s watchdog body also established that Mngqibisa had placed himself in a favourable position to benefit from the department’s future projects similar to the Cape Town ICT Indaba that landed Pule in hot water.
“There was an agreement between another company and the Communications Department about indabas going forward into a few years ...
“I don’t want to go into details but indications are that Mngqibisa located himself in a favourable position to benefit from future activity,” he said.
“So it’s a fair inference to say that the influence he was accumulating as a result of the [romantic] association would extend beyond the immediate indaba that we were looking into.”
Pule last night refused to speak to The Times, saying she had neither seen the report nor been informed about the outcome of the inquiry into her ethical conduct.
But Turok and Mashile said she had been sent a copy.
“I cannot because they have not yet spoken to me ... I have not received any report as I am sitting at home right now,” Pule said.
7 August 2013: Dianne Kohler Barnard, DA Shadow Minister of Police, welcomes the findings of the multiparty Parliamentary Ethics Committee which investigated complaints against former Communications Minister Dina Pule at the behest of the Democratic Alliance.
8 August 2013: Writing in Business Day, media commentator and Professor of Journalism at Wits University, Anton Harber, describes the launch of the SABC 24-hour news channel as “tacky”.
It wasn’t just that the launch was full of technical blapses (did anyone else catch the presenter talking about her breasts, not knowing that she was on air?), but how extraordinary it was that anyone could think to launch a news channel with live coverage of a dinner and long, boring speeches by politicians and business partners.
The SABC chose to display not sharp, informative, on-the-ball journalism but a public genuflection to its political and financial masters.
The inappropriateness of the launch was matched only by the tackiness.
The channel design — the logos, the badly shot, overused promos — look like something out of the 1970s. What became clear in the first few days of watching is that the SABC’s sleepy news operation has not geared up for the speed, immediacy and interactivity of the digital age.
What summed it up for me was to see the SABC’s head of news, Jimi Matthews, on the wrong side of the camera, eating dinner with the guests during the channel’s launch.
How can the main man not be in the control room at a time like this?
8 August 2013: Writing on the Media Online website, Chris Moerdyk says that the new SABC 24-hour TV news channel will never attract viewers because it is multi-lingual.
I find it most distressing to see what could be a successful national broadcaster, clearly pandering to political demands and political correctness, continuously heading off on expensive tangents that always end up having to be bailed out by the taxpayers.
Just listening to the rationale behind this channel at the time of its launch, it should have been abundantly clear to anyone with even a single figure IQ that the SABC’s 24 hour news channel was born out of the dictates of a political party and its national broadcaster both under severe pressure to deliver what they have been promising for so long.
History has shown that when politicians are unable to keep election promises and unable to supply basic services, a last desperate measure is to try and control the media to persuade the masses that everything is actually hunky dory. The Nats did it very well and the ANC are looking to be no different.
8 August 2013: Corruption Watch calls for former Communications Minister to be criminally charged:
Corruption Watch calls for the prosecuting authorities to act swiftly and ensure former Communications Minister Dina Pule is held accountable for her alleged unlawful conduct.
While welcoming the findings of the Parliamentary Ethics Committee against Pule, Corruption Watch’s executive director David Lewis said criminal charges must be laid against Pule in line with the anti-corruption laws.
“It is important to note that Pule is not an ordinary member of parliament but held a Cabinet post vital to South Africa’s well-being and economic prospects. It is therefore imperative that strong consequences flow from the manner in which she has abused the public resources under her stewardship,” said Lewis.
Corruption Watch has also noted the limited powers of the ethics committee, which Lewis said needed to be augmented to enable the committee to impose heavier penalties on corrupt members of parliament.
“While we understand that the committee used all powers at its disposal and we commend them for that, their punitive powers appear far too limited relative to the level of misconduct and disregard for the public office that Pule occupied. This is all the more reason for the criminal justice authorities to act, including action to recover the public funds plundered.”
9 August 2013: The Mail & Guardian reveals that veteran ANC MP, Ben Turok who led a parliamentary investigation into allegations of corrupt behaviour by former Communications Minister Dina Pule, was given bodyguards after he and the registrar of the Ethics Committee received threats.
Turok said while a panel appointed by the joint committee on ethics and members interests was midway through the hearings into Pule's conduct, Parliament's security services received information of a threat to harm him and the committee registrar Fazela Mahomed, and to disrupt the proceedings of the hearing.
"A threat was received through a certain person, that they would try to stop the investigation and the report," said Turok.
He said certain witnesses were also threatened and some tried to change their evidence.
The threats were reported to the national VIP unit, and both Turok and Mahomed were provided with two security personnel each.
Turok said the matter was reported to the speaker of the national assembly Max Sisulu, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and to police commissioner Riah Phiyega because the protection services felt it was an attack on Parliament.
"To interfere with a process of Parliament is a dangerous matter, but it is being taken quite seriously in very high offices."
Turok suspects that a person or people mentioned in the report had felt threatened and wanted to stop the report from being published.
9 August 2013: Mosesh Monare, editor of the Sunday Independent, calls for former Communications Minister, Dina Pule, to be barred from public office and says that the ANC must force her to step aside. He says Pule must be jailed in the same way that Tony Yengeni was. He criticises the ANC for its double standards saying that it was far more firm with Limpopo MEC Mirriam Sekgabutla.
At least we jailed former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni for “defrauding Parliament” after lying about the discount he received on his SUV.
He pleaded guilty to fraud and admitted his misrepresentation was made with the intent to defraud Parliament. Pule must face a similar fate. If she is charged, found guilty and sent to jail for more than a year without option of a fine, she will be constitutionally barred from being an MP.
In the meantime, the ANC must stop its disingenuous double standards and force Pule to step down.
Its terse statement on Pule is a duplicitous contrast to the statement it made against former Limpopo MEC Mirriam Sekgabutla, who is facing criminal charges. On Pule, the ANC caucus said: “We will await the decision of Parliament on the report and its recommendations. The ANC will never condone any act of ill-discipline, misconduct and impropriety.”
On Sekgabutla, the party was firmer. “Whilst acknowledging that Cde Mirriam remains innocent until proven guilty, the charges levelled against her have the potential to harm the image and standing of the ANC in its fight against crime and corruption… It is in this context that the 53rd National Conference resolved that those who are facing serious criminal charges should on their own volition, in keeping with the core values of the ANC, step aside from participating in any ANC leadership positions and occupying public office pending the outcome of the court proceedings.”
Granted, Pule is not facing any criminal charges, but she was found guilty of the most serious parliamentary offence. She’s most likely to face criminal charges.
The ANC must treat Parliament and other public institutions with the same respect. When the ANC was vacillating on the Yengeni matter a decade ago, it took former Speaker of the National Assembly Frene Ginwala to remind the ruling party MPs: “It’s time the South African public realised that some people in this Parliament take the institution very seriously, and let us see how many.”
Pule violated her oath of undertaking to “hold my office… with honour and dignity; to be a true and faithful counsellor”. She does not deserve to call herself a representative of the people of South Africa.
15 August 2013: Anton Harber, writing in Business Day reveals that SABC lawyers flew to Cape Town, placed a judge on urgent standby and then drove to the Franschoek Literary Festival to coerce Sylvia Vollenhoven and Martin Welz into not showing a small, selected audience, its commissioned documentary, The Spear.
Business Day 15/8/2013
Censorship and intrigue in ‘Project Spear” case
SOMETIMES censorship arrives at the front door and then we confront it. At other times, it comes around the back and tries to sneak inside unnoticed. Sometimes it dresses up in funny clothes. My story is about censorship disguised as copyright protection. It involves Absa Bank, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), a documentary film maker, a muck-raking magazine, a literary festival, two lawyers, apartheid and a barrel-load of intrigue.
Apartheid is part of the story because it always is. Absa is involved because it was implicated in financial shenanigans in the dying days of apartheid. The muck-raking magazine, Noseweek, ran the original story. The documentary maker is Sylvia Vollenhoven, who made Project Spear, which apparently tells of a former British intelligence man who offers to recover many billions of rand secreted overseas in the dying days of apartheid and to do it on spec. To his surprise, there was no interest from the new South African government, raising interesting questions.
Vollenhoven made her film for an SABC series called If Truth be Told. Well, it was not. She says she had the approval of her commissioning editor, but when it was finished and shown to the political heavyweights, they wanted major — and impossible — last-minute changes. They chose not to show it and — without explanation to her or the audience — screened in its place a rerun.
Vollenhoven says she entered into discussions to buy the film from the SABC. And she and Noseweek’s Martin Welz decided to show it to a tiny audience at the Franschhoek Literary Festival earlier this year.
Enter the two lawyers. Not only do they fly to the Western Cape and put a judge on weekend standby to stop them showing the film to a handful of people, but they serve court papers demanding that no one ever show it, that they return all copies and every bit of footage and never even make "an adaptation" of it. In other words, not content with not screening it, the SABC is trying to block it out entirely and prevent anyone ever seeing it, or making another version of it, or even possessing a copy of it. It doesn’t even want another version made of the same story.
That is called censorship.
I have no idea if the film is any good or a load of baloney. I can’t see it because now I am not allowed to. But you have to think that if someone goes to so much trouble to ensure that no one ever sees it, it probably has something juicy in it.
But why should the SABC, which is in the business of showing such films, not suppressing them, and which does not have money to throw around on legal action, care so much?
Vollenhoven thinks it is the result of "fear, insecurity and juniorisation" at the SABC, rather than a grand conspiracy.
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago has been quoted as saying the SABC’s concern is only with the principle of who owns the film. "We own this material. We have commissioned it and paid for it and we want all of it to be returned…. It’s a matter of principle," he said.
"People are making it sound as if it’s about the content. This has got nothing to do with the content. The fact is it doesn’t belong to them and they’re showing it to people," he said. Really? The SABC would go to these lengths to keep control of a film it doesn’t even want to show?
The root of the problem is an archaic clause in SABC agreements with independent producers that gives it total and open-ended ownership of all material, even if it never uses it. That clause is confining a range of material to the archives, hidden forever unless the SABC finds a use for it. The effect is to suppress information and material.
Vollenhoven is defending her case, with the support of the Freedom of Expression Institute, and is challenging the SABC to sell copyright to her. It will be a fascinating case to watch. Hopefully, we will get to see the film. And the SABC will be pushed to modernise its contracts with producers that would pull it into line with international norms.
- Harber is Caxton Professor of Journalism at Wits University and chairman of the Freedom of Expression Institute.
17 August 2013: Thinus Ferreira of the authoritative television website, TV with Thinus, reveals that the SABC has shown complete contempt for its Afrikaans viewers by refusing to disclose information about the Afrikaans 19h00 TV news bulletin which has been extended by half an hour.
Since SABC News launched at the beginning of August, neither the SABC nor the SABC News channel has made any information available or communicated any programming specific information about the Afrikaans news, nor who the news readers are, nor responded to any of the multiple media enquiries made about it and the channel the past weeks.
20 August 2013: Ben Turok provides parliament with the report on Dina Pule
Submission by Prof Ben Turok MP to the National Assembly on the Investigation of Allegations against the Former Minister Of Communication, Dina Pule MP
Parliament, Tuesday 20 August 2013 - As the Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members' Interests and Chairperson of the Panel appointed to consider the allegations against the Hon Dina Pule, I wish to present the Report of the Committee.
The Report was adopted unanimously both by the Panel and the Committee as a whole after a long and difficult process. We hope that the House will also support the findings in the same non-partisan spirit.
I need to make some preliminary remarks with respect to the role of the Ethics Committee. This is a multi-party committee with members from both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). We have the difficult task of overseeing the proper compliance with the annual declaration by Members of their financial interests and those of their close family members.
In doing this we act as the instrument of Parliament, fulfilling your requirements as an important institution of the country, maintaining public trust in its integrity. The Code of Conduct requires us to place public interest above our personal financial interests and those close to us.
We have to be objective in complying with the Joint Rules of Parliament. We cannot be politically partisan, we cannot allow bias or prejudice to enter into our considerations, we must base our judgements on facts and where there is a conflict on the facts we have to discover the truth. We must be fair and be seen to be fair. In all this we are guided by the will of this House and the NCOP, by the national interest and by the Constitution.
Parliament has a duty to reflect a common purpose and common values. And when it acts in the national interest the whole must be greater than the sum of its parts, that is, Parliament rises above the specific concerns of parties and individuals.
Our powers of investigation are substantial, but we are not a court of law. We must respect the rights of Members and follow due process. Where we investigate the ethical conduct of a Member, we do so in closed session, we are sworn to observe confidentiality, and our findings are based "on the balance of probabilities".
While our investigations centre on the proper declaration of Members' interests, these investigations often introduce evidence that goes much broader than the immediate declaration. We have to exercise much discretion on how far we go and what evidence is relevant.
Finally, on the general approach of the committee, we draw a distinction between a breach of ethical conduct and a breach of some rule or law. Both are undesirable and we have to act on both. Too often a person may act within the rules or within the law, but the conduct is unacceptable on ethical grounds and is therefore liable to sanction.
I come to the Hon Pule. In the allegations against the Hon Dina Pule, we uncovered both these transgressions and our findings are according to these criteria.
The central issue in this case was the relationship of Hon Pule with Mr Mngqibisa and how her public office was used to benefit him improperly. She denied in an affidavit that the relationship went beyond "longstanding friendship". Mr Mngqibisa stated under oath that "my private life is private" and refused to answer questions about the relationship.
However, evidence emerged during the hearings that Hon Pule and Mngqibisa had travelled together to several foreign destinations such as Mexico, New York, Kuala Lumpur, Paris and Prague. They shared road transport and they shared hotel accommodation. The Panel obtained proof that at least one of these trips was paid for by the Department of Communications and Mngqibisa was listed for purposes of that trip as Hon Pule's "spouse".
The Panel had great difficulty in obtaining other travel papers and the file for the Mexico trip was "lost". Officials were uncooperative and gave contradictory evidence on how travel companions were recorded.
What is remarkable about these trips is that Mngqibisa had no formal status at these meetings and when asked what his role had been he was unable to answer. It is clear, therefore, that he benefited from several privileges through his association with Hon Pule, none of which were declared.
More seriously, the Hon Pule seems to have been instrumental in enabling Mngqibisa to advance from being a minor player to a dominant position in the ICT Indaba. He not only gained R6 m for his company Khemano but he steadily positioned himself to become the main player with prospects of further substantial gains. None of this was declared.
Hon Pule allowed herself to be in a position where her private interests were in direct conflict with the public interest. Hon Pule did not act to prevent this and indeed promoted this undesirable situation.
I need to refer to some serious attempts to interfere with the work of the Ethics Committee and, therefore, Parliament:
- The witness Mngqibisa came to give evidence accompanied by a bodyguard. This man stood outside the door of the committee room while it was in session and during the coffee break he asked the Registrar several questions which she found intimidating. There is no place for private bodyguards in Parliament and he should have been removed.
- Throughout the hearings it was clear that there was collusion between Hon Pule and some senior officials in presenting a false version of her activities.
- The Head of Parliament's Protection Services and the Registrar met with a certain Mr X who alleged that he had been approached (a) to forge certain documents which would be served on the Panel to reverse its decisions, (b) to arrange a "hit" on the Registrar and myself but he was afraid to do that. The consequence of this threat was that both the Registrar and I have been provided with security. We call for a thorough investigation of this matter.
- In recent weeks three persons, including an official of the Department, who had given evidence, were subjected to bullying to try to get them to reverse their testimony.
Parliament needs to take note of these attempts to intimidate the Ethics Committee and interfere with the proceedings of Parliament.
In the light of all these findings, the Ethics Committee recommends the maximum penalty allowed in the Joint Rules of Parliament, namely,
- A reprimand in the House
- A fine of 30 days' salary and
- Suspension of privileges and Hon Pule's right to a seat in Parliamentary debates or Committee for a period of 15 days.
- She must also submit full details in respect of non-disclosure and correct the incomplete declaration for the respective years.
- We further recommend that:
- the Presidency considers measures to address the relationship between the DOC and other entities;
- the Public Service Commission investigate the possible misconduct of certain officials in the DOC;
- the report be referred to the South African Police Service and the National Prosecuting Authority for possible breaches of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act 4 of 2004;
- we also recommend the House support the speedy revision of the Code of Conduct;
- the penalties for transgression be increased.
This has been a long drawn out affair, requiring a great deal of research and scrutiny of the Rules and legislation. We must record the tenacious work of the Registrar of the Committee Ms Fazela Mahomed and her support team, the excellent legal advice of Parliament's Legal Advisers, Adv Zuraya Adhikarie and Ms Fatima Ebrahim, and, finally, the extraordinary commitment to finding the truth by the Members of the Ethics Committee.
I thank you.
Statement issued by Parliament, August 20 2013
21 August 2013: ANC parliamentarians hug and comfort former Communications Minister, Dina Pule after she has made a brief and qualified apology for lying to parliament. “If in the course of me doing my job I made a mistake, I am sorry and I apologise” Members of opposition parties express their dismay saying that treating Pule like a rock star showed contempt for parliament.
DA MP, Diane KohlerBarnard said: “Here is someone who has just been referred to the police and the NPA for investigation, and given the most severe sanction that a parliamentary committee can hand out, and yet she was mobbed like someone who was being lauded for some great achievement.”
“It seems to mean that the ANC - live in front of the whole nation - is saying it’s fine to lie to Parliament, to cheat the public and to do everything possible to try to get away with it. For the ANC to treat Parliament with such contempt is of massive concern and is frankly disgusting. We were shocked.”
COPE MP, Juli Killian said: "It looked as though they were consoling her. It was totally inappropriate. If you steal from the public purse, you are a thief."
23 August 2013: The Mail & Guardian reveals that the Parliamentary Ethics committee heads Ben Turok and Lemias Mashile were grilled by angry ANC MPs on why law enforcement was brought into the Dina Pule scandal.
23 August 2013: Business Day columnist, Gareth van Onselen, writes that the new Gupta-financed Africa News Network 24-hour TV news channel now rivals the SABC for pro-ANC sycophancy.
The real test, though, will be the 2014 elections. One month ago eNCA had a monopoly on 24-hour current affairs, and given the amount of bad news out there, its broadcasts are pretty much bad publicity for the ANC 24/7. With elections come launches, opening and closing rallies, manifesto unveilings and ostensible debates about policy. The SABC has become infamous for sidelining other parties in favour of uncritical live broadcasts of ANC events. Its coverage of the ANC’s closing rally in 2011, about four hours of live speeches broadcast into the living rooms of millions of South Africans, certainly helped the ANC make up for a generally disastrous campaign.
An industrious journalist should ask these new stations what their policy is when it comes to covering elections. The ANC’s January 8 statement, which it traditionally uses to launch its election campaigns under the guise of talking about something else, will be a good place to start. Will they guarantee fair and equitable coverage for the big parties? Or will they have one set of rules for the ANC and another for everyone else, like the SABC does?
Read the ANC’s public documents on cadre deployment over the years, and the successes and failures of its attempts to extend control (hegemonic or otherwise) over the "key centres of power", and time and time again "the media" emerge as the last vestige of independence. This has frustrated the ANC no end. In the Gutpas it has the last piece of the puzzle. Finally the party has managed to inject into the fourth estate a healthy dose of obsequiousness.
24 August 2013: Makhudu Sefara, the editor of The Star writes that former Communications Minister Dina Pule’s qualified apology in parliament was insulting.
26 August 2013: After social networks exploded with ribald comment about the launch of “Gupta-TV” and numerous clips were posted on YouTube, the clips mysteriously disappeared. The story was revealed by the Daily News
ANN7’s great disappearing act
As a wave of negative publicity washes over new news broadcaster ANN7, the numerous “blooper” clips of the station’s failings have all but vanished from YouTube overnight.
On Sunday night, videos of presenters blankly staring into the camera, mispronouncing words and occasionally making factual errors had been watched by hundreds of thousands of YouTube viewers, but on Monday morning, most of the clips had been removed.
YouTube’s warning message about copyright infringement looms large when you try to click on the re-tweeted link of one presenter referring to “Louise Hamilton” winning the “Grand Pricks”.
The “ANN7 news” Twitter account, a spoof claiming to be an account for “possibly the worst news network in the world”, was also suspended, while the “ANN7 reporter” account remains active.
While the station has claimed it has over 70 journalists with broadcast backgrounds on staff, a look at the Twitter accounts of many of the presenters reveals that most have been drawn from the modelling industry.
Abigail Visagie, a model and BCom student, recently applied to be a Top Billing presenter. Cleopatra Simelane is a former Miss Soweto runner-up who models and acts “on the side”.
Lebogang Keagile also modelled part-time while at her old job as an air hostess. The list goes on.
It was also reported that one senior journalist has already resigned from the broadcaster, just four days since its launch.
But it’s still unclear if the removal of the accounts and videos is due to complaints from TNA media, or if the videos simply infringed on YouTube’s copyright policies and Twitter’s own rules of spoof accounts.
Attempts to get clarification from TNA chief executive Nazeem Howa proved unsuccessful on Monday morning. Questions were also asked over whether the station would be releasing a statement to explain its future and if any attempts would be made to improve its quality.
He told The Star, the Daily News’s sister newspaper, all questions about the network should be addressed in writing to him and he would do his best to respond shortly.
But no response was received by the time of publication and more attempts to get back to Howa were unsuccessful. So it remains unclear if the removal of the clips and accounts is an attempt at damage control.
Rival news networks engaged in dry-runs for months before their channels opened, but ANN7 reportedly had only a few weeks of practice before going on air.
While the SABC’s own 24-hour channel received some criticism when it started earlier this year, the backlash for ANN7 has been massive, the social networks exploding with jokes and negative commentary about the station’s amateurish broadcasts.
- * From cartoonist, Jerm (@jerm): The more ANN7 get YouTube to take down blooper videos, the more blooper videos will be duplicated and uploaded to YouTube. #ANN7
- * From Martin Tagh (@martintagg): Yip, I had four of my videos deleted. Here they are before deletion. pic.twitter.com/BIlubCo9eM
- * From Reuben Goldberg @RubyGold: The real blooper it needs to delete is itself #ANN7
- * From Michelle Solomon (@mishsolomon): The folks who shot videos of #ANN7 should upload them on multiple vid sites. They’ll have a hard time suppressing the evidence then.
MIND YOUR LANGUAGE
Since its launch, ANN7’s anchors have come up with a lexicon of their own.
- Former Egyptian dictator – or “detector”, as one presenter dubbed him – Hosni Mubarak was rechristened Hoseeni Mubarak, Hoisni Mubarak, Horse-ni Mubarak, and Hosni Mumbarak.
Here are some of the names and nouns invented by their anchors:
- “tri-apartheid alliance”
- “Nathi M-turt-wa”
- “Megan Shangerai”
- “Mokogotedi Mopeshe”
- “Gaven Mbeki”
and perhaps most famously, “Louise Hamilton” wins the “Grand Pricks”
26 August 2013: Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu when quizzed by the DA’s Patricia Kopane in Parliament reveals that the late Communications Minister Roy (Room Service) Padayachee spent R373,163 – 00 on hiring luxury vehicles even though he had an official car.
30 August 2013: Glynnis Underhill reveals in the Mail & Guardian that the SABC’s acting COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng has instructed his staff that stories of corruption, murder etc must be 70% under-reported
SABC calls for 70% happy news
The SABC's acting chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, has quantified how much sunshine news he wants in the corporation's bulletins
The controversial executive is championing for 70% of the news stories aired by the public broadcaster to be positive.
"For me, it is actually disappointing to see what news coverage there is out there, because there are so many positive issues happening in this country," Motsoeneng told the Mail & Guardian this week.
"The media normally focus on the negative publicity. I believe, from the SABC's side, 70% should be positive [news] stories and then you can have 30% negative stories. The reason I am championing this is because if you only talk about the negative, people can't even try to think on their feet. Because what occupies their mind is all this negative stuff.
"My thinking is when you deal with positive stories, you are building a nation. You are building the future of the kids. That is what I believe all of us in the media should do."
Motsoeneng is not the only news boss who favours what critics term "sunshine journalism".
In addition to the launch earlier this month of SABC's 24-hour news channel, last week saw the launch of ANN7 (popularly known as Gupta TV) on DStv. The other development was Sekunjalo Independent Media Consortium's recent purchase of Independent News and Media South Africa.
These new brooms have vowed to clean up the act of the South African media by ridding the industry of what they see as cynical journalism through publishing and airing positive news stories.
"People in this country are sick and tired of negative press," ANN7 talk- show anchor Jimmy Manyi told the M&G this week.
"ANN7 presents major opportunities for alternative viewing."
He said the new channel is committed to reporting on good news and it encourages patriotism.
And in a recent interview with the Financial Mail, the Independent's new chairperson, Iqbal Survé, said: "We felt the media was not representing the positive aspects of South Africa. What we are reading about is not what we see in South Africa."
Jackson Mthembu, ANC national spokesperson, appears to share this sentiment in a statement released last week in which the ANC congratulates ANN7 on its launch.
"The South African story remains largely untold," Mthembu said.
Manyi, a former government spin doctor, said: "Unfortunately, the mainstream media here have adopted rigid editorial policies, which dictate what's newsworthy. A lot of work that government does isn't considered newsworthy and government press releases are often rejected because they are labelled as propaganda."
This situation may have pushed the government into a corner, but it has also opened a door for the rich and powerful Gupta family, who saw a business opportunity in the media sector, he said.
Rigid editorial policies
"It's not a government strategy but an entrepreneur [the Gupta family] who sees this big client [the government] and hopes he can appeal to the reasonableness of this frustrated client who has Cabinet briefings, government cluster briefings and departmental briefings, but none of that is covered in mainstream media," said Manyi.
"The entrepreneur thinks he can flesh out this content. He's seeing a gap in the market and he's exploiting it. If I was in this business I would do exactly the same.
"The mainstream media should thank this entrepreneur for closing this gaping hole. The government would otherwise be forced to think of its own platforms. How else do you get news out, when we all know that advertorials lack credibility?"
He warns that mainstream media, with what he sees as rigid editorial policies that favour sensationalism, may run the risk of being out in the cold. "In fact, they are already cutting themselves off because they're not publishing government news."
He adds that the only editorial policy that allows government news is the New Age newspaper's (which is also owned by the Guptas).
"Now, they [mainstream media] shouldn't cry foul when others cover government news - it's not privileged information; it's released to every media organisation. This is a free country and the media are entitled to make a democratic choice not to cover certain topics, but in doing so they run the risk of cutting themselves off from government news and depriving their readers of positive news."
At the SABC, Motsoeneng has been criticised by his staff in the past for practising censorship with programming that might offend President Jacob Zuma or the ruling party.
But Motsoeneng has not wavered from his conviction about what should go on air. He was removed from his post in March by the previous SABC board shortly before it was dissolved. While the furore raged around his head at the time, with the SABC spokesperson announcing that Motsoeneng had been replaced in his acting role, he stayed put.
Now that things have blown over, Motsoeneng is firmly at the helm. And to enlighten others, he says, he has been sharing his views about how positive journalism can build the country.
Motsoeneng does not believe his news targets mean he favours sunshine journalism, because 30% of the news stories covered by the SABC can be negative.
As a public broadcaster, the SABC is different to other media, says Motsoeneng. "We want to concentrate more on positive stories, rather than to put everything in a negative way. Before you become a manager at the SABC, you first have to be a citizen of this country. You should love this country. When you love this country, you will do what is right for it, which is what we are doing now at the SABC.
"The message I put out very strongly at the SABC is to think about the positive when people go out and do stories. The difference is our own citizens are tired of crime and tired of people talking about negative things.
The SABC's new 24-hour satellite news channel has received mixed reviews, but Motsoeneng said he had specified that he needed more positive stories, and these news stories were now flowing in.
"I need to find a way for all people to believe in what I am saying. The majority of the country believes we should highlight good-news stories," he said.
"Some people say we should focus on more cultural issues, and we are building up our programming."
Asked whether the SABC would, for example, carry a story on Zuma's homestead Nkandla, should more money be found to have been spent on it that we don't already know about, Motsoeneng said he believed the public broadcaster should not just follow the "hullabaloo".
"It would depend on whether that story is in the public interest. I hear what you are saying about a story on Nkandla. If there is an investigation going into the matter, I don't think we should follow the hullabaloo, but rather wait until that investigation is finalised.
"We can highlight that the public protector might be investigating, but we can't come to a conclusion before the report is concluded."
Motsoeneng said he was happy with the newcomers to the media industry - such as the Gupta family and the new owner of Independent Newspapers Iqbal Survé.
"I am very excited by it all. I have engaged some of them to share views, and they too will focus on building the country," said Motsoeneng.
"I don't want to mention names of who I have met. I think some of them are on the same path as I am. Other people are realising the importance of having different opinions about how the media should [be] run."
Motsoeneng believes there is a bigger plan emerging in South Africa to change the way people focus on negative news.
"Since I have became very vocal about the media, and there was all this hullabaloo around whether I had censored, so many people, even those in print media, have been supporting me on my view," he said. "I think I have won over so many people on this issue."
The SABC's 24-hour news channel had not been rushed to air in time for the elections next year, said Motsoeneng.
"Elections come and go. This is a long-term project," said Motsoeneng, who said he had never received any favours from anyone and had worked hard to get to the top in broadcasting.
He said the print media will soon be quoting the investigations and stories the SABC broadcasts, rather than the other way around.
"This is an exciting time for us," he said.
“The media really needs to change”
30 August 2013: Media Monitoring Africa responds to the Mail & Guardian article saying that Motsoeneng’s 70% positive news coverage instruction to the SABC’s news reporter was deeply disturbing
SABC sunshine news strategy 'deeply concerning', says media monitoring group
William Bird, Thandi Smith, Lethabo Dibetso
The call by Hlaudi Motsoeneng for 70% of SABC news stories to be positive raises issues of editorial independence, says Media Monitoring Africa
The call by the acting chief operations officer at the SABC, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, for 70% of news stories to be aired by the public broadcaster to be positive goes beyond controversial and raises fundamental questions as to who is running the show at the SABC as well as critical issues of editorial independence. The suggestion is deeply concerning and Media Monitoring Africa calls on the SABC interim board to act immediately and prevent any such proposed editorial interference.
Whether there is a need or desire for more positive news stories, must surely be driven by the audiences of the SABC. Before that however we need to ask the question as to what constitutes a positive or a negative story and who makes the decision? Is a story about the reintroduction of sexual offences courts, to deal with the epidemic of gender based violence and child abuse a positive or a negative story? Depending on the angle taken it could be either, or both or neither. Surely each story must be assessed within context? Given that SABC has news services across just under 20 platforms, the sheer practicality of such a decision needs to be questioned.
The core ethical principles of journalism are to tell the truth as fully as possible, act independently, minimise harm and be accountable. These principles are currently broadly reflected within the SABC existing editorial policies, and can be found in best practice cases throughout our continent. The issue of fairness is crucial here, not whether or not stories should have a positive or negative spin on them.
There can be no doubt that there is a need for greater diversity of views across our media. Pro poor, gender mainstreamed, child focused, youth focused, disability focused, pro- government media should all be welcomed and encouraged. This is one of the roles for the Media Development and Diversity Agency. The role of the public broadcaster is, however, a unique one, and its mandate in news is to, "reflect and draw on South Africa’s diversity of people, languages, cultures, genders, abilities and classes, and the full spectrum of opinions, perspectives and comment" (SABC Editorial Policies News & Current Affairs, page 19). The issue of positive or negative is notably absent precisely because such concepts are simply grossly inappropriate for the public broadcaster. Clearly this is not to suggest that the broadcaster should not have programming that is positive and inspirational, and that serves to highlight the best our nation and our people have to offer, but to suggest a 70/30 split is fundamentally dangerous.
The call also raises the crucial question as to what research the acting chief executive officer is drawing upon in making his assessment that SABC has too much "negative news". We call on Mr Motsoeneng to make the research public so we can investigate what must surely be an issue of fundamental bias and fairness. Indeed if it is the case that government is overwhelmingly negatively portrayed in the SABC news it suggests a democracy threatening bias that must be addressed immediately.
Crucially, however, the issue of editorial independence is highlighted by the fact that it is the acting chief executive officer who is making these calls. There is NO mention of the role of this executive in the SABC editorial polices. Indeed the roles of heads of news are clearly stated. The concept of upward referral is included, for those occasions where a decision is passed upward in order to address especially challenging dilemmas. Whether or not this is appropriate as a mechanism is a core issue to be addressed by the editorial policy review. What is clear however is that upward referral refers only to the Group Chief Executive Officer (see page 5 of the SABC editorial policies). Accordingly any attempt to direct the news agenda, from anyone other than the editors and heads of news, must be considered direct editorial interference and must be prevented at all costs.
The SABC appears to be seeking to no longer operate on a crisis to crisis basis. Should the suggestions proposed be allowed to go forward in the manner it has been presented the SABC will once again find itself plunged into a new crisis of credibility and governance.
Thandi Smith and Lethabo Dibetso run the Media Policy & Quality Unit at Media Monitoring Africa. William Bird is director.
5 September 2013: COPE and the IFP send a jointly signed letter to the Acting Interim SABC Board Chairperson, Ms Ellen Tshabalala, asking for urgent intervention after acting COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng stated that from now on the Corporation’s official policy would be to under-report stories relating to ANC corruption etc by 70%. http://www.ifp.org.za/Releases/050913bpr.htm
8 September 2013: In an interview with Chris Barron of the Sunday Times, the SABC’s acting COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, states that his news policy is to under-report stories of ANC corruption, the government’s wasteful expenditure, crime etc by 70%.
Sunday Times 8/9/2013
So Many Questions
The acting chief operating officer of the SABC, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, says 70% of its news stories must be positive. Chris Barron asks him . . .
Will you overrule your editors?
No. Let me explain to you. I’m also a former journalist. And this is what I stand for from long ago.
No. The view that we need to change the way the media operate.
Who will decide if a story is positive or negative?
Remember, you have a diary meeting every morning where you come with stories. I’m saying to think positive. They should go and get good stories.
Who will decide what is a good story?
There are so many good stories, and people are not reporting them.
Will you decide what is a good story?
We don’t sell a story because of commercial issues. We don’t need to put headlines, I’m not interested in headlines. What I’m interested in are stories that are building the nation, not stories that destroy the nation.
Give me an example.
If you look at rural areas where there was no water, where there was no electricity, where there were no houses — the government has done very well on those issues.
Is it news that the government is doing the job we pay it to do?
It is news.
That the government is doing what it was elected to do is news?
Yes. The answer is yes, it is news.
And is it news when the government is not doing what it was elected to do?
That is news too.
Will you report it?
If you have concrete evidence. But journalists should not come to conclusions; they should not just make a hullaballoo.
If only 30% of your news is about negative stuff like corruption, crime and service-delivery failures, you are going to have to underreport a lot of it, aren’t you?
Which is good.
Why is it good?
Because I want to build this country, and I want journalists to think of building their own country.
Does it help to pretend that things are better than they are?
It is not pretending. Things are better, man. After democracy things have changed a lot.
When you talk about negative news, negative from whose point of view?
From my personal view. And other people’s view.
And from the governments point of view?
From our own audience’s point of view. They are tired of negative news, let me tell you.
Why did you come up with this policy now? Who told you to do it?
It’s me; no one can tell me what to do.
Do you think it will benefit the government in the elections next year?
It will benefit the public.
Will it benefit the government?
No, man, why do you talk about the government?
There is an election next year. I want to know if this policy has anything to do with that?
Elections come and go. It’s got nothing to do with the elections.
Surely if 70% of the news is about how well the government is doing, it is going to benefit the government at election time?
The positives I am talking about are not just about the government. I am talking about positive stories that are happening within communities and so on.
You said your positive stories will be about houses being built, the provision of electricity, water and so on?
Yes, yes, it’s true, I said that.
If 70% of your news is about that, will you not be doing the government a big favour?
No, I’m doing the public a favour, not government. After 20 years of democracy we need to release it; what this country has done for ordinary citizens, what are its achievements.
You are the acting chief operating officer. Why are you involved in editorial policy?
I’m a former journalist and a citizen.
Does that give you the right to call the shots on editorial policy?
Those people report to me.
Should the editors not decide what stories to report?
When it comes to what kind of news people should see, the buck stops with me. I drive the strategy, I’m the one responsible.
Were you not fired by the board?
I was not fired. I don’t know what you are talking about.
Did the board not tell you you were no longer the acting COO?
I can’t respond to that.
I don’t talk about history.
You should not actually be there at all, should you?
Look, man, I can’t talk about history. I’m the acting COO. That is why I am talking to you.
10 September 2013: Communications Minister Yunus Carrim tables a shocking report by the Auditor General which shows that the SABC has regressed under acting COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng. The DA spokesperson on communication, Marian Shinn, calls for his dismissal.
The Times 11/9/2013
SABC blows R1.5bn
Financial mismanagement continues to ravage the SABC, with its latest annual report showing a failure to account adequately for R1.5-billion spent on consultants for services that could have been provided by its own staff.
What is likely to shock South Africans is that about R913-million in TV licence fees that SABC officials claimed to have collected cannot be backed up with evidence.
Tabling the public broadcaster’s annual report yesterday, Communications Minister Yunus Carrim said auditor-general Terence Nombembe had slapped a disclaimer on the SABC’s financial results.
This means Nombembe was unable to express an opinion on the veracity of the corporation’s financial statements because he “could not obtain sufficient [and] appropriate audit evidence”.
The latest audit outcome suggests the broadcaster slid back after obtaining a clean audit in the 2011-2012 financial year.
The litany of financial transgressions uncovered at the SABC include:
- Supporting documents for the hiring of consultants and other service providers at a cost of R1.5-billion could not be produced;
- A further R106-million was spent irregularly as proper tender procedures were not followed;
- Tax payable to the SA Revenue Service was understated by more than R47-million; and
- No provision was made for any financial liability the SABC might incur despite being a defendant in a number of lawsuits.
The revelations do not augur well for the broadcaster. Its executive management was instructed in 2009 to tighten up its financial controls after it was granted a R1.4-billion loan guarantee by the National Treasury.
In the annual report, SABC CEO Lulama Mokhobo admits that the broadcaster failed to meet performance targets attached to the government’s loan guarantee. She said the corporation was more than R600-million below its revenue targets.
She attributed this to the underperformance of key revenue streams, with sponsorships coming in R368-million lower than the target and the sale of content R62-million below budget. Advertising revenue was also under target by R190-million.
She said, however, that this failure had not affected the SABC’s cash flow.
Mokhobo vowed next year’s audit report would show improvements.
An industry expert said the annual report showed that the SABC’s problems were far from over.
DA MP Marian Shinn said her party would ask parliament’s portfolio committee on communications to convene a meeting with Carrim at which he would be asked to present a plan to solve the SABC’s problems.
Shinn called for the removal of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as the SABC’s chief operating officer. Under Motsoeneng’s tenure, management, staffing, financial and editorial crises had escalated, she said.
Carrim said he had established a task team to strengthen financial controls at the SABC.
“On behalf of the shareholder, our department will also exercise far more strategic oversight over the SABC. A turnaround will not happen overnight. But if all the relevant parties cooperate, there will certainly be improvements over time,” he said.
Kate Skinner, a broadcast policy researcher, said: “The annual report indicates serious financial management problems at the SABC. The financial situation is far from sorted despite assurances from SABC leadership that the finances had been turned around.”
Editorial: The Times 11/9/2013
Officials cannot even account for licence fee money
Communications Minister Yunus Carrim must crack the whip if he wants to turn around the fortunes of the SABC. It is scandalous that a public entity, funded out of taxpayers’ pockets, cannot satisfactorily account for about R1.5-billion spent on consultants and for other services that could have been provided by its own staff.
And, as we report on our front page today, South Africans now have reason to be even more angry — we have learned that SABC officials cannot account to the auditor-general for about R913-million in TV licence fees they claim to have collected. They could not back up their claim with evidence.
This latest demonstration of incompetence at Auckland Park coincides with the SABC’s recent launch of its 24-hour news channel on DStv.
The new channel, which will be expensive to run, will drill a big hole in the corporation’s finances.
Back in 2009, the Treasury ordered the SABC to tighten up its financial controls as a condition of being given a R1.4-billion loan guarantee, but it seems the order was ignored.
Yesterday, the public broadcaster’s CEO, Lulama Mokhobo, admitted that it had failed to meet the financial performance targets attached to the loan guarantee.
It has also emerged that the broadcaster is more than R600-million short of its revenue target — dashing any hope of a turnaround.
But, knowing how the broadcaster is run, with factional politics outweighing sound corporate governance, we can be sure that no harm will befall Mokhobo and her executives.
Taxpayers will again be asked to pump more money into this black hole.
Carrim should demand from his ANC comrades a better line-up of board members if he wants to have a chance of stopping the SABC from sinking. And heads must roll in expiation of this latest mess.
11 September 2013: Cosatu expresses shock over the Attorney general’s findings
12 September 2013: DA communications spokesperson, Marian Shinn, requests that the shocking report by the Auditor General, Terence Nombembe on the SABC’s financial position be referred to the Special Investigating Unit.
13 September 2013: The Sunday Independent reveals that South African taxpayer’s will have to pay more than a million rand to fund former Communications Minister, Dina Pule’s legal attempts to suppress a Sunday Times investigation of her corruption.
13 September 2013: Financial reporter, Mzwandile Jacks, calls SABC acting COO, “Zuma’s megaphone”.
15 September 2013: Writing in Business Day, Rob Rose comments on the AG’s report by saying the SABC “could not run downhill with a tornado at its back”.
17 September 2013: The ANC nominates its own 12 members for the SABC board rejecting the names put forward by opposition parties
Opposition parties reject the SABC board that the ANC is foisting on the Corporation in what they claim is an undemocratic manner.
22 September 2013: The Sunday Times reveals how the ANC has gerrymandered the selection of the new SABC board.
ANC interns used in SABC process
List of ‘fit and proper’ board members handed to MPs
INTERNS at Luthuli House, the headquarters of the ANC, were among those used to nominate new members of the SABC board.
Staff members at the headquarters were also part of the ANC’s back-room manoeuvring to find SABC board members, which took the power away from MPs who had to agree to the handpicked candidates.
The Sunday Times has seen a memorandum by Lindiwe Zulu, head of the ANC’s subcommittee on communications, which details how the party had identified good candidates long before parliament officially put together its list.
The Luthuli House list of 17 was submitted to the ANC’s national executive early this month, two weeks before parliament’s portfolio committee on communications met to consider the candidates.
The list was whittled down to 12 this week and given to ANC MPs to push through, a source said.
Opposition parties have accused the ANC of manipulating processes and pushing through the appointment of “lackeys” to gain full control of the SABC ahead of elections.
Five of those who made the final cut were nominated directly from Luthuli House — three of them by junior staff, including two interns, apparently on instructions from politicians.
In her September 4 memorandum, Zulu said she and an ANC study group had decided on “fit and proper individuals, including comrades”.
Parliament’s committee met only this week to decide on the new board at its public meeting on Tuesday — but sources said MPs were given a list to rubber-stamp.
In a surprise move, the ANC MPs dropped Lumko Mtimde, who was on the initial list submitted by Zulu but is regarded as “too independent” an ANC member. Mtimde served on the SABC board that was dissolved earlier this year and clashed with former SABC chairman Ben Ngubane over the appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as acting chief operations officer.
When the SABC was constituted in 2007, the ANC faced similar accusations of party preference at the time of Thabo Mbeki’s presidency.
Nomvuyo Mhlakaza, wife of ANC MP Buti Manamela and a member of the national task team of the ANC Youth League, was nominated by Luthuli House. MPs said broadcast policy researcher Kate Skinner was sacrificed in favour of Mhlakaza.
Keith Khoza, ANC head of communications who reports to Zulu, nominated Krish Naidoo, a legal adviser to the ANC’s national disciplinary committee. MPs had wanted to nominate Zola Majavu, a leading lawyer and former prosecutor for the Premier Soccer League.
Rerani Netshilema, a 24-year-old intern in the communications division, nominated Bongani Khumalo, CEO of Gidani, which runs the National Lottery. Another intern, David Shabangu, nominated businesswoman Ellen Tshabalala.
Noluthando Gosa, also a businesswoman, was nominated by Cikiswa Xoswa, a personal assistant to ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu.
Zulu said the ANC had a “high interest” at the SABC. “That does not necessarily mean we want to interfere as the ANC,” she said.
“We are a governing party and, being a governing party, we have a high interest and that interest needs to be served by us being able to make sure that in all the strategic areas we have our own and we can’t be apologetic about it. We need to have our qualified, capable comrades in strategic structures.”
She said it was an insult to suggest that the party nominations were not competent to sit on the SABC board.
“People must go into their CVs and see who they are,” she said.
Eric Kholwane, chairman of the communications portfolio committee, said “there was nothing wrong” about Luthuli House’s influence.
The Democratic Alliance said the incoming board was designed to ensure positive coverage of the ANC ahead of next year’s general elections. “They are there to rubberstamp the decision of the SABC executive and management and not to rock the boat. They will make sure that a faction of the ANC gets positive coverage for the 2014 elections,” said MP Marian Shinn.
Sunday Times editorial 22/9/2013
ANC has hijacked airwaves to gain political profit
LINDIWE Zulu reacted with outrage this week when confronted with the fact that the ANC had openly manipulated parliament in getting its preferred candidates on the SABC board. A memorandum by Zulu, dated September 4, shows how the ANC selected the candidates for whom the party’s MPs would eventually vote two weeks later. All that needs to happen now is for President Jacob Zuma to approve the names. When confronted, Zulu was unashamed about the manipulation. In fact, she expressed her disgust at the suggestion that the ANC had effectively seized control of the SABC before the general elections next year.
“That does not necessarily mean we want to interfere as the ANC. The bottom line is that we are a governing party and, being a governing party, we have a high interest and that interest needs to be served by us being able to make sure that in all the strategic areas we have our own and we can’t be apologetic about [that]. We need to have our qualified, capable comrades in strategic structures and we are not being apologetic about our deployment.”
But a closer look at the memo offers an astonishing insight into those who were chosen as selectors.
How do we believe Zulu’s competency claims when two Luthuli House interns — one a 24-year-old — and a personal assistant to spokesman Jackson Mthembu were allowed to make nominations?
How are we to believe that the ANC really does have the mandate of the public broadcaster — delivering an array of services to South Africans — as its best interests when the party deliberately rejected independent-minded candidates with experience in broadcasting in favour of someone like Krish Naidoo, a legal adviser to the ANC’s national disciplinary committee?
Or how will ANC MP Buti Manamela’s wife, Nomvuyo Mhlakaza, serve the interests of South Africans better than broadcast policy expert Kate Skinner?
This unashamed manipulation of parliamentary processes is nothing but the ruling party’s hijacking of the SABC before the elections.
In this context, the ridiculous policy of insisting on 70% of “happy news” by acting chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng makes perfect sense. Happy news, as defined by Motsoeneng, is about service delivery — access to water, electricity and housing. These are all issues that would aid the ANC in its election campaign.
Even if we give Zulu the benefit of the doubt — that the ANC’s candidates are competent — it is clear where their loyalties will lie, and that is to serve the ruling party.
23 September 2013: In a column in the Citizen, Douglas Gibson suggests the ANC with its manipulation of the SABC board has set the Corporation up to fail.
24 September 2013: former SABC board member, Suzanne Vos issues a statement in which she condemns ANC interference in the running of the SABC.
It was simply mind-boggling to see how dramatically the Corporation had been brought to its knees by GCEO, Adv. Dali Mpofu, and his team and a highly political board wracked by in-fighting.
We now know for sure that the new SABC board may well find themselves in a farcical situation where to their amazement (or not!) when they walk into the boardroom they find that Mr Motsoeneng, the Acting COO (aka Mr Sunshine), is in reality running the place and will not adhere to instructions. Furthermore, that there will be absolutely nothing they can do about it unless the Minister intervenes (and will he?).
25 September 2013: The Broadcasting Complaints Commission finds that the SABC has defamed a church in a Special Assignment programme
“Africa’s News Leader”, that’s SABC-TV’s boast. It’s as brassy a lie as Joburg metro’s assertion, “Joburg: A world-class African city”.
The only difference is that the Advertising Standards Authority called out the metro on their misleading claim, while SABC-TV still gets away with it. However, the Kenyan shopping mall siege, played out over four agonising days, showed that a slick slogan doth not necessarily a credible credo make.
South Africans were reminded that the state television network is lamentably poor at independent news gathering. Those without access to social media or satellite channels – by far the best coverage was from Sky News and eNCA – were pretty much in the dark.
29 September 2013: The Sunday Independent reveals that, in response to questions by COPE MP Juli Killian, Communications Minister Yunus Carrim has revealed that the suspended Phil Molefe has been given a golden handshake of R2.5 million rand in addition to the R2.7m he was given for staying at home or a year
This week, Communications Minister Yunus Carrim confirmed that Molefe was paid out for the remaining two years of his contract after falling out with SABC chief executive Lulama Mokhobo for flighting an extensive television interview with Economic Freedom Fighters leader and ex-ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.
Molefe’s five-year contract was due to end in June 2015.
Carrim also revealed that Molefe was paid nearly R2.7m to stay at home between April last year and May, when the SABC paid out the remainder of his contract.
The public broadcaster also paid about R1.9m to fight Molefe at the Johannesburg High Court and his pending Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) case.
According to Carrim, the SABC is waiting for set-down dates for the SCA matter.
Carrim revealed the details of Molefe’s settlement in a Parliamentary reply to Cope MP Juli Killian.
Last month, SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago told The Sunday Independent that details of the transaction between Molefe and the public broadcaster were confidential. “This is a matter between employer and employee,” Kganyago said.
Molefe, who was unavailable for comment this week, was granted leave to appeal by Johannesburg High Court judge Sherise Weiner in February after his lawyers agreed with the SABC that the legal tussle “warrants the SCA”.
He has continuously defended the March 2012 Malema interview on SABC1’s Sunday Live, saying the decision was justified because “audience ratings reached a peak last achieved more than three years ago”.
At the time, SABC chief executive Lulama Mokhobo complained that the ANC was not present during the hour-long interview.
However, Molefe said the ANC was invited but declined because the disciplinary case against Malema was sub judice, according to papers the veteran journalist filed at the SCA.
Molefe said that “owing to mounting public interest, an editorial decision was taken to proceed with one guest (Malema)”.
He said at the time Malema’s troubles with the ruling party generated enormous public interest.
Molefe had asked a full high court Bench to grant him leave to appeal Weiner’s December 2012 judgment dismissal of his application to have his suspension and pending disciplinary hearing declared unlawful.
“The judgment is erroneous,” he said.
3 October 2013: President Jacob Zuma appoints Ellen Tshabalala as chairperson of the new SABC board.
4 October 2013: The SABC drops a scheduled interview with Liv Shange, spokeswoman for the Workers and Socialist party and a vehement critic of the ANC.
6 October 2013: The Sunday Independent reveals in its front page lead that lawyers representing the suspended Phil Molefe have accused the SABC board of misleading Parliament and Communications Minister, Yunus Carrim by falsely asserting that Phil Molefe had accepted a R2m golden handshake.
8 October 2013: MP’s question massive bonuses paid to SABC senior staff members when it is doing badly.
17 October 2013: Former Communications Minister, Dina Pule fails to declare her financial and business interests to parliament's joint ethics committee by the stipulated deadline. Ben Turok, co-chairman of the ethics committee, questioned whether Pule would make an honest declaration this time around.
"The issue for us is: is she going to comply honestly," said Turok.
"So whether it's a week later or a week earlier is of little interest. What interests me is, is she going to tell us the truth and that's where the focus should be."
17 October 2013: The Mail & Guardian reveals that the SABC’s contentious acting COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, has ordered that the widely popular The Big Debate show will no longer be broadcast because it is too critical of the Zuma administration.
18 October 2013: The Right2Know Campaign announces that it will organise a protest march to register its concern about the censorship of The Big Debate by the SABC.
18 October 2013: The SABC says that it censored The Big Debate because it was done by an outside company and thus its editorial control over content was compromised.
21 October 2013: Communications Minister Yunus Carrim says he will continue to consult with the SABC board about the editorial independence of its news service.
Hoever, Thinus Ferreira asks why this came from a politician and not from CEO Lulama Mokhobo
21 October 2013: Thinus Ferreira reveals that the SABC is blurring out the mic flags of ENCA in footage of news conferences.
3 November 2013: Dali Mpofu joins the EFF and Gareth van Onselen analyses the top 10 controversies involving him
5 November 2013: Gareth van Onselen discusses in Business Day how the SABC must have had difficulty in deciding whether or not to cover the story when Helen Zille was booed off the stage in Saldhana Bay and President Jacob Zuma remained silent.
6 November 2013: Communications Minister Yunus Carrim slaps down Hlaudi Motsoeneng on set top boxes
13 November 2013: Thinus Ferreira reveals on his TV with Thinus blog that eNCA has taken over the The Big Debate
24 November 2013: The City Press front page headline is: SABC’s Hlaudi ‘guilty’.
A “damning” provisional report by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has decried the abuse of power and maladministration by senior executives and former board members of the SABC.
City Press has seen the recommendations made in the report, which slams “unlawful” behaviour by the SABC’s acting chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, and “improper conduct” by group chief executive officer Lulama Mokhobo.
1 December 2013: The Sunday Independent reveals that the multimillion-rand contract authorising the flighting of the SABC’s 24-hour news channel on DStv, negotiated by its acting chief operations officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, is coming under scrutiny from the unions and the civil society coalition, Save Our SABC (SOS) and could well be challenged in court.
1 December 2013: Phylicia Oppelt calls on Dina Pule to apologise to the Sunday Times for her lies
Truth is out, again, about Dina Pule’s lies
This newspaper is ready to receive the former minister’s long overdue apology, writes Phylicia Oppelt
DINA Pule has now twice been found guilty of lying, acting unethically and bringing parliament into disrepute.
The first time — in August — Ben Turok, leading the investigation of parliament’s ethics committee into Pule’s relationship with Phosane Mngqibisa, found she had indeed lied about their involvement and how it led him to benefit financially.
Now comes public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report about Pule, and it is a painful, humiliating condemnation of a woman who allowed a lover’s influence to lead her to deceive and exploit the state.
For us, this has been no ordinary story of a minister abusing her power and office to benefit a romantic partner. Neither has it been the straightforward telling of a story by three journalists — Rob Rose, Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Stephan Hofstatter — of a cabinet minister’s lies.
The three journalists and this newspaper became part of the story — often the lead actors in a vindictive campaign by Pule and her various spin doctors to subvert the truth and cast aspersions on the integrity of the reporters involved.
In this, certainly, Pule did an astonishing job. The press statements over the months that a series of investigative stories were published about her and Mngqibisa stand as stark and frightening testimony to the lengths to which a minister will go to draw attention away from her own culpability.
There was that astounding press conference at the Hyatt Regency in Rosebank, Johannesburg, where Pule sought to “expose” Hofstatter, Rose and Wa Afrika as tainted journalists driven by self-interest and corrupt motives.
There she stood, saying the Sunday Times had not provided “any shred of evidence that I had broken the law. They have failed to point to any wrongdoing on my part.”
Pule went further, saying the “objective field of journalism has now been reduced to slander and the spread of salacious rumours. Real investigative journalists do not do this kind of journalism.”
Her allegations — enthusiastically driven by spin doctor Wisani Ngobeni — found fertile ground in South African media outlets and were repeated so often that the journalists’ guilt was almost cast in stone.
The press ombudsman’s office, the recipient of several complaints scripted by Ngobeni, found itself accused of “a treacherous whitewash attempt to legitimise the unethical journalism conduct of the Sunday Times editor”.
This, after Pule lodged three complaints against us: one for a story proving she blew R2.6-million appointing Mngqibisa’s cronies to top jobs in parastatals under her department’s control; one for reporting that she had sent her lawyer to apologise to us; and one accusing the Sunday Times of unethical conduct for cooperating with the ethics committee. They all were dismissed in their entirety.
Now the public protector’s report confirms one central fact: that it is Pule — rather than the journalists — who is guilty of improper and unethical conduct.
The parliamentary ethics committee had found this to be case, too, and in a stinging rebuke instructed Pule to apologise for her conduct. Madonsela recommends that Pule be fired from her job as ANC MP and that the money spent on Mngqibisa be repaid.
Ultimately, though, it is not only about our journalists being vindicated for their determination to prove that Pule had indeed lost control of the Communications Department and allowed a lover’s influence to triumph over her duty to the state and this country.
Pule, like former cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Sicelo Shiceka and public works minister Gwen MahlanguNkabinde, was shown to be unworthy of the office she held and to which she had been appointed by President Jacob Zuma.
It begs some uncomfortable questions about the choices made when selecting senior government officials — and when competence and moral probity are sacrificed for political expediency and patronage.
Pule, by all accounts, was a compromise candidate from Mpumalanga — chosen because of her gender, her province and dealmaking before the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung last year.
It has been said that Zuma would have continued to shield Pule had she not outlived her usefulness. That, apparently, was why she was dropped from the cabinet in July — not because she had become an embarrassment to the president.
During the course of the Pule scandal, one of her spokesmen, Siyabulela Qoza, issued a statement saying: “The latest fabricated story was published by the Sunday Times on 5 May 2013 in which the newspaper claimed that Minister Pule had sent a lawyer and a government official to apologise to the Sunday Times. For the record, Minister Pule has not apologised to the Sunday Times and has no intention to do so.”
As part of her recommendations, Madonsela suggests that Pule apologises to “the Sunday Times for the persistent insults and denial of the truth”.
We would be happy to hear Pule’s apology — long overdue though it might be. Unless, of course, she wishes to accuse Madonsela’s office of being “reduced to slander and the spread of malicious rumours”.
3 December 2013: Thinus Ferreira on his TV with Thinus website reveals that the SABC cannot afford to pay for programmes and is constantly embarrassed when scheduled and announced programmes do not materialise
5 December 2013: Public Protector Thuli Madonsela instructs former communications minister Dina Pule to apologise to Parliament, the communications department, and the Sunday Times for "persistently lying and unethical conduct”.
11 December 2013: City Press reveals that SABC news staff were instructed by news head, Jimi Matthews, not to report on incidents that might embarrass the ANC at the Nelson Mandela memorial service.
11 December 2013 12:39
SABC bans Zuma booing from news broadcasts
City Press Reporters
While TV news broadcasters across the world led their bulletins with the booing of President Jacob Zuma at the memorial for Nelson Mandela yesterday, SABC’s prime-time newscasts all but erased the incidents from history.
City Press has learnt from six independent sources at the public broadcaster’s news division that various instructions were given to ban broadcasts of the booing.
The SABC spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago, was not available to respond to questions sent by City Press making these allegations.
The sources – from field reporters to producers to technical crew – do not wish to be named as they do not want to jeopardise their jobs, but have filled City Press in on how news bosses handled the booing situation.
SABC broadcasted the memorial live, beaming images of Zuma arriving at the FNB Stadium both on TV and on big screens inside, when elements in the crowd began to jeer and boo.
Some also gestured the soccer substitution sign.
The incidents repeated when Zuma was shown in pans of the VIPs on the big screen until the live feed was cut on the screens, which showed an image of Mandela for about half an hour. These screens are presumably not, however, controlled by the SABC but by the organisers.
The live feed on the screens recommenced during US President Barack Obama’s speech.
In the SABC news studio, the crisis was managed, according to insiders, by Nyana Molete, the national TV news editor.
Sources say he strode into the control room in Auckland Park calling: “Cut away! Cut away! Cut away!”
This, they say, was in line with the decision in a meeting before the broadcast to avoid broadcasting any incident that might embarrass the ANC leadership.
City Press believes presenters in the field complained about the control room instructions, which put them on the spot. Commentary was steered away from the booing.
Two separate sources confirmed that SABC radio reporters in the field received instructions over their cellphones when the booing happened. They were observed not commenting on or covering the crowd’s displeasure.
Another source told City Press that staff preparing the evening’s news bulletins received instructions, said to come from head of news Jimi Matthews, that the booing incidents would not be included and that booing should not be referred to, rather “unruly behaviour” by elements in the crowd.
While eNews and eNCA made the booing their headline story, SABC3’s 7pm news bulletin and prime-time 24-hour news channel coverage all but ignored it.
Media Monitoring Africa director William Bird confirmed this, saying: “There’s no mention of booing from our observation so far. Not in the SABC1 headline bulletin or the SABC3 headline bulletin. There’s not even mention of an unruly crowd.”
According to one independent monitor, the broadcasters’ websites followed suit.
By 3pm, it was the main story on the eNCA website with a clip of the booing. The first mention of it on the SABC website is four hours later just after 7pm, says the monitor. It is then only mentioned in a story about Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s rebuke of the crowd.
SABC news did, however, tweet about the booing, even storifying it by assembling tweeted reactions.
Observers of the SABC’s 24-hour news channel say that after prime-time, passing mentions were made to the booing and the unruly elements in the crowd.
Kganyago was sent questions about the editorial control of the booing three times since last night but had not responded at the time of publication. City Press also phoned him twice and SMSed him twice.
This is not the first booing incident the SABC has had to deal with. In 2005, e.tv aired footage proving that an SABC cameraman had been present and filming when then deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was booed on Women’s Day by Zuma supporters.
The SABC had denied this and went on to issue an apology, which blamed the freelance cameraman for failing to record the booing and accused e.tv of being “bitter”.
In October this year, a similar incident occurred at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, when a bereaved widow shouted at national police commissioner Riah Piyega. eNCA broadcast the confrontation but the SABC did not, according to reports.
22 December 2013: The Sunday Times quotes BEMAWU members as saying that news teams have been instructed not to broadcast anything that could embarrass the Zuma faction.
Union blasts SABC over latest Zuma ban
THE SABC this week instructed its editors and managers to stop carrying reports calling for President Jacob Zuma’s resignation, according to a labour union whose members work at the corporation.
The order was sent out on Friday by the SABC’s chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, according to the Broadcasting, Electronic Media and Allied Workers’ Union.
Motsoeneng denied that his instruction amounted to censorship: “I spoke to senior editors about broader issues about how some people are lazy . . . I spoke about getting other angles on stories so that they remain fresh and interesting.”
Motsoeneng said he spoke to senior editors about many other reports and not only about those containing calls for the president to resign. The call came out of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa’s special congress this week.
“I said let’s make sure we get the president to comment and change the angle,” Motsoeneng said.
“We can’t be playing the same story with the same angle the entire week.”
The union called Motsoeneng’s instruction “unlawful” in a letter it wrote to the corporation’s CEO, Lulama Mokhobo, this week.
Union president Hannes du Buisson said editors were told in a conference meeting on Friday that they should no longer “run stories calling for the president’s resignation”.
Du Buisson said members regarded this as “a worst form of manipulation of news and a serious attempt to silence the critics of the president”.
Motsoeneng’s instruction comes barely a week after the SABC was criticised for banning reports on the booing of Zuma at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.
Media Monitoring Africa, which promotes ethical and fair journalism, reviewed news bulletins from SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 this week and there had been no mention of the booing.
It said that it was “clear that the incident may perhaps not be the central news story of the day given the event at which it took place.
“If we consider the stature of the speaker and the importance of his speech, there can be little doubt that the story was newsworthy.”
24 December 2013: The Right2Know campaign reveals that instructions have been given to SABC news personnel not to broadcast any reports on calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down.This is confirmed by trade union Bemawu.