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Education & Training news

'Skills training' at the SABC

In 2002, an investigation by Deloitte & Touche described Motsoeneng as a "semi-literate journalist" and recommended that he be removed as senior specialist producer. - "Faking it, Raking it in" Sunday World, 8 April 2012
"Your degrees can't work for you. You need experience to do the work. When these people come with their degrees, they drain the same people [who are skilled but don't have degrees]," said Motsoeneng after he addressed the media at a press briefing in Joburg today. - Hlaudi Motsoeneng - at an SABC media conference 6 February 2014

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela will be the focus of media attention today when she sums up the findings of her organisation's two-year investigation into the recent role of Hlaudi Motsoeneng at the SABC and the contributory roles of former board chairman Dr Ben Ngubane and Lulama Mokhobo who recently announced her resignation as Group CEO.

What has dominated discussion about the SABC in the past fortnight however has been the finding in a forensic report commissioned by the Parliamentary Communications Portfolio Committee.


The SABC... 'Run by Dummies'. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
It was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and its conclusions were crisply summed up in the headline on the front-page lead of The Times on 5 February - "SABC 'run by dummies'".

However, in an interview carried by the SABC on 10 February truth was revealed by Zandile Tshabalala, chairperson of the SABC board who, in her spare time, is also an advisor to President Jacob Zuma on BBBEE and a member of the board of the Moral Regeneration Movement.

All our fears cathartically evaporated and the nation - all 50 million plus of us - heaved a collective sigh of relief.

It is all the fault of apartheid.

Hallelujah!

A (sic) statement

After an intense scrutiny of the PwC report she could, authoritatively, tell us:
"There's competences (sic) like psychometric tests which has(sic) been dropped many years ago, because that was a system used in a racially divided society to marginalise certain people."

However, as reassuring as this was - and it was - it was the utterances of acting COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, which gained the most headlines and social media traction.

At a media conference called a day after the "apartheid era" PwC findings were revealed in parliament, the "famously matricless" Hlaudi (70% good news) Motsoeneng, surrounded by the normal coterie of jesters, laid the good word upon the multitude - in this case the jostling, sweaty representatives of the "chattering classes".

Here it was that Hlaudi revealed to a stunned world that, for centuries, humankind has been deluded. We have always all believed that all progress in the secular world was predicated on increasing our knowledge through study and research and universities were accordingly established all over the world in the most advanced civilisations - the first in Morocco in 859 AD.

Hlaudi revealed though, that graduates are not welcome within the SABC and that employing them is detrimental to the organisation. His comment anchors this article and it earned him Hogarth's Mampara of the Week award in the Sunday Times on 9 February.

The Media Workers Association of South Africa, (MWASA) was outraged - and said so.

But, you know these union types, always whining - ask Zwelinzima Vavi - he'll tell you.

Where's the beauty in a balance sheet?

However, it is on the SABC's skills training program that I wish to focus because this program got a bum rap when the PwC report highlighted the fact that the highest qualification of one the Corporation's finance administrators was a beauty therapy diploma.

On the contrary, as the following three case studies reveal, the Corporation's skills training program manifests an astonishing degree of lateral thinking and innovation and all reflect the cavalier largesse with which Luthuli House dispenses the money so selflessly contributed by the tax payer. In keeping with Hlaudi's contempt for the ivory towers of academe, these training programs are heavily focused on acquiring "life skills" rather than the wishy-washy, namby-pamby, sun-dried tomato eating intellectual approach so despised by Detective Inspector Derek Grim - policing's answer to our Hlaudi.

Lest Hlaudi hog all the credit and garner all the plaudits, I must point out that the most innovative SABC training concept came from a former chairman of its Board, the autocratic Dr Ben Ngubane. Yes, the same person who has been accused of an "abuse of power" and "improper conduct" by the Public Protector in her provisional SABC report, "The Blame Game."

A serious degree of dishonesty

As always, quality does not come cheap and it cost the good citizens of the RS of A a cool R250,000 for the SABC to send the aptly named Justice Ndaba to London on a "leadership" course.

Nothing unusual about that, you say?

Well, no.

What demonstrates Ngubane's extraordinary blue sky, outside-the-box, lateral-thinking abilities was that not only was Ndaba never employed at the state broadcaster, but he also got to write his own training modules!

(As background let me mention that on 11 May 2011, the SABC board received a report revealing that Justice Ndaba's claims about his university degrees were false. Despite this, the ANC-appointed board at the behest of Ngubane appointed him as acting company secretary from 4 July to 4 August and he was still signing official documents as head of strategy on 5 October 2011.)

One of these "life skill" modules - although Ndaba (an Amilcar "tell no lies, claim no easy victories" Cabral fan) modestly refuses to acknowledge the plaudits - was apparently about patronising but not paying prostitutes. (Don't forget, you read about here first).

There is no indication that the money was ever repaid by Ndaba but, as the SABC has made no attempt to recover the millions lost during the epic executive reign of Matilda Gaboo, the good friend and business associate off Matthews Phosa, at least the Corporation's de facto looting policies are being consistently followed. (Gaboo, in turn, can say that a similar modus operandi was employed by one of her predecessors Thaninga Shope with similar losses to the SABC and that Shope was rewarded by being made ambassador to first Gabon and then Venezuela.)

It's not what you know, but...

SABC insiders will quickly tell you that access to these avant-garde, leading edge, life-skill training programs depends in substantial measure on acquiring the patronage of top executives - i.e. a senior manager - at Auckland Park.

As an example consider the truly incredible case of radio reporter Gugu Kunene and PR company Zebra Synergies which occurred at the SABC in Durban on the watch of Snuki Zikalala

Writing in the Sunday Tribune of 1 February 2002, veteran investigative reporter Sam Sole revealed that Kunene was running a major public relations campaign worth one million rand while still employed full-time by the SABC.

"Kunene, who is employed at the SABC current affairs team in Durban is a member of Zebra Synergies Services, a marketing and public relations firm which has recently signed a twelve month contract with the KwaZulu-Natal Taxi Council (Kwanataco).

"There is only one other member of the close corporation, according to company registration records.

"Sources say the contract was worth about R1 million, a figure which was not disputed by Kwanataco general manager, Bafana Mhlongo.

"Zebra Synergies handled the launch this week of the corporate logo for Kwanataco at a major taxi industry gathering at the International Convention.

"Kunene was in attendance and obviously in charge of the organisation of the event.

"A source at the SABC said she had been allowed by a 'senior news manager' to work on the early morning current affairs shift 'apparently so that she could be free early to go and run her business'.

"One staffer said there was a political conflict of interest because of the involvement of the ANC Natal chairman and Transport MEC, S'bu Ndebele, in the restructuring of the taxi industry: 'There has always been pressure to do this minister's stories. We always wondered why, but this time we have realised why.
'"

Temerity sees you terminated

I remember being intrigued at the time and I phoned my Durban colleagues to enquire how this worked. Nobody knew but I was told that Ms Kunene, although rarely seen in the SABC building, was often seen at taxi/transport-related functions driving the latest version of Volkswagen's modern interpretation of the iconic Beetle, which was equipped with every available option - a car that was simply beyond their aspirations. (It was the principled Barney Mthombothi, I was told, who terminated this particular training program but he was quickly driven out of the Corporation for his temerity - not giving enough airtime to then President Thabo Mbeki and too much airtime, in the opinion of Luthuli House, to the Jali Commission investigation into prison corruption - but that's another story for another day.)

Also on Zikalala's watch another young woman, whose name I have, was allegedly sent to Rhodes University for a year all expenses paid and on full salary.

As the above-mentioned MWASA media release indicates there will always be discontent among the also-rans who don't know the right ANC people and thus don't get promoted or sent on Ben Ngubane/Justice Ndaba-type training courses in the world's leading cities.


Hlaudi Motsoeneng: 'I think with my feet.' (Image extracted from the SABC website)
Thus it was that the trade union, BEMAWU, last year expressed concern about the fact that 23 politically connected senior SABC managers were sent on overseas training courses at a cost of millions despite the fact that equivalent business training courses were available locally at a fraction of the cost. BEMAWU said that this resulted in the SABC spending 22% of its annual training budget on just 0.8% of the staff that needed training.

(It is not known whether the Ben Ngubane/Justice Ndaba "Ugandan Discussions" training module was part of the curriculum.)

All aboard...

How does one get onto this SABC/ANC Gravy Train?

One answer might be to befriend the Luthuli House interns. It was they, after all, who spotted the enormous latent potential in the broadcasting field of Nomvuyo Mhlakaza, the wife of ANC MP Buti Manamela, who was elected to the SABC board in September last year rather than other candidates such as broadcast activist Kate Skinner and journalist and author William John Gumede.

Mhlakaza's previous work experience was with the ANC Youth League which ended up being liquidated despite receiving a minor cash injection (R100 million for a youth festival) from the ANC and the agencies it controls.

One of the anchor concepts in the Multiple A, Multiple B, Multiple E , ANC's version of the National Party's job reservation polices is based on the idea that it is not qualifications that count but potential and it is because senior SABC news executives such as Pippa Green and Alwyn Kloppers saw the enormous, the incandescent potential of Hlaudi Motsoeneng that we are blessed with his extraordinary wisdom and the truly inspirational leadership which inspired this article.

Thinking... at a blistering pace

As an example of that wisdom, members of SANEF were hugely privileged and suitably inspired when the great man spoke to them in Cape Town on Saturday, February 15.

They were awed when Hlaudi explained the difference between university graduates like themselves and those that did not have matric but did have practical experience - citing himself as a shining example. "Educated people think with their brains - I think with my feet." he said. In practical terms what he was saying is that people who are fleet of foot, like Lionel Messi, Usain Bolt and Cassius Clay mean more to the world than the 204 university graduates, for example, whose research has made them Nobel laureates in physiology and medicine since 1901.

This is extraordinarily profound thinking and it is comforting to know that this is the ethos that drives the state broadcaster's skill training programs.

However, let me not distract you from the main event of the day, Thuli Madonsela's final report on Auckland Park shenanigans.

Over to you ma'am.

Madonsela delivers her verdict - and it's damning

Since this article was posted on Bizcommunity.com early this morning, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has released her report, titled "When governance and ethics fail"...

For more:
    
 

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.
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