DA welcomes that SIU can finally begin SABC investigation

The DA welcomes the signing of the proclamation allowing the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to begin a forensic investigation at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
Although three months late, President Jacob Zuma’s signing of the proclamation means that the SIU can now finally begin to do the work that will reveal the true extent of corruption, maladministration and unlawful conduct at the SABC likely implicating former Communications Minister, Faith Muthambi; former SABC COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng; former SABC CEO, James Aguma and indeed, the Gupta family.
We encourage the SIU to conduct its work speedily and without fear or favour and to be a bulwark against any attempts at political interference during its investigations.
It is unfortunate that the President took so long to sign the proclamation and appears only to have done so today, given that he would have been forced to answer for the delay during Oral Questions to the President next week.
For too long the SABC has lurched from crisis to crisis and served as a piggy bank for corrupt ANC-linked individuals and politicians. We trust the SIU’s investigation will reveal the true depths of the rot at the SABC, the SABC inquiry only scratched the surface. We look forward to the outcome of the SIU’s investigation.

Baleka Mbete must now lay criminal charges against SABC liars

Now that the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, has finally tabled the report from Parliament’s Legal Services Unit identifying those who mislead or lied to the SABC Ad Hoc committee, she must ensure that criminal charges are laid against them.
The recommendation in the report of the Ad Hoc committee on the SABC inquiry was that Parliament itself lay charges against the individuals who misled the committee.
As Speaker, Mbete is the Constitutional Head of the National Assembly and must ensure that a recommendation of a report adopted by the National Assembly, including the ANC, is duly implemented.
The recommendation read: “Parliament’s Legal Services Unit, with the assistance of the Evidence Leader, should within 60 days from the adoption of this report by the National Assembly, identify the persons who misled the inquiry or provided false information or false testimony with the aim of criminal charges being laid”.
The report identified the following individuals as giving misleading or contradictory evidence and they are liable to a fine or imprisonment, or both:

  • Former Communications Minister, Faith Muthambi – whose testimony “could be seen as an attempt to mislead the Inquiry”.
  • Former Company Secretary, Theressa Geldenguys – for her “failure to inform the Committee that she was no longer the company secretary […] which could be considered as an attempt to mislead the Inquiry”.
  • Former SABC CEO, James Aguma – who might have provided the Inquiry with an email which “purports to lack authenticity as being that generated by the [Companies and Intellectual Property Commission] CIPC”. The report states that “in order to establish this fact conclusively further investigation needs to be undertaken to ascertain whether the email was generated by the CIPC”.
  • Former SABC Board Chair, Prof. Mbulaheni Maguvhe – Prof. Maguve and Minister Muthambi provided contradictory testimonies regarding the labour dispute between the SABC 8 and the SABC, which“could be indicative of Prof. Maguvhe misleading the Inquiry”.
  • Former SABC Board Chair, Dr Ben Ngubane – “[the] testimony offered by Dr Ngubane could be seen as an attempt to mislead the inquiry and that false information was presented to the Inquiry”.

Although the DA welcomes the tabling of this report, the reality is that it is almost 12 weeks overdue and has been sitting on the Speaker’s desk since the 5th of June.
Mbete must now ensure that she fully complies with the full recommendation of the report and lay criminal charges.
Misleading Parliament is a serious offense and the DA will ensure that this report will not stay just another report.
A clear message must be sent to those who think they can lie, under oath, to Parliament – lying will not be tolerated. It is now up to the Speaker to ensure that this message is sent otherwise the DA will ensure it is heard loud and clear.

SABC’s Aguma resignation won’t let him off the hook

The DA welcomes the resignation of the SABC’s suspended chief executive, James Aguma. However, Aguma’s decision to resign instead of facing a disciplinary hearing does not mean he is going to be let off the hook for his part in the institutional breakdown at the SABC.
Aguma faces serious accusations, including tender irregularities and overseeing massive fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and reports that his resignation will result in the SABC withdrawing charges are concerning. Equally so reports that he is set for a golden handshake.
Aguma’s convenient exit reiterates the urgent need for the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to table the report into those who lied during Parliament’s SABC Inquiry. The report, compiled by Parliament’s Legal Services Unit, identifies “the persons who misled the inquiry or provided false information or false testimony with the aim of criminal charges being laid”.
Mbete has steadfastly refused to table the report, which she received on 5 June 2017; instead, she has “[written] to individuals cited on the list, inviting them to make submissions by the end of July on the serious allegations they face”. Aguma is no doubt named in the report and now faces a fine and/or imprisonment for violating the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.
It should not be forgotten that Aguma also told the Portfolio Committee on Communications, as well as the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, that there was no financial crisis at the SABC following the release of the SABC Inquiry report, another patent lie.
The DA will not allow Aguma to escape accountability for the key role he played in the SABC’s demise.

Mbalula must update the nation on SAPS investigation about SABC 8 attacks

The DA will write to the Chairperson of the Communications Portfolio Committee Humphrey Maxegwana to request that the Police Minister Fikile Mbalula be summoned to Parliament to provide an update on SAPS’s investigations of attacks against the SABC 8.
It has been almost a year since the SABC 8 reported death threats, assaults, house break-ins, and many other sinister intimidation tactics following their legal action against the subverting of press freedom at the SABC by Hlaudi Motsoeneng and his acolytes mid last year. It is outrageous that to-date, not a single person has been arrested, or held accountable for these attacks.
The untimely and tragic death of RSG Senior Producer and one of the SABC 8, Suna Venter from “Broken Heart Syndrome” – believed to be caused by trauma and prolonged periods of unnatural stress – demands that justice be served. Those responsible for the utter terror she was subjected to over the past year must be held accountable and brought to book.
It cannot be that a young woman is abducted, tied to a tree and the grass around her set alight; shot in the face, and repeatedly terrorised, and no one is held accountable. Justice must be served for Suna and the rest of the SABC 8.
Mbalula must therefore appear before Parliament and provide an update of SAPS’s investigations about the cowardly attacks on our journalists.
In particular, he must inform the nation about whether former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng, former SABC CEO James Aguma and former Communications Minister Faith Muthambi were ever questioned about the attacks and threats, and if not, order that this happen immediately.
It is up to Parliament to play its role in protecting the constitutional right to press freedom and protect journalists from intimidation. Parliament’s silence and lack of action will be complicity.
The media play an important role keeping the South African people informed and in a time where captured forces propagate misleading rhetoric, journalists who dare speak the truth to power must be protected more than ever.

SABC CFO must be suspended for dubious multi-million contracts

We now have confirmation of dubious contracts signed off by the SABC’s top executives, including Acting CFO Audrey Raphela, in late December 2016.
Replies to DA parliamentary questions reveal that at least two dubious tenders were awarded by the SABC in late December 2016 while Parliament was conducting hearings during the SABC inquiry, namely:

  • A contract worth R5.1 million (R4.5 million excluding VAT) for the redesign of the SABC’s websites awarded to Infonomix without going to tender; and
  • A contract worth R7.3 million paid to Imagine Communications for an advertising management system, with an additional R 4.7 million over three years for “license fee and maintenance”. The contract with Imagine Communications was signed despite it being proven that the system was not suitable for the SABC, contributing to the R300 million loss in advertising revenue at the public broadcaster. It does not appear that this contract was put out to tender.

We await replies from Communications Minister, Ayanda Dlodlo about other contracts reportedly signed off in a rush in December by Raphela.
On the basis of these allegations of serious tender flouting, the SABC Acting CFO must be suspended pending an investigation into the awarding of these tenders, and pending a disciplinary inquiry.
In addition, the procedures relating to Raphela’s appointment as Acting CFO must be reviewed. She was appointed from outside the SABC in August 2016 into the acting CFO position. Normally, a person from inside an organisation is appointed into an acting position with the understanding he or she will return to their permanent position once the temporary allocating in the acting role is complete. It is alleged that Raphela was brought in by James Aguma into the CFO position, flouting the SABC’s HR procedures.
The DA is intent on cleaning up the rot at the SABC, and ensuring that those individuals responsible, are held accountable. SABC COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who received R1.7 million while on suspension since January 2017, and was paid R12.5 million while irregularly employed as the SABC’s COO, has fallen and James Aguma is currently suspended, facing a disciplinary inquiry. Next should be Raphela, and the numerous “enforcers” who implemented patently illegal and unethical decisions at the orders of Aguma and Motsoeneng.
The SABC can and will be returned to being the public broadcaster that fulfils its mandate of entertaining and educating the public, without being a feeding trough for corrupt officials.

Aguma must be suspended after he lied to Parliament about the Hlaudi press briefing

The DA calls on the SABC interim Board to immediately suspend James Aguma, as Acting GCEO of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and its permanent CFO for lying to Parliament.
Earlier today, the Deputy Chairperson of the SABC board, Mathatha Tsedu, revealed that Aguma admitted in an affidavit to giving permission to Hlaudi Motsoeneng to host his infamous press conference denigrating the SABC on 19 April 2017.
Yet, when I asked Aguma, on 26 April 2017 at a meeting of the Communications Portfolio committee, why he allowed Hlaudi to conduct the press conference, he claimed that he had no knowledge of it, that he was in fact in a meeting at the time and could therefore not prevent it.
Aguma’s admission in an affidavit that he did, in fact, know about the press conference, and in fact gave his permission as Acting GCEO for it to go ahead, is proof that he lied to Parliament at the time, and may have also been lying to the SABC interim Board.
According to Section 17(2)(e) of the Powers and Privileges Act, a person may not “wilfully furnish a House or committees with information, or makes a statement before it, which is false or misleading”. This is a very serious issue and can result in a fine or up to two years in prison.
While the DA welcomes Aguma’s replacement today, as announced by Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, the fact is this is just while he is on sick leave, as confirmed by The Deputy Chairperson of the SABC board, Mathatha Tsedu.
Given his close proximity to crucial documents that could reveal the true extent of the financial mismanagement at the SABC, he could interfere in the investigation, and must, therefore, be suspended.
When asked by Tim Brauteseth, DA representative on SCOPA Minister Dlodlo refused to pronounce on whether Aguma should be suspended.
The DA believes that Aguma must be permanently removed as Acting CGEO, and suspended from the SABC in his permanent role as the public broadcaster’s CFO, pending a forensic investigation and a disciplinary inquiry.
The DA calls on SABC interim board, in restoring the public’s confidence in the SABC, to immediately suspend Aguma.
For years we’ve seen the deterioration of the SABC and it is time for the Minister and Interim Board to remove the institutional rot.

James Aguma must be suspended for driving the SABC into the ground

The Acting Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of the SABC, James Aguma, must be suspended for overseeing the plunder of the public broadcaster’s cash reserves, pending the conclusion of a forensic investigation.  The DA will write to the chairperson of the SABC Interim Board, Khanyisile Kweyama, requesting the immediate suspension of the Acting GCEO, pending a forensic investigation into the SABC’s finances.
The Auditor-General’s (A-G) office yesterday confirmed to the Portfolio Committee on Communications that the SABC’s cash reserves declined from R1.5 billion in 2014 to R200 million in December 2016.
Not only has this left the SABC as barely a “going concern”, it is at risk of being forced to cease operations, unable to pay its staff and meet its obligations.Cash reserves refer to money which the SABC should have saved to cover any
Cash reserves refer to money which the SABC should have saved to cover any emergency. According to treasury regulations, the liquidity requirement of SABC is allegedly R650m a month on average.
This is a situation that Aguma, its Acting GCEO, and former CFO, was aware of and he should have taken steps to protect the public broadcaster’s cash reserves.
Aguma is complicit, and in fact, central, along with Hlaudi Motsoeneng, for the current dire straits the SABC is in and should be held accountable.
Pending the conclusion of a forensic investigation, Aguma must be suspended, particularly as he still has access to the SABC’s financial documents and could interfere with witnesses.
Aguma is a sad cautionary tale of what happens if you sell your soul to the devil.  A talented Chartered Accountant, he was allegedly head-hunted by Motsoeneng from the A-G’s office, and served as the SABC’s Acting CFO from March 2014 to December 2014, its CFO from January 2015 to June 2016, and Acting GCEO to date.
During this time, Aguma served as Motsoeneng’s “first lieutenant”  defending him, appearing next to him in court cases, providing financial backing for his various madcap decisions. He used his skills as an auditor to wrap the wool around the public’s eyes about the true state of the public broadcaster’s finances.
It will be a sad end to what could have been a stellar career, but held accountable, he must.

Parliament once again needs to attend to the SABC

The DA will be requesting an urgent meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Communications for a briefing by the National Treasury on the current status of the SABC’s finances, following media reports that the finances of the SABC are in such a bad state that the production of new content has been halted and there are fears staff will not be paid.
A confidential National Treasury risk committee report leaked to the media is alleged to show a crash in the SABC’s reserves which plummeted to R174 million in December 2016 compared to R1 billion in cash reserves a year before.
The DA will request that National Treasury urgently conducts an assessment of the current status of the SABC’s finances and brief Parliament, particularly as the SABC’s current management cannot be trusted to provide accurate information to Parliament in this regard.
The Acting GCEO of the SABC, James Aguma, informed the Portfolio Committee on Communications, as well as the Standing Committee on Public Accounts that there is no financial crisis at the SABC just last month. It is apparent now that he was not fully honest.
The financial crisis at the SABC is concerning and should be treated as a matter of urgency, especially when people’s jobs are at risk. We trust that the Portfolio Committee on Communications will also view this matter as urgent.
The DA also urges the President to appoint the Board in order to establish a functioning Public Broadcaster, which can deliver on its mandate to provide quality entertainment and inform the South African public.

Final SABC Ad Hoc committee report reads like a horror story

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the Chairperson of the DA’s Federal Executive, James Selfe MP, during the discussion on the adoption of the Final Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the SABC Board Inquiry.
I want to commend the Ad Hoc Committee for the rigorous way in which it conducted its enquiry into the affairs of the SABC.
The report reads like a horror story. It is a story of maladministration and corruption; of fear and intimidation; of nepotism and of abuse of power. At the centre of this story sit two malignant individuals: Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the Minister of Communications.
Like so many public institutions, the SABC has failed the public. Viewed cumulatively, the report portrays a SABC that is indistinguishable from that which existed under apartheid: biased, partisan, irresponsible, profligate, and unaccountable.
As members of Parliament, to whom this institution reported, we need to introspect about how we allowed it to happen.
Ultimately it was left to the Public Protector to expose the rotten state of the SABC in her Report, When Governance and Ethics Fail. This report was released in February 2014.
When we realised that the government and Parliament would not implement the Public Protector’s remedial action about him, the DA approached the Courts in a two-part application: first, to suspend Mr Motsoeneng and subject him to a disciplinary hearing, which had been ordered by the Public Protector; and secondly, to declare that his appointment as COO was irrational and therefore illegal.
On 24 October 2014, we got an order compelling the SABC to suspend Mr Motsoeneng and to subject him to a disciplinary hearing. He and the SABC sought leave to appeal. On 23 April 2015, Motsoeneng was granted leave to appeal, but the SABC was ordered to implement the disciplinary hearing pending the appeal. He and the SABC appealed again. The case was adjudicated by the Supreme Court of Appeal on 8 October 2015, and the appeal was dismissed.
On 27 November 2015, the Western Cape High Court reviewed and set aside the appointment of Mr Motsoeneng as COO. He and the SABC appealed. On 23 May 2016, leave to appeal was dismissed. The SABC and Motsoeneng petitioned the SCA for leave to appeal. In September 2016, these petitions were dismissed by the SCA.
The SABC convened a sham disciplinary hearing against Mr Motsoeneng in December 2015, which predictably exonerated him, as key witnesses were not called. The DA again approached the courts to review and set aside this disciplinary hearing. The SABC, in turn, applied for a stay of these proceedings. That application for a stay was dismissed on 14 June 2016.
Judgment in the DA’s case was delivered on 12 December 2016. The disciplinary hearing of December 2015 was set aside and a new one ordered, and Mr Motsoeneng’s appointment as Group Executive: Corporate Affairs was set aside, and the court ordered that he could not occupy any senior position in the SABC until after his disciplinary hearing. Mr Motsoeneng and Mr Aguma were ordered to pay our costs personally to demonstrate the courts’ displeasure.
Guess what? The SABC and Mr Motsoeneng applied for leave to appeal. On 7 February 2017, this application was dismissed.
At every stage, the SABC and/or its Executive Directors were ordered to pay the DA’s costs, which run to millions of Rand. We hope that the new Board will root out this culture of impunity.