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Media Freedom & Right to Know opinion

Doing an 'Nkandla' on the SABC

The unbearable lightness of Yunus Carrim as he seeks to limit the damage from the Special Investigative Unit report on endemic SABC corruption.
"In September 2009, the Auditor-General published a report that pointed to widespread financial mismanagement. In certain cases the sums were not insubstantial: a total of R174m was awarded in seven separate tenders despite the tender hearings not meeting minimum requirements; a R326m contract was entered into by two senior SABC employees despite not having authority to do so; and a two-year investigation between 2007 and 2009 had found R111m in irregularities such as double payments, over-payments and needless repurchasing of show licences. An astonishing 1,465 employees were found to have interests in outside companies, which made it difficult to countenance the absence of any central register of these interests or employee approvals. And yet, despite the report and its recommendations being presented in 2009, the SABC was forced to admit to Parliament in March 2012, that 'there was little or no implementation of the recommendations at 30 November, 2011" - Who Rules South Africa - Martin Plaut & Paul Holden (Jonathan Ball, 2012) Page 180.

After what seemed a promising start... Now Carrim is seemingly attempting to keep information on rampant looting at the SABC from the public. (Image: GCIS)
After what seemed a promising start, the recently-appointed Communications Minister Yunus Carrim disappointingly sought to limit the damage from the Special Investigative Unit report on endemic SABC corruption. He requested permission to brief the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications on its contents in a confidential, behind-closed-doors meeting which would have meant that the truth would never reach the electorate.

The DA's Shadow Minister of Communications, Marian Shinn, instantly blew this nefarious proposition out of the water and called for an open meeting on SABC.

It then occurred to me that we need a new word in our indigenous lexicon, one which will hopefully become as ubiquitous and as fervently expressed as "Eish!"

I thus propose the verb "Nkandla'd" which means using the ANC's Stalingrad approach to thwart the exposure of corruption and avoid the consequences of this exposure.

In the public interest and as a sequel to my recently-published chronology on rapacious ANC Communications Ministers, I will thus seek to highlight the evolution of wasteful expenditure and corruption by ANC-aligned dramatis personae in the SABC since 1994. The enormous scale of this orgy of looting only became obvious in early 2009 when a liquidation application made a horrified public realise that the state broadcaster had been financially gutted and that they, at the behest of the ANC, would shoulder the burden of a R1.4bn bailout. See 'The Blame Game' - another headache for Yunus Carrim.

There is strong public interest reason for doing this sort of analysis and collation. Despite systemic and all-pervasive corruption for more than a decade that has lost the SABC billions of rands, the SIU investigation only started in 2009 and, four years later, we still don't know the outcome other than that nobody has gone to jail - something which has now become the norm under the ANC, given the firm hand on the Luthuli House tiller. According to the DA, more than R19.5m has been spent on corruption investigations into the SABC.

The losses begin and the modus operandi is tested - it succeeds!

"WHEN the African National Congress (ANC) took control of what it promised would be a "new", "transformed" SABC in 1995, the broadcaster was showing an annual profit of R180m. Now, like the Land Bank, Eskom, South African Airways and other institutions, it has been turned into a licence to steal and has been looted by the party's deployed parasites to such an extent that it is chaotically bankrupt and demanding a bailout." - Rhoda Kadalie, Business Day 2/7/2009.

The SABC... where it seems looting, theft, corruption, wasteful spending and maladministration come before everything else - even its core function, to provide services to the public.
The first inkling I got that the SABC was sustaining huge losses was in March 2000 when an article by Jubie Matlou appeared in the Mail & Guardian stating that an independent arbitrator, Karel Tipp, had found that Molefe Mokgatle and Thaninga Shope - television and corporate communication chief executives respectively - were seemingly implicated in financial mismanagement.

When I phoned Auckland Park colleagues at the time I was told that no action had been taken against Mokgatle and Shope other than to "suspend" them on full salary and allow them the use of SABC offices and telephones - while performing no other SABC function - so that they could find alternative employment. No charges were laid and no attempt was ever made to recoup the losses. Mokatle left the SABC and went into the private sector but the ANC talent scouts clearly felt that Shope was destined for bigger things and a deserved a bigger stage. She was first deployed to NEPAD and then to the Department of Foreign Affairs, becoming successively, South Africa's ambassador to Gabon and, more recently, Venezuela.

Waiting in the wings was Matilda Gaboo and history was to repeat itself six years later when, once again, the ANC-controlled SABC suppressed a forensic report, prevented further investigation, did not lay charges and made no attempt to recover the lost millions in what seemed like a re-run of the earlier scenario. See Matilda Gaboo, Mathews Phosa, the SIU and Number One.

It was on the watch of CEO Dali Mpofu, deputy chairperson of the SABC Board, Christine Qunta and news chief Snuki Zikalala that the SABC imploded financially and lost its news credibility due to corruption, wasteful expenditure, almost incomprehensible incompetence and a "blacklist" news policy. All were Mbeki acolytes and all were on record with their disturbing views on whites, opposition parties, freedom of expression, and the print media.

As President Jacob Zuma told parliament in a reply to a DA question, the SIU was mandated to investigate corruption and maladministration which had occurred between 1 January 2005 and 29 October 2010.

In September last year City Press revealed that the SIU had six former senior executives in its sights including former CEO Dali Mpofu (who left the SABC with an ANC-engineered R14.1 m golden handshake which included a risible R4.4 m restraint of trade agreement) and his friend and business associate, lawyer Mafika Sihlali. See SIU guns for ex-SABC execs and Cope: Mpofu's 'golden handshake' an insult.

The centre cannot hold

The Luthuli House-created maelstrom that was inexorably sucking the state broadcaster into inevitable bankruptcy and a R1.4bn Nedbank/taxpayer-funded bailout became obvious in early 2009. South Africa's print media increasingly investigated the gross negligence and criminal malfeasance which was a consequence of the ANC realising one its ambitions - gaining control of what it regarded as a key "lever of power", the SABC. See SABC flouted conditions of R1.4bn bailout loan.

This was reflected in a series of banner newspaper and internet headlines:

• 6 March - SABC R784m in the red -Attorney Barry Aaron applies for the liquidation of the SABC
• 22 March - SABC boss blows millions on dud shows - the Matilda Gaboo saga is the front page lead in the Sunday Times
• 28 March - SABC financial woes deepen - the Saturday Star reports that the Corporation cannot pay its bills and has stopped hiring staff, closed staff canteens and is strictly rationing coffee and tea to low-level staff. The upper echelon deployments continue to splurge on everything from Montblanc pens to unlimited quantities of Johnny Walker Blue.
• 15 May - How Snuki sank the SABC - Ferial Haffajee in the Mail & Guardian on how Zikalala's "African Renaissance" fantasy, SABC News International, finally broke the SABC financially.
• 16 May - SABC debt may sink top programmes - THE SABC has failed to pay nearly 20 production houses more than R40m, and now many of the smaller ones have had to lay off staff to avoid bankruptcy.
• 26 May - SABC wasting millions - MILLIONS of rands have been set aside by the SABC for the upgrading of its building's foyer and the acquisition of luxury cars, while workers don't even have proper broadcasting equipment. And this while there are no funds to pay contractors, or for an agreed salary increase for employees.
• 3 June - SABC fails to pay sports award prize money -THE SABC, sponsor of the 2008 South African Sports Awards ceremony in Bloemfontein has yet to pay the winners six months after the ceremony.
• 4 June - Huge turnout for anti-SABC march - HUNDREDS of stakeholders in South Africa's independent television sector, including production companies, service suppliers, actors, industry organisations and unions, gathered at midday in Johannesburg's Auckland Park on 4 June to participate in a protest march against public broadcaster SABC's financial and management crisis.
• 6 July - SABC crisis decimates industry - THE deepening crisis in South Africa's television industry caused by public broadcaster SABC's failure to pay an outstanding amount of R60m to independent production companies has resulted in more and more companies retrenching staff, downscaling office premises and, in some cases, closing their businesses. Equally worrying is that the SABC has frozen commissions for the next six months at least.
• 7 July - Looting spree at SABC - THREE trade unions have revealed how the SABC coffers were looted by its management in a shock report referred to Auditor-General Terence Nombembe for investigation.

In the report the unions - the Broadcast, Electronic Media and Allied Workers' Union; the Communications Workers Union and the Media Workers Association of SA (Mwasa) - claim that the SABC spent exorbitant sums on consultants, petrol cards, excess staff and gifts. The claims include that:
* Executives splurged R18m on petrol expenses between November 2007 and June 12 this year
* R1.3m was spent on a 30-person strategy meeting that lasted one day
* Gemini Consulting was paid millions of rands for work that should have been done by SABC managers
* A programme manager who cost the SABC potentially R100m in wasteful acquisitions was let off scot-free.

• 10 July - From boom to bust - In just three years the SABC went from a profit of R383m to a projected R1bn loss this year. And a Mail & Guardian analysis of the broadcaster's financials for the past four years shows that the rot set in during former chief executive Dali Mpofu's reign.

HOW a profitable entity could, in a matter of a few years, be turned into a financial basket case has emerged as the leading question in the fog of controversies generated of late by the SABC's woes.

The broadcaster's financial records show clearly that Mpofu should carry the can.

Where his predecessor Peter Matlare ran a tight fiscal ship, on Mpofu's watch - and despite the best efforts of some board members - costs spiralled out of control, even while austerity measures were supposed to have been implemented.

Mpofu appears to have been singularly unqualified for the job of running an enterprise with a R4bn turnover. Although he had a string of directorships, he had no experience in running any large media organisation. His work record includes a disastrous tenure as chairperson of the Boxing South Africa board and being fired from the ANC.

Nothing sums up and defines this era of shameful and shameless ANC-related financial pillage by its deployed cadres than a single item in an article by Glynnis Underhill in the Mail & Guardian on 10 July 2009. In it she revealed that the SABC had paid R1.38m to an outside catering company for the food and drink at a one-day financial strategy and planning function for 30 people. The invoice included R348,000 for "draping" the room in which the function was held!

Does the ANC have the political will to recover these monies and to prosecute the deployed cadres and affirmative action appointees responsible for this wantonly criminal dispensing of taxpayer-funded political patronage?

The answer was provided by Willy Hofmeyr, the sidelined head of the Special Investigating Unit who, in a Business Day article on 22 February 2012, said there had only been "about five" corruption convictions for offenders whose cases involved more than R5m in the 10 years prior to April 2010.

Now, Communications Minister Yunus Carrim wants to Nkandla even this very limited SIU investigation which cost almost R20m.


About Ed Herbst

Ed Herbst is an author and a prize-winning reporter. He worked for SABC television news for 28 years but left in 2005 without other employment in prospect because of the pervasive news and other corruption at all levels of the corporation. He is also a fly fishing enthusiast.
Well written Ed - it is all so tragic and I am breathless with outrage - corruption has truly sunk our country
Posted on 5 Dec 2013 10:59
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