Faulty Towers shakes as SABC execs jump ship

Hlaudi Motsoeneng sits behind Krish Naidoo and Vusi Mavuso who both quit as SABC board members during yesterday's hearing in parliament Picture: Ruvan Boshoff
Hlaudi Motsoeneng sits behind Krish Naidoo and Vusi Mavuso who both quit as SABC board members during yesterday’s hearing in parliament
Picture: Ruvan Boshoff

Two SABC board members who resigned in parliament have placed a controversial R570-million deal with MultiChoice and the gutting of the broadcaster’s executive at the heart of their shock decision.

Krish Naidoo and Vusi Mavuso announced during a special parliamentary hearing yesterday that they would quit the board.

This effectively paralysed the board as it does not have a quorum to make decisions.

They said they had not been party to recent key decisions, including the board’s presentation to parliament, Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s appointment as corporate affairs executive and Bessie Tugwana’s appointment as acting chief operating officer.

Tugwana was moved from her post of corporate affairs executive just seven weeks after being appointed to make way for Motsoeneng.

All these decisions will now be open to legal challenge because the board was not quorate when they were made.

In a day of high drama in parliament, a clearly divided SABC board turned on each other, as MPs called for the board’s dissolution.

MPs from all parties were unanimous as they took turns to dress down the “dysfunctional” board for ignoring court judgments.

They concluded that the board had basically dissolved itself, with some of them calling for an early sitting of the National Assembly to discuss it.

Some called for an inquiry into the entire SABC before any serious decisions were made.

The board had made a presentation to the committee on its implementation of public protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings against its appointment of Motsoeneng as chief operating officer, as well as his more recent reappointment as group executive for corporate affairs.

Non-executive board member Naidoo took everyone by surprise as he sided with MPs in his analysis of the board, before throwing in the towel and resigning during the meeting.

“I just want to end by saying I’m not satisfied as a board member,” he said.

“When I look at this presentation, it was amateurish in my view.

“This board is dysfunctional and it should be scrapped.

“Personally, I will be resigning today as a board member.”

Mavuso said he was flummoxed by the presentation, seeing it for the first time in parliament.

He accused the board of “institutional genocide” for ostracising certain employees and board members.

ANC MP Sisisi Tolashe questioned whether SABC board chairman Mbulaheni Maguvhe understood how the SABC was established.

“If he understands, is he prepared to apologise to 50 million South Africans?” he asked.

“What he did was a total disregard for citizens of this country,” Tolashe said, referring to last week’s press briefing where Maguvhe criticised political parties.

COPE MP Willie Madisha did not mince words, calling Motsoeneng a fraudster.

“We cannot allow any one individual to destroy that which belongs to 50 million people,” he said.

“He is a fraudster because here we are dealing with a person who misrepresents his qualifications.”

Maguvhe said the board was not able to respond to some matters as they were before court.

He said other issues that had been raised were not part of the brief from the committee chairman’s letter. “We request we be given ample time and will respond in writing,” Maguvhe said.

Speaking to Times Media after the committee meeting, Naidoo and Mavuso said key reasons for their decision to quit were the “unlawful” contract Motsoeneng had signed with MultiChoice in 2013 and the recent kicking out of 11 executives.

“If you take out the quality, you are left with the scum,” Naidoo said.

He said he had been asked to review the MultiChoice deal and found it unlawful.

“It was signed by the chief operating officer and not the group chief executive, who has the legal authority,” Naidoo said.

He said the terms of the contract were an unfair exchange.

“There was an imbalance of conditions. The SABC’s intellectual property was moving to M-Net. You are unlawfully disposing of state assets.”

Naidoo said he had held a meeting about it with then MultiChoice chief executive, Imtiaz Patel.

“I told him ‘it’s unlawful, let’s negotiate’. But nothing happened,” he said.

The SABC was paid R570-million over five years in return for supplying MultiChoice’s DStv platform with a 24-hour news channel, entertainment channel Encore and access to the SABC’s archives.

But sources involved in the deal said the broadcaster could have secured a R2.5-billion fee.

E.tv is paid about R400-million a year for supplying a single news channel, eNCA.

Despite costing the SABC about R2-billion in potential revenue, Motsoeneng is said to have been paid a “success fee” of at least R10-million for clinching the deal.

Mavusa described Maghuve as a “terrible” chairman.

He said the last straw was the booting out of 11 executives.

“They got rid of the head of risk, the head of audit, radio, TV, HR and procurement,” Mavusa said.

Both said they would consider serving on an interim board if asked.

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