Days before a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling last week ended Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s legal bid to keep his job, the SABC is said to have paid a secret R10-million bonus into his bank account.
The bonus – for brokering a deal with MultiChoice in 2013 that some critics have slated – was paid at the instruction of acting CEO James Aguma, inside sources claim.
It was made without the knowledge of the SABC board and has angered some of its members.
“This would be fraud,” said one, who did not want to be named.
“It should come to the full board for deliberation before decisions are taken. This matter should be referred to the police. This is not about governance. It’s corruption.”
The latest controversy comes ahead of the release of the SABC’s financial results this week, which show the broadcaster posted a R377.7-million loss for the 2015-2016 financial year to the end of March.
While some SABC staff believe the R10-million bonus was “a golden handshake”, Motsoeneng gave no indication he was leaving the broadcaster during his bizarre rant at singer Mandoza’s funeral in Soweto on Friday.
The former chief operating officer told mourners not to write him off. “I have been observing when people were saying ‘Hlaudi is out’.
You can’t decide my future. I will decide for my future. And let me tell you, if I leave the SABC it will not be the first time. I left the SABC. I came back stronger and stronger,” he said.
Last week the Sunday Times’s sister publication, The Times, revealed that the SABC board was considering a proposal to ask Communications Minister Faith Muthambi to reappoint Motsoeneng in an acting capacity.
Four independent sources told the Sunday Times Motsoeneng’s bonus was paid late last week. “It came to about R7-million after tax,” said one.
Motsoeneng last week declined to discuss the matter.
“I can’t talk about nothing,” he said. “The day I am ready to communicate I will call you.”
Sources said Aguma had brought a board sub-committee resolution authorising the R10-million bonus to a meeting with finance officials and instructed them to process the payment.
“They were worried about it but felt there was nothing else they could do. They generated a request for payment and released the money,” said one.
“After the meeting James [Aguma] took the resolution away and locked it in his office.”
Aguma did not respond to messages asking for comment.
Board members interviewed said they had “heard about” the payment but were not party to the resolution and would have opposed it.
One said he would ensure stern action was taken against those responsible if he was presented with evidence of the payment. “Die poppe gaan dans [the fat will be in the fire],” he said.
Two other senior SABC staffers said the bonus was “common knowledge”.
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago did not respond to detailed questions. “We are not at liberty to discuss board issues in the media,” he said.
In terms of the MultiChoice deal, the SABC agreed to supply DStv with the 24-hour news channel 404, an entertainment channel called Encore and access to the public broadcaster’s archives.
Industry sources, including one with direct knowledge of the negotiations, said the SABC was grossly underpaid.
Sekoetlane Phamodi, co-ordinator of lobby group Save our SABC, said it was shocking that Motsoeneng was being rewarded for selling “national assets” to a rival company.
“That’s absolutely disgusting … because of the lack of real corporate governance controls at the SABC, we are yet again seeing our national broadcaster being looted in this way. We hope there will be an investigation into this.”
The challenge against Motsoeneng’s position as chief operating officer was brought to court by the DA, based on a ruling by public protector Thuli Madonsela in February 2014.
Madonsela found that Motsoeneng had lied about his matric qualification, had increased his salary irregularly from R1.5-million to R2.4-million and had purged staff.
She ruled that a replacement should be found within 90 days.
The Sunday Times reported last month that Aguma had written a letter circulated to the board that endorsed payment of a success fee to Motsoeneng for the MultiChoice deal.
In the letter, seen by the Sunday Times, Aguma said Motsoeneng had “single-handedly negotiated this contract that brought in over R570-million to the SABC over five years and created over 130 jobs for the 24-hour news team”. – Additional reporting by Thabo Mokone