The Chairperson informed the Committee that on Saturday 10 December his office had received a letter from Ncube Inc attorneys headed Re: Inquiry by the Ad hoc Committee into the Affairs of the South African Broadcasting Corporation and its Board of Directors. The letter stated that the SABC Board is of the view that the inquiry must be fair and impartial and it wishes to inform the Committee that on the 15 December 2016 the SABC shall lead evidence and cross-examine all witnesses that had come before the Committee. The SABC should be given an opportunity to participate in the inquiry. Should the SABC’s right to participate not be granted; the SABC shall exercise any right in the law or otherwise to enforce its rights.
The Committee agreed to respond that day that:
- The Committee had committed to doing everything in its power to ensure that the inquiry was transparent, free, and fair and had in fact championed that since the inception of proceedings. The Committee would reassure the SABC that this would not change as it had been committed to this from the beginning.
- Section 57 of the South African Constitution stated that the National Assembly determine and control its internal arrangements, proceedings and procedures and National Assembly Rule 167 stated a parliamentary committee may summon any person to appear before it to give evidence on oath or affirmation, or to produce documents and the committee determined its own working arrangements. The agreed upon programme had been announced and no one else would determine what the Committee would be doing on a particular day nor would the committee grant the SABC to lead evidence.
- The Committee in the beginning had written a letter to every potential witness including the Minister of Communications and the SABC Board indicating that the Committee would call witnesses. The SABC Board and the Minister would have an opportunity to test the evidence given to the inquiry immediately. When the SABC Board had chosen to walk out, it had forfeited its rights to interact with the witnesses from that day. From now onwards, the SABC would retain the right to participate and interact with witnesses that came before the Committee.
- The walk-out by the SABC Board and Prof Maguvhe on 7 December 2016 had shown total disregard and disrespect for Parliament and the Constitution.
- On the SABC exercising its right in law if it was barred from participating, the Committee stated that it respected the right of every South African to do this if a person thought any right had been infringed.
- The SABC Board was inquorate so where did the mandate derive for incurring legal costs.
On that same Saturday, the Committee received 400 documents had been emailed from the SABC purportedly being documents the Committee had required earlier as preparation for its work.
Ms Mandiwe Nkosi, former SABC General Manager: Employee Relations, gave labour law advice and was involved in disciplinary inquiries from 2011 until 2016 at the SABC. She said that her advice was largely ignored when it came to the Group Executive level. She recounted the illegal labour law process followed in terminating various Group Executives such as Mr Sipho Masinga, Mr Itani Tseisi, Ms Verona Duwarkah, Mr Jabulani Mabaso, Mr Leslie Ntloko and Ms Lorraine Francois. She noted the how the changing of the Memorandum of Incorporation allowed the SABC Delegation of Authority Framework (DAF) to circumvent the Board when it came to the hiring and firing of executives by the COO. She was asked if is it correct to conclude that Mr Motsoeneng had asked the State Security Agency to investigate the financial information leakage at the SABC; whether she had been involved in the disciplinary process against Mr Motsoeneng; whether the long suspensions with pay and the court ordered payouts for irregular dismissals were the key cost drivers in her functional area of labour law during her tenure at the SABC; why she had not contested her constructive dismissal; and if policy adherence was routinely disregarded.
Mr Jabulani Mabaso, former SABC Group Executive: Human Resources, was at the SABC from 2013 to 2016. He had been recruited as the HR policies were archaic and the SABC had received audit findings by Auditor-General South Africa due to this. However, his attempts to introduce a proper recruitment policy, a performance management system and recognition award programme were effectively blocked as “everything went through the former COO’s office”. Mr Mabaso questioned the fact that the Board never took any action. He felt they neglected their responsibility. For example, the approval of the performance system was in 2014 so by 2016 the Board should have been cracking the whip about what was delaying implementation.
Mr Mabaso confirmed that the appointment of Mr Motsoeneng as permanent COO was inconsistent with SABC policies. He confirmed that he was not invited to the night meeting where the COO’s permanent appointment had been approved without due process. Questions included the bonuses to Mr Motsoeneng as well as his annual salary increases and the withdrawal of Werksmans Attorneys from his disciplinary hearing; irregular appointments and terminations of senior management staff causing fruitless and wasteful expenditure; vetting; recalling staff from retirement; suspended officials’ disciplinary hearings; and implementation of the Public Protector’s Report.
Committee members found it disturbing that the most talented people had come before the Ad Hoc Committee as witnesses and how all of them had allowed this man without a matric certificate reign over the SABC. Executive after executive was reporting that they did nothing. Some felt it was a microcosm of a bigger problem experienced in SA currently. SOCs are deteriorating under the same narrative where good men stand and do nothing. The political space and society in general is becoming zombified.
Mr Mabaso spoke of the COO having immense authority and replied that the Board is supposed to rein in a person; but if the Board chooses not to take any action there is nothing the executives can do. When the MOI was changed, it was a game changer as disciplinary powers were moved from the Board; it gave the COO all the powers to purge officially. It was the Board’s inability to curb these things that governance at the SABC completely failed
Mr Mabaso was then asked if Mr Motsoeneng was not called to order by the Board because of his having political support from the President.
Asked for his advice as the way forward for the SABC, Mr Mabaso recommended a cleanup starting with the approval of policies; a capacity review; the SABC had to be professionalised by getting skilled people with the correct qualifications to do the work; and the Memorandum of Incorporation definitely had to be revised.
The Committee began its afternoon session with the testimony of Mr Sipho Masinga, former SABC Group Executive: Technology. The evidence leader took Mr Masinga through his time at the SABC but specifically touched on meetings with Mr Nazeem Howa, from The New Age (TNA) Media, details of the MultiChoice contract and government policy on the set-up box/encryption, Mr Motsoeneng trying to take over the IT division which Mr Masinga headed, finance at the SABC and the relationship between Mr Motsoeneng and senior executives at the SABC.
The Committee felt that a scary picture was being presented by Mr Masinga’s evidence and commended him for taking a stand which came at a great personal cost in taking the matter to court. Members asked who took over as head of technology after he left the SABC, if the absorption of the IT division under the COO was as a direct result of the amended Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI) and the personal experience of Mr Masinga during the amendment of the MOI. Questions were asked about the role of the SABC Board chairperson, the TNA proposal to take over the SABC news division; if there were any other attempts by the Guptas to take over other SABC functions or do other business with the SABC; the current status of the complicated encryption matter; Mr Masinga’s assessment of Mr Motsoeneng; what was said about Mr Motsoeneng in the corridors of the SABC, if he ever mentioned that he had political protection and from where he got his power and why other senior managers were afraid of him. The Committee was concerned that Mr Motsoeneng was anti-intellectualism.
The Committee then heard the personal experiences of four of the so-called SABC 8 beginning with Ms Thandeka Gqubule, SABC Economics Editor and Ms Krivani Pillay, SABC SAfm current affairs producer. After presenting their testimonies, the Committee collectively expressed their apologies for what the journalists had to endure and expressed outrage and what they had heard. Members saluted their courage and thanked them for appearing despite challenges. The Committee questioned the role of the SABC Board and acting group executive during the frustrations, intimidation and threats experienced by the SABC 8. Members asked if there was a need for a change to editorial policy and if so, what process of consultation was conducted prior to amendment of the policy and about the stance of Mr Motsoeneng on women. Further questions sought recommendations from the journalists on how the SABC could be rescued, detail about the news ombudsman suggestion; the extent of political interference at the Corporation, if the SABC 8 felt that they were failed by the Board, the Minister and the Portfolio Committee on Communications in the degeneration of governance at the SABC. They were asked who the “enforcers” of Mr Motsoeneng were; about the “Nenegate” directive; the lack of a healthy relationship between the executive/administration and editorial staff, and the moratorium on covering the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) political party during the 2014 national elections.
The Committee heard the personal accounts of another two journalists representing the SABC 8, Mr Vuyo Mvoko, contributing editor at the SABC and Mr Lukhanyo Calata, a parliamentary journalist at the SABC. The Committee similarly commended their courage in coming forward. Thereafter Members engaged in discussion on the extensive manipulation of information especially around the EFF during the last national election and if there were other examples of this manipulation, if the journalists were still getting threats and if so how the threats were received and what was the wording. They were asked about the power lying behind Mr Motsoeneng which suggested that support might come from as far up as the President. There were sentiments that Members should take some responsibility for failing in their oversight duties and failing to protect and salvage the SABC. The Committee was startled to hear that SABC funds were being used to fund a rival TV station and questioned the impact on this on the financial stability of the SABC. Members asked if there was sufficient appreciation by the Board and Mr Motsoeneng that the SABC had to be self-sustaining because the national fiscus was under immense pressure, how advertisement revenue was negatively impacted by the new censorship and other policies; and the role of the Board in defending some of the ills at the SABC. There was a suggestion that the SA Security Agency (SSA) would have to be called to account for their role in interfering with employee relations at the SABC.
Announcements, updates and mandates
The Chairperson announced that a summons had been served on Prof Maguvhe on the 9 December 2016. On the 10 December 2016, a letter had been received from Ncube Inc Attorneys headed Re: Inquiry by the Ad hoc Committee into the Affairs of the South African Broadcasting Corporation and its Board of Directors. The Chairperson summarised its key points:
• We wish to reiterate that the SABC Board is of the view that the inquiry must be fair and impartial.
• The SABC wishes to inform the ad hoc Committee that on the 15 December 2016; the SABC shall lead evidence and cross-examine all witnesses that had come before the ad hoc Committee.
• It was in the interest of the ad hoc Committee that the SABC be given an opportunity to participate in the proceedings of the inquiry.
• Should the SABC’s right to participate not be granted, the SABC shall exercise any right in the law or otherwise to enforce its rights.
The first thing that had to be noted was that the letter had not been signed and had been sent electronically. The Chairperson said the Ad Hoc Committee had to respond by end of business on 12 December 2016 to keep the process of the inquiry flowing. Essentially his proposed response was:
- In light of the fact that the SABC Board was inquorate where did the mandate derive for the letter and who would pay Ncube Inc’s bill?
- The Committee had committed to doing everything in its power to ensure that the inquiry was transparent, free, and fair and had in fact championed that since the inception of proceedings. The Committee would reassure the SABC that this would not change as it had been committed to this from the beginning.
- On the second point, the Chairperson’s view was that Section 57 Internal arrangements, proceedings and procedures of National Assembly of the South African Constitution stated: (1) “The National Assembly may (a) determine and control its internal arrangements, proceedings and procedures” and National Assembly Rule 167 General powers stated: “For the purposes of performing its functions a committee may, subject to the Constitution, legislation, the other provisions of these rules and resolutions of the Assembly —
(a) summon any person to appear before it to give evidence on oath or affirmation, or to produce documents;...(f) determine its own working arrangements”. The agreed upon programme by the Ad Hoc Committee had been read out and he felt that no one else would determine what the Committee would be doing on the 15 December 2016 or any other day; therefore he was not inclined to grant the SABC to lead evidence but he would be guided by the Ad Hoc Committee.
- On the third point in the letter, the Committee in the beginning had written a letter to every potential witness including the Minister of Communications, Ms Faith Muthambi and the SABC Board indicating that the Committee would call witnesses. The SABC Board and the Minister would have an opportunity to test the evidence given to the inquiry immediately. When the proceedings started, the SABC Board had been in attendance but had chosen to walk out of its own volition, when it would have been granted an opportunity to interact with witnesses. The Chairperson believed that the SABC had thus forfeited its rights to interact with the witnesses from that day. The SABC would not cross-examine the Public Protector, Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), and the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) but it could make comments. From now onwards, the SABC would retain the right to participate and interact with witnesses that came before the Committee.
- It was incumbent on the Committee to make it clear to the SABC Board and Prof Maguvhe that walking out of the inquiry proceedings on 7 December 2016 had shown total disregard and disrespect for Parliament and the Constitution – for a body which accounted to Parliament to behave in the manner the SABC had.
- On the point that the SABC would exercise its right if it was barred from participating, the Committee categorically stated that it respected the right of every South African to do what they deemed necessary and important if they thought the Ad Hoc Committee had infringed on any right.
In summary, the Chairperson intended to respond in that manner unless otherwise advised by the Ad Hoc Committee and to indicate that Ncube Inc had to respond by end of business on 13 December 2016 if they so wished.
Mr H Chauke (ANC) agreed with the Chairperson that the SABC and its Board chairman had total disrespect for Parliament. Since the walk-out, the Chairperson had always called to check if the SABC was present each day. It was clear that there was no commitment from the SABC towards the inquiry. The Chairperson’s response had to emphasize to the SABC executive that using public resources to have witnesses reappear before the Committee would constitute fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The Committee could not accept bullying from the SABC. He agreed that the SABC had forfeited the opportunity to engage with witnesses since the 7 December 2016.
Ms J Kilian (ANC) agreed with the Chairperson’s sentiments and added that it would also be important to say to the SABC that it had a legal right to approach the courts once the inquiry was concluded for a review of the process but that the legal costs for such would be borne by those individuals which would take that route. The SABC had made a R400 million loss in the previous financial year and it was important that the looting of resources be stopped at that state owned company (SOC).
Ms F Loliwe (ANC) said the letter was grandstanding by the SABC because it could not be that way after it had absented itself from proceedings for an entire week.
Dr M Khoza (ANC) concurred with the Chairperson, adding that the SABC was in contravention of section 55(2) of the Constitution on the Powers of National Assembly: “The National Assembly must provide for mechanisms— (a) to ensure that all executive organs of state in the national sphere of Government are accountable to it”.
Ms P Van Damme (DA) reiterated the sentiments of the Committee noting that the letter had not been sent in good faith because if the SABC had realised that the walk-out was an error and wanted to return and participate in the hearings, they would have attended the proceedings of the 12 December 2016.
Mr J Mahlangu (ANC) noted the importance of the SABC writing to the Ad Hoc Committee on the day commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Constitution. Who was the SABC that it would lead evidence in a parliamentary inquiry? The letter was an egregious attempt to undermine a constitutional and legal inquiry.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) was concerned about the behaviour of the SABC from the walk-out to the Ad Hoc Committee having to legally summons the SABC Board chairperson to appear before the Committee. In the many years he had been in Parliament he had never seen a State institution determining what it would do on a day of its choosing in Parliament. He was in support of the sentiments of the Committee.
Mr F Mokoena (EFF) said Ncube Inc Attorneys had to explain to the Committee who had instructed them at the SABC to write to Parliament. If it was a member of the inquorate board, then a board resolution had to be produced that spoke to the appointment of those attorneys to represent the Board at the inquiry. If it could not be produced then that meant SABC money was being spent illegally. The Committee had to then demand that those individuals that had instructed Ncube Inc had to pay back that money.
The Chairperson said indeed the letter would be drafted capturing all these sentiments and sent by end of business that day. On that same Saturday of 10 December 2016, his office had also received more than 400 documents from the SABC via email purportedly being documents the Committee had required earlier as preparation for its work. The support staff was processing the documentation to ascertain what they contained and whether there was anything of importance to the work of the Committee. The Chairperson found it strange that all sorts of things that could hamper the inquiry’s progress were sent on a weekend.
Witness: Mandiwe Nkosi, former General Manager: Employee Relations, SABC
The Chairperson said that Ms Nkosi was required by law to answer all questions put to her fully and satisfactorily; or to produce any document she was required to produce in connection with the subject matter of the inquiry: Notwithstanding the fact that her answer could incriminate her or lead to criminal, civil proceedings or damages. She was however, protected in that evidence given under oath or affirmation before a House or Committee may not be used against her in any court or place outside of Parliament except in criminal proceedings concerning a charge of perjury; or a charge relating to the evidence or documents required at the inquiry. He noted that she had opted to take the oath and he swore her in.
Adv Ntuthuzelo Vanara, Evidence Leader, asked Ms Nkosi to tell the Committee her full particulars.
Ms Nkosi explained she was the former General Manager of Employee Relations at the SABC.
Adv Vanara: When did you start working for the SABC and when did you terminate your employment with the SOC?
Ms Nkosi: I started at the SABC on 1 July 2011 and my last working day was the 28 September 2016.
Adv Vanara: What position did you hold at the SABC?
Ms Nkosi: My entire employ at the SABC was as a general manager of employee relations.
Adv Vanara: Can you explain to the Committee what that role entailed and to whom did you report?
Ms Nkosi: My responsibilities were two-fold in that I dealt with individual disputes and all matters of collective bargaining and I used to report to the Group Executive: Human Resources. I gave labour law advice, labour relations advice to all, including Executives at the SABC as well as employees. Therefore if a matter went to the Labour Court or the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), or there was a disciplinary inquiry, there was a level of input that I gave to the SABC.
Adv Vanara: On the dispute resolution function, Ms Nkosi was aware that there had been a number of Group Executives that had had their relation with the SABC terminated. I would like you to tell us the circumstances and your role in those instances. I am referring to Mr Itani Tseisi, Ms Verona Duwarkah, Mr Jabulani Mabaso, Mr Leslie Ntloko and the Former Chief Audit Executive.
Ms Nkosi: I should hasten to say that the advice that I would give was dependent upon what would have been given to me to work with. If I could start with Mr Sipho Masinga, former Group Executive: Technology; I normally get called in on such matters by the Executive Directors of the SABC to advise and in Mr Masinga’s instance by the then Chief Operations Officer (COO) Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng. In most cases he would either be with the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Mr James Aguma or he would be with Mr Anton Heunis. So the COO calls me in to advise on an allegation against Mr Masinga on what he ought to have done or what he had failed to do as a GE. Of course as a responsible labour relations person, I would want to know the details behind the allegation. I would be given the reasons whereupon I would want to see evidence so that when I advise it is in context to what is before me. In this case I am told there is evidence but it is not handed over to me and I am therefore asked to advise on the process as the decision seems to have been made already that on the basis of the allegations at hand, Mr Masinga had to be suspended. Mostly I would advise about the process in so far as the transactions were concerned though substance would also feature as it is a passion of mine. In the case of Mr Masinga, the decision is made that he must go and I should just give the executives the template.
Adv Vanara: Who takes the decision and who tells you that decision?
Ms Nkosi: It would be the COO Mr Motsoeneng and in this instance he was together with Mr Heunis, who used to be GE of Commercial and is currently the commercial advisor and features in almost everything at the SABC supporting possibly the executive directors, indicating what it is that Mr Masinga had allegedly done.
Adv Vanara: So you are called in to provide advice; what is your advice?
Ms Nkosi: My advice is that I do not have the full appreciation of the evidence but if there is evidence against Mr Masinga that is compelling, there are certain things we need to do or ask. These are whether Mr Masinga is going to interfere with the witnesses. The standard question to anybody suspended by the SABC would be whether there was a potential of them interfering with the witnesses. How serious is the matter. There would be a number of issues I would ask, because naturally I want to defend the interests of the SABC, such that when you are taken to court you are not found wanting. I then indicate with whatever is in front of me which is not a complete picture that I will assist you and give you a template that indicates the process; however, someone will have to answer on the substance should the SABC come against any challenge that may arise. I also need to indicate that charges were drafted against Mr Masinga; he was suspended and charged. In the middle of the process, which is the correct process when charging an employee to give them an opportunity to state their case, the process was abandoned. How that unfolded was that I get called in to be told that there is more evidence that has come to the fore which requires for us to terminate his services summarily. I then get curious as to why we would terminate an employee’s contract without taking them through the necessary disciplinary process where they need to defend themselves. The answer is simply that there is serious evidence; I ask what the evidence is? I am told there are things that he is doing on the side that may jeopardise the SABC but that was very sketchy for me. I disagree with the executives and in any case, evidence or not, the correct process is to take an employee through a hearing. The COO calls me into his office again the following day in the presence of the legal advisor of Minister Faith Muthambi, Mr Daniel Mantsha, to say that the COO had been advised by Mr Mantsha to terminate Mr Masinga’s contract. Then we argue about the modalities of how that would work and I obviously state the fact that I disagree and I indicate to Mr Mantsha that, as a lawyer, my interest is in employment law and that is why you give an employee an opportunity. We get told to go outside and to just draft the letter to terminate. Outside in the COO’s boardroom I tell Mr Mantsha that because we disagree I will not be assisting him but feel free to tell me what you need so I can give it to you, as I am not going to be party to the termination. Therefore I give him the charges as that was part of my responsibility to ensure charges were drafted with the original process where a lawyer had been solicited to assist SABC with drafting that letter. Mr Masinga took the SABC to court and the SABC lost the case on the basis of unfairness as I had advised earlier. The SABC takes the matter on appeal and it loses again. At some point the SABC then decides to settle with Mr Masinga without the process being concluded. Most interesting was the anger that Mr Masinga had caused by challenging the legality of changing of the Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI) at the SABC which had been signed by the Minister. I feel that was probably why Mr Mantsha had possibly been brought in. Mr Masinga had also been challenging how he had been dismissed without Board approval of his dismissal.
Adv Vanara: Once Mr Masinga is on suspension do you know whether he is receiving his salary; what was the duration of his suspension?
Ms Nkosi: I stand to be corrected but Mr Masinga would have been suspended for about a year with pay. Others were also suspended with pay for about 14 months at the most which is something that bothered me as a practitioner in employee relations.
Adv Vanara: Enough about Mr Masinga for now, can we move to another executive.
Ms Nkosi: Mr Itani Tseisi was the GE for Risk at the SABC and because of the newspaper article on the SABC’s financial standing he became a suspect regarding the leak. The same modus operandi was used and I was caught by surprise as there were people talking around me in parables but eventually I came to understand that he was not the only one who was suspended for having allegedly leaked the information, as there were four individuals with him being the only GE. His case is peculiar in the sense that there was an investigation and I kept asking about the outcome of that investigation from Mr Motsoeneng. I would get the assurance that the investigation was ongoing. My question was who was conducting the investigation since these were matters I had to report on if Members of Parliament or AGSA asked about them. Since I had been brushed off about the progress of the investigation, it only came to my attention I think about a year later that Mr Tseisi was cleared of the allegations but there was discomfort about having him return to the SABC because he was GE: Risk and he was potentially seen as a risk. I then learned that the investigators were from the State Security Agency (SSA) which was concerning but the information had not come to me through official channels. That had been omitted to be communicated to me as it was quite unfamiliar to me. Mr Tseisi left the SABC around the same time as me having been paid fully whilst on suspension.
Adv Vanara: Let’s go on to another executive.
Ms Nkosi: I think I started being an irritation because I would ask questions and disagree and then the work that I was supposed to be doing would then be taken to Legal. The SABC Legal department has mostly commercial lawyers. So whatever labour relations work I was supposed to do, would go that way, therefore I will not have made much contribution about Ms Duwarkah since that was handed over to Legal. Subsequently there was an issue about Mr Jabulani Mabaso who was my boss, Mr Madoda Shushu and Mr Leslie Ntloko who were to be charged. At a point, as I was also asking question about Mr Shushu and I was in disagreement with the report, that transaction also went to Legal. However, in the case of Ms Mbulu Nepfumbada (GE: Legal Affairs), something very quick happened then and that time Jimi Mathews was still Acting Group Chief Executive Officer (AGCEO). I was to advise on how her position was to be downgraded and I asked what the reasons for that were. The answer was that she was never an executive in the first place in terms of the SABC Delegation of Authority Framework (DAF). I told Mr Mathews that Ms Nepfumbada was there because of DAF and there were no issues with that and I wanted to know why she had to be demoted. In those interactions, it was very clear how uncomfortable the AGCEO was and in our honest engagement with my asking what the problem was, Mr Mathews actually acceded that, “Mandi, you know how it is”. The person that is making me to do this is the COO and the COO is supposed to be reporting to Jimi. Ms Nepfumbada had been offered six months to accept the demotion and that if she did not, she would be charged. I then asked her why she would be charged and she said she did not know. Eventually she managed to negotiate herself out of being charged though not knowing what she would be charged with. Stranger still was that she had been told she was not a GE in front of her junior staff and in my presence unfortunately.
Adv Vanara: In some of these matters you get removed because the people involved are your senior, that is the Group Executives. The GE: Human Resources was at a level equivalent to other GEs; were the matters taken from you referred to the GE: HR and Legal or were they simply transferred to Legal from your office?
Ms Nkosi: That depended on the day because sometimes I would hear from my colleagues that there was a matter they were dealing with which she did not know anything about. I figured out immediately why I would not be involved in other matters or my boss GE: HR would also not be involved in a transaction. Even the GE: HR was also removed from dealing with many issues for one reason or another. The most embarrassing matter at the SABC was the issue of the eight journalists where because I had disagreed with the transaction irritated some, to the extent that whatever happened had to happen in the presence of a legal person and I am not sure how that had evolved. So whenever I was to give advice, a legal person who was acting as head of legal was imposed to say that if she advises the legal person had to be present. We asked the individual what her relevance was when Ms Nkosi was doing her work with her colleagues with no answer.
Adv Vanara: Can you just briefly touch on the circumstances around the termination of services of the Chief Audit Executive.
Ms Nkosi: That would be Ms Lorraine Francois. Mr Aguma and Mr Mathews had called me to advise them. My understanding is that Ms Francois had gone and made representations to the Audit Committee of the Board about the irregularities in the transactions done by Mr Aguma. I was to advise on the best process to follow when you suspend a person. The standard process is that you give an employee time to state why they should not be suspended. Every time I was to advise, I had to convince the powers-that-be that no steps could be skipped in the process to be followed and that was the case with Ms Francois. In fact when the COO came back to work he told me that he had been told that I had leaked information in respect of Ms Francois’ suspension. She was suspended for about six months and because there was no appetite to have her back at the SABC, she was paid out the remainder of her contract. She was never charged and therefore was on suspension with pay.
Adv Vanara: You indicated you had to report to AGSA and Parliament in your normal processes. Can you tell us what the process was in dealing with these labour disputes: Did they ever get to the Board?
Ms Nkosi: You had people like Mr Tseisi who reported to the Risk Committee and Ms Francois who reported to the Audit Committee of the Board. In the normal way of doing things, I reported to the GE: Human Resources who would report to the HR Board Committee. However, with the change to the DAF which was informed by the amendments made to the MOI, it meant that the executive directors were now in charge of the disciplinary process. Previously, if you had to charge a Group Executive, you would have had to ask the Board or one of its committees to give you approval to charge that GE. The change to the MOI had an impact on the DAF such that executive directors were now given that power of the Board to decide on any matter that had to do with discipline; which was what Mr Masinga had challenged.
Adv Vanara: In respect of the executives we have discussed, I am not sure at what point the MOI had changed and impacted the DAF. Were some of these suspensions, charges and settlements ever brought to the attention of the Board?
Ms Nkosi: Since I do not sit on the Board I cannot say whether that happened or not but the GE: HR would be better able to elaborate on whether at least in the HR board committee those matters were presented.
Adv Vanara: You left the SABC recently. Can you share with the Committee why you left?
Ms Nkosi: I think it had to do with the integrity I think I still had or wanted to retain, so I left the SABC. It was hurtful to hear the journalists or radio stations ask whether the SABC even had a labour relations department. Moreover I had been told to my face that there was no trust relationship. I also had already seen the practice which was developing that certain matters were given to Legal and that I also disagreed on many issues. I therefore decided that rather than challenging the SABC on constructive dismissal or being forced out, I told the Acting GE: HR that it was clear that I was no longer wanted at the SABC.
Adv Vanara: Who told you to your face that you were no longer needed?
Ms Nkosi: It was confirmed by the current acting GE: HR that the powers-that-be were not giving me cases anymore because I did not give the kind of advice required.
The Chairperson: Ms Nkosi, were you given a severance package.
Ms Nkosi: I actually asked whether the SABC could talk with me about a separation settlement.
The Chairperson: How long was the remainder of your contract?
Ms Nkosi: It was 21 months.
The Chairperson: You got in excess of R1 million for that remainder; yes or no?
Ms Nkosi: Yes
Mr Mokoena: Have you been threatened by anyone in any way for witnessing in this hearing?
Ms Nkosi: Not yet.
Mr Mokoena: At the meeting where Mr Masinga’s dismissal was discussed, there had been an instruction from the minister?
Ms Nkosi: No, there was not, but there was a legal advisor from her office, Mr Mantsha.
Mr Mokoena: The amendments to the MOI which had an impact on the DAF literally gave power to the COO to run amok at the SABC; would you agree with that?
Ms Nkosi: It definitely gave powers to the three executive directors.
Mr Mokoena: Am I correct in concluding that most of the dismissals we have been talking about had been effected by the COO?
Ms Nkosi: Certainly I would say directly and indirectly. As observable from the example I gave. Though not a dismissal, it was a push-out in respect of the Head: Legal, Ms Nepfumbada. The others where I was involved were driven from office.
Mr Mokoena: Did the New Age deal occur during you tenure?
Ms Nkosi: It could have been but I am uncertain as I started in 2011.
Mr Mokoena: So you saw it unfold?
Ms Nkosi: As I was not involved, I do not have the intimate details.
Mr Mokoena: I am interested because the MOI gets amended which gives powers to the COO to hire and fire and the New Age deal happens. It seems to me that this MOI was a tool to clear the illegality of the New Age deal. Did the transfer of Mr Motsoeneng from the Free State to the SABC Headquarters happen during your tenure?
Ms Nkosi: When I got to the SABC, Mr Motsoeneng was the General Manager: Stakeholder Relations.
Mr Mokoena: This is the time he was sitting in board meetings.
Ms Nkosi: I suspect so because at some point he acted as Group Executive: Stakeholder Relations where he was sitting in board meetings as I understand it.
Mr Mokoena: Do you perhaps have a round figure of how much money the SABC lost in the frivolous suspensions of people, staying 14 months at home with pay. Interestingly, this is something I have seen in the Free State as well.
Ms Nkosi: I do not have an exact figure but it is a lot of money. It was worrying as a labour relations practitioner to see the exodus of people leaving the SABC and the suspensions with pay. It was against the fairness principle where the idiom is ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.
Mr Mahlangu: From what you are saying, there were no fair labour practices at the SABC?
Ms Nkosi: At least with the GEs, indeed, I can agree confidently to that. In respect of most SABC employees where there had not been any interference and the process was simple where an employee had done something wrong, the process had mostly been fair where my involvement was concerned.
Mr Mahlangu: What could the reasons be for the purge of senior officials at the SABC?
Ms Nkosi: That would be speculation on my part. However, most of the officials who left or were fired were people that had stood their ground and had taken the SABC’s interest to heart in terms of ensuring that things were done properly.
Mr Mahlangu: After their removal who then replaced those former officials?
Ms Nkosi: Executive directors are the decision makers in terms of who does what and when. Therefore my opinion is that the replacements would be people that would have been candidates to Mr Motsoeneng’s liking.
Mr Mahlangu: What was the SSA investigating at the SABC?
Ms Nkosi: I do not know but they did their work under the guise of finding the information leakage of the SABC’s financials which related to the suspension that followed. That was my understanding. As far as the scope and why the SSA was doing the investigation, I do not know.
Mr Mahlangu: Can you elaborate on what the mandate of the COO position is at the SABC?
Ms Nkosi: In the normal course of operations there would be tasks that the GE: HR would have to deal with to assist any other GE or executive director. But mostly you would find those tasks would reside with the COO which is unusual. For instance the GE: HR could not carry out his mandate although his function reported to the CEO organically. However; for one reason or another, nothing happens at the SABC without the blessing of Mr Motsoeneng.
Mr Swart: Is it correct to conclude that Mr Motsoeneng had asked the SSA to investigate the information leakage at the SABC?
Ms Nkosi: That was my understanding.
Mr Swart: Have you ever experienced the involvement of the SSA in any matter before the leakage at the SABC?
Ms Nkosi: We have an internal investigating unit at the SABC referred to as internal audit which has a forensics component; which is the component that normally investigated cases at the SABC.
Mr Swart: Your elaboration that Mr Motsoeneng seems to have been pulling the strings behind the scenes is in line with the Public Protector’s findings which if I may quote one: ‘Mr Motsoeneng purged senior officials leading to the loss of millions of rands on unnecessary settlements for irregular terminations of contracts of employment’. Would you agree with that finding?
Ms Nkosi: I would agree given what I have said about the executives already mentioned.
Mr Swart: Were you involved in the disciplinary process against Mr Motsoeneng recently?
Ms Nkosi: No, I was not.
Mr Swart: Why would that be, seeing that you were the head of labour relations at the SABC?
Ms Nkosi: The work was outsourced.
Mr Swart: The witnesses would have come from inside the SABC though?
Ms Nkosi: The level of my department’s involvement was one where I sent one of my team members, shamefully, to go ensure that the process in terms of the brief was fair and they reported back on how the matter had been finalised. Therefore our role was mostly administrative.
Mr Swart: I understand that in terms of the court order the work had to be outsourced to ensure independence. However, the Public Protector had an interesting finding regarding the unfolding of the disciplinary action which stated: ‘Whilst the board had not initiated the disciplinary action, it had been initiated only after the court application had been instituted and that the process had been maliciously non-compliant as key witnesses had not been called and evidence had not been produced’. Would you be able to comment even though you were not directly involved?
Ms Nkosi: I would be very reluctant to comment.
Dr Khoza: I imagine your responsibilities were to maintain labour peace and drive strategy in terms of labour relations; is that correct?
Ms Nkosi: Correct.
Dr Khoza: From 2011 until 2016 what were the key cost drivers or risks in your functional area at the SABC?
Ms Nkosi: One of the important things I really wanted to deal with, as I earlier indicated, was the progress of an investigation if there was one so as to minimise the cost of having employees on suspension as it clearly is fruitless and wasteful expenditure. As Head of Employee Relations I had to try to put stringent rules or clauses within the disciplinary code which discouraged the whole notion of willy-nilly suspensions. Unfortunately, whilst the policy may have stated good things that had to happen so the SABC could meet the strategy of reducing costs, that did not happen consistently because the decisions were taken above my head. When a decision to suspend a GE was taken, I was called in to ensure that the process was done correctly. Part of the reason I decided to leave was that there were things I was not meeting in terms of good governance. The whole matter of suspensions and how that had cost the SABC had bordered on that.
Dr Khoza: Can you quantify the costs in litigation and settlements during your tenure at the SABC as the Committee’s mandate amongst others is to establish the financial sustainability and financial fiscal prudence of the SABC as in the 2013/14 financial year the SOC had R3.4 billion in irregular expenditure.
Ms Nkosi: I apologise for not having prepared anything financial but as I have said earlier I cannot quantify the money lost, it is a lot especially when people were frivolously suspended with pay. Moreover that then would influence decision making as people would be scared that if they would commit an operational mistake, depending on who they were, they would get punished for that.
Ms Loliwe: What gave you peace with your constructive dismissal, as I understand you did not challenge it?
Ms Nkosi: Possibly it is those intra-personal conflicts, where you think whether it is worth it to go through such a challenge when there is a bit of a cushion in trying to find another job. I knew that my contract would not be renewed once it expired therefore it made sense to end it sooner rather than later, as the culture had settled that whoever was not wanted would be paid out. Shamefully for integrity, employability and to have peace of mind, I decided to take what was due to me in terms of the remainder of my contract.
Ms Loliwe: In your tenure at the SABC were you sometimes allowed the use of policy or were you always adhering to the compelling word ‘must’?
Ms Nkosi: There was no one day that was similar to another at the SABC, such that there were moments where I would be excited thinking that I would be able to contribute as that was why I had been hired. Of course those moments occurred where policies would be adhered to to the tee! However, the higher you went, the fewer adherences there would be to policies.
Ms Loliwe: What can be said in terms of labour stability at the SABC?
Ms Nkosi: There is some stability as there is the bargaining unit, which is quite content with being recognised for what it does. One of the things that Mr Motsoeneng ensured which is good is that that unit would be kept happy. However, there have been instances where unions were not happy as they were asking about executive bonuses, dismissals and appointments which seemed to be irregular which were the things which would contribute to labour instability, especially after the publication of the annual reports.
Ms Van Damme: We know that the SSA was not investigating an SABC employee for the first time with Mr Tseisi. It has been reported that in August 2015 the SSA had asked Durban SABC staff to vacate their offices while the SSA had remained inside the offices for two to three hours doing what no one knew, with a threat that that had to be kept undercover. Did you ever receive information about similar incidents regarding SSA operations at other SABC offices?
Ms Nkosi: Except the Durban incident which I only discovered as it happened which I had then taken an interest in; I was told the SSA had been given clearance by the SABC security unit. Apart from the two incidents, including Mr Tseisi, I know of no other instances except the normal vetting processes affecting policy decisions and procurement.
Ms Van Damme: Would you say there was a general fear amongst staff from executives to journalists about the involvement of the SSA in phone tapping and constant surveillance?
Ms Nkosi: Indeed, particularly in 2016 there was a sense of paranoia amongst colleagues about being under surveillance by the SSA for the benefit of Mr Motsoeneng.
Ms Van Damme: Were you at any point approached to give legal advice on the appointment of Mr Motsoeneng as COO full time?
Ms Nkosi: No.
Ms Van Damme: From what we have heard so far and the evidence before us, would you say Mr Motsoeneng wilfully ignored legal opinion and purged staff that disagreed with him thereby escalating the SABC legal costs as they doubled from R171 to R257 million between 2014/15 and 2015/16 financial years?
Ms Nkosi: I can confirm that there certainly were legal costs that could have been avoided if legal advice was prudently accepted and utilised. There were instances where my legal advice as labour relations manager would in consultation with labour law experts be ignored even when it was internal. The loss was not confined to my functional area but to other departments within the SABC.
Mr Chauke: The SABC is a national key point and therefore vetting of executives by the SSA is critical. Unfortunately processes had been applied inversely at the SABC as the SSA could not say who the executives were at the SABC, which was very concerning. Why do you think the executives had not been vetted beforehand? What company dealt with Mr Motsoeneng’s disciplinary hearing?
Ms Nkosi: The SABC had been grappling with vetting the executives that had been already in its establishment which speaks to my earlier statement about the involvement of SSA in vetting which is a norm. I do not know why the executives had not been vetted in the first place. My understanding was that Werksmans Attorneys had been appointed by Minister Muthambi. However; Werksmans had withdrawn and a new law firm had been appointed to carry out the disciplinary process. Why Werksmans had withdrawn is beyond my knowledge.
Mr Chauke: The SSA getting involved in human resources matters at the SABC rather than dealing with serious security matters of the country is very concerning although the SABC is a key point. At some point the Minister of State Security will have to explain that. The extrapolation is that anyone at the SABC could stage a coup d'état because of the non-vetted officials therein.
Ms Kilian: I agree with Mr Chauke. The former Group Executive for Risk had reported to the Ad Hoc Committee that legally the executive directors had had to be vetted and have security clearance which had not been done. Would you describe the last nine months of your tenure at the SABC as things were unfolding askew with a second wave of purges against senior officials.
Ms Nkosi: Certainly, there would sometimes be corrective behaviour tools that could be employed at some levels. As indicated earlier, I recommended that the SABC deal differently from how it had chosen to on certain matters. With the former executives I listed, it was clear that none of them would be given a second chance, for one reason or another, if they had erred at the SABC or were not towing the line. Most organisations would certainly welcome the calibre of individuals that had been dismissed for not being part of the COO’s vision. Certainly, therefore, there was a second wave of purging at the SABC.
Ms Kilian: Has anyone been charged for transgressing the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), specifically section 51(1)(b) pertaining to steps that have to be taken against anyone who made the SABC incur irregular or fruitless and wasteful expenditure?
Ms Nkosi: I cannot remember but there were charges against one or two general managers (GMs) or manager for fruitless and wasteful expenditure. At executive director level that had never happened.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Nkosi for availing herself for cross examination and asked whether there was anyone from the SABC who would like to cross examine Ms Nkosi. In the absence of a response, the Chairperson said that the Ad Hoc Committee inquiry would end on the 28 February 2017. Therefore if she remembered anything, Ms Nkosi could bring that to the attention of the Committee before then.
Witness: Jabulani Mabaso, former SABC Group Executive: Human Resources
The Chairperson administered the oath and he swore Mr Mabaso in.
Adv Vanara: Mr Mabaso, can you state your full particulars for the record.
Mr Mabaso: I am the former Group Executive: Human Resources at the SABC
Adv Vanara: When did you start working for the SABC, when did you become the GE: HR and when did you leave the SABC?
Mr Mabaso: I started work at the SABC in June 2013 as GE: HR having gone through a process of recruitment by the Board at the time. I terminated my relationship with the SABC in June 2016.
Adv Vanara: Would it be correct to conclude that you served on the Executive Committee (EXCO) in your capacity as GE: HR.
Mr Mabaso: Indeed I did serve on the EXCO as a GE.
Adv Vanara: At the time you left you were still a member of the EXCO?
Mr Mabaso: That is indeed so.
Adv Vanara: To whom did you report directly?
Mr Mabaso: In terms of the organisational structure (organogram) I reported to the GCEO.
Adv Vanara: In you tenure that would have been Ms Makgoba; is that true?
Mr Mabaso: Indeed it would be Ms Makgoba, Mr Tiaan Olivier, Mr Anton Heunis and briefly Mr Jimi Mathews.
Adv Vanara: Would it be correct that one of your duties was to assist the GCEO in achieving the group strategy particularly in matters to do with HR.
Mr Mabaso: That would be so, as articulated in the job description, which was to develop an HR strategy and plan and support the business strategy to ensure that the talent management aspects of the organisation would be taken care of, including other value chain processes such as employee relations, organisational development, learning and development as well as HR operations.
Adv Vanara: I want to focus on the recruitment policies, the performance management systems, vetting of employees and the recognition award. Can you therefore outline the recruitment policies which would have supported the HR strategy you alluded to?
Mr Mabaso: Contextually, I came into the SABC as it had been found by AGSA that the policies of recruitment were archaic. There was no performance management system and there were no recognition and reward policies. Those then became part of my deliverables. The recruitment process for instance did not provide for vetting therefore we had to indicate that people would undergo that though it was not in that policy. Secondly, the policy said nothing about competence assessments and they were done when it suited a particular individual to undergo such assessments, which made the practice selective. So if one wanted to exclude an individual they would be put through competence assessment though it was not provided for in the policy. Additionally we had to ensure that we separated the employees of the SABC and the freelancers in terms of their recruitment as that could be problematic. What was certain about that recruitment policy was that it had no provisions. For instance, the recent occurrences around GE: Corporate Affairs, as it is now with Mr Motsoeneng. There was a notion also articulated by Minister Muthambi that a position had been set aside whereas the policy did not provide for setting aside of positions. That position of GE: Corporate Affairs had been occupied by an individual that had gone through a thorough recruitment process when Mr Motsoeneng had been made COO, therefore the claim that the position had been set aside could not be true as it had been filled when Mr Motsoeneng had become COO. There was no policy on reserving positions at the SABC. We then developed a new transformative and legislatively compliant policy which would speed up the process of recruitment without being an impediment. It also had checks and balances to guard against abuse of power. I had sent copies of that new policy to EXCO several times with it coming back to my unit and then back to EXCO. At the time of my departure EXCO had not approved the policy for one reason or another because each time I called for a policy review meeting, it would either be cancelled or postponed at a whim.
Adv Vanara: You would have had interactions with the HR board subcommittee and since you clearly were experiencing some challenges with EXCO processing the recruitment policy, did it ever go before the board subcommittee?
Mr Mabaso: First the policy had to go through EXCO and be approved there before the board subcommittee considered it, in terms of protocol. However; I had had side discussions with board members such as Mr Mavuso and Mr Krish Naidoo about the frustrations surrounding the processing of the policy. I am not sure to what extent they had pushed as they had said they would try to get the matter expedited as it was not in the SABC’s interests to keep having audit findings on policies when they were there but only needed approval.
Adv Vanara: Since you have already touched on the impact of the old policies on audit findings, surely at EXCO you deal with strategy matters and this impacted on your strategy. When you wanted to table the new recruitment policy at EXCO, what was the reason for the lack of appetite to deal with that important policy document?
Mr Mabaso: I am not sure about the reasons. To give my opinion and personal observations as to the lack of appetite, even those policies which the Board had approved had not been implemented, depending on what benefit or disadvantage they would serve for a certain individual.
Adv Vanara: Was there any vetting policy and to what extent had that yielded results?
Mr Mabaso: Vetting had not been in the applicable recruitment policy before my departure but as I say it was included in the new recruitment policy we had developed which needed approval so it was important. The GE: Risk had indicated that as the SABC is a national key point, vetting was supposed to have been done on individuals, more especially senior managers and the executives which we had included in the new policy. Over and above that, I had sought legal opinion on having people already in senior positions and how HR could go about the vetting process. When the issue of vetting came to EXCO, Mr Motsoeneng said that the Board itself was not vetted and therefore vetting had to start there first. We went out of our way to ensure that at least at the executive and senior management level, vetting had taken place and we assessed which positions in operations posed a risk, for instance, people working in technology and what extent of risk there was for sabotage there. There was therefore engagement with labour unions on the vetting of those positions, whilst vetting was being undertaken for senior staff.
Adv Vanara: What was the performance management system?
Mr Mabaso: Interestingly I had introduced the performance management system policy to the Board and it had been approved in 2014. As I said earlier, implementation had been stopped at the time of my departure. We had installed an online system to ensure that performance management could be implemented as Parliament and the Minister had asked that that be done and the Board had also approved it. Therefore there was no sense in delaying – such that I even suggested that that it be done in phases, to get executives and senior management to contract so that it could be cascaded down. At staff meetings you would be told it was going to happen and when you tried to do it, you would get stopped even though everyone had been socialised around performance management. When I left, the performance management system implementation had not taken place though everything was ready.
Adv Vanara: Who refused the implementation of the performance management system and on what basis?
Mr Mabaso: As had been earlier alluded to by Ms Nkosi everything went through the former COO’s office depending on whether he liked a system or not. One of the reasons he had given for refusing the performance assessment system was that people did not have job descriptions. Surprisingly, HR had developed job descriptions for executives and executive directors where Mr Motsoeneng had refused to sign his job description. “What that meant was his subordinates could say that they worked on the job description of their boss and therefore could not sign if he had not signed”. Since the inquiry is about the Board, I personally question the fact that the Board never took any action round the delay in the implementation of the performance management system. With respect, I feel they neglected their responsibility since approval of the performance system was in 2014, by 2016 the Board should have been cracking a whip about what was delaying the process. One issue that had delayed the process was when Mr Frans Matlala was appointed, a week or month after appointment he had been taken to China by Minister Muthambi and Professor Maguvhe. The deputy Board chairperson, Ms Leah Khumalo, approached me during that trip to say that I had to include a one page description of the COO as part of the SABC’s template. I told her it would be improper as the COO reported to the CEO which meant that the CEO had to be present to discuss the COO job description. I could not take orders from a Chairperson when I reported to the CEO. When I read the COO job description as given me by Ms Khumalo, some of the responsibilities listed in that one pager were responsibilities of the CEO. I raised the fact that it would be unfair labour practice to take away the CEO’s responsibilities when he was out of country, and further strange in that job description was that the COO would report to the Board chairperson and administratively to the CEO. I also raised that for the third part there would have to be a board resolution that the establishment had changed so that the COO could report to the Board chairperson. That was how job descriptions had been delayed. At one point I was called into the COO’s office and told that Mr Motsoeneng had told Professor Maguvhe that I as junior staff must not be involved in the matter of the job descriptions. That was hurtful in terms of integrity and professional standing that I was called junior staff to my face, when my assistance was to the Board and that whatever I had given Ms Khumalo had been for the Board.
Adv Vanara: I am interested in general about what your policies provided in terms of recognition awards.
Mr Mabaso: We had a recognition and award programme and plan that had been approved by the Board. We installed the online system to ensure that it would function properly. That also never materialised even as I left as there was a parallel programme that was run by Mr Motsoeneng for awarding recognition to employees.
Adv Vanara: If you say the recognition award policy was not approved, there have been allegations that monies were paid to employees as rewards in the region of R10 000. In terms of which policy where those payments made and who approved them?
Mr Mabaso: The recognition award programme was approved by the Board initially but the implementation of the award policy did not happen. I know about the R10 000 payments that occurred during my tenure.
Adv Vanara: During Mr Motsoeneng’s tenure as acting COO, we know there was a night meeting where recommendation of his permanent appointment had been discussed without due process. We now know you were not invited to that meeting; is that so?
Mr Mabaso: That is correct.
Adv Vanara: As the Group Executive of Human Resources, was the appointment of Mr Motsoeneng as permanent COO consistent with SABC policies?
Mr Mabaso: No, it was not, as I indicated that the making of an acting official to become a permanent employee would be at the behest of a line manager: Which was the reason for the review of the recruitment policy.
Adv Vanara: There are allegations of alleged bonuses of R11.4 or R33 million in total paid to Mr Motsoeneng; were you aware or involved in the processing thereof?
Mr Mabaso: That definitely would have happened after my departure.
Adv Vanara: During your tenure a number of senior executives left the SABC; how were they replaced?
Mr Mabaso: Some of them acted where one individual was made permanent which was GE: Technology. In the case of the GE: Risk which was personal between Mr Motsoeneng and the former GE: Risk, that job was dismantled and as we speak now the Risk Unit reports to the Company Secretary, as a responsibility not a position which is very strange. The person who has been acting GE: HR, has been made permanent after my departure.
Adv Vanara: Is a recruitment process followed before confirming an acting person for a permanent position?
Mr Mabaso: In terms of the acting policy there certainly has to be a recruitment process for a permanent position.
Adv Vanara: In the instances you have listed; were those policies followed?
Mr Mabaso: No, they were not as the positions were never advertised for external individuals to have a chance to compete.
Adv Vanara: As GE: HR, did you ask questions at EXCO as to why such things had happened in that manner which was inconsistent with the policy?
Mr Mabaso: You would ask when you meet in terms of advice, as you would not have been called at any point to deal with the matter. Therefore, you would then raise the inconsistency of policy application which is what I did consistently in the HR board committee in general.
Adv Vanara: As GE: HR and the COO, you both reported to the CEO. Why would you be referred to as junior staff?
Mr Mabaso: I suppose it is how things stand as the organogram is there for show at the SABC. The power lies on the 27th floor where the Acting GCEO would be called to the COO’s office. It was not unusual for the AGCEO to say he was waiting for the COO’s view on a particular matter.
Adv Vanara: Am I hearing you correctly to conclude that at the time you were at the SABC, Mr Motsoeneng behaved as a de facto GCEO?
Mr Mabaso: Oh certainly!
Adv Vanara: What was the relationship between Ms Makgoba who was GCEO and Mr Motsoeneng who was acting COO at the time?
Mr Mabaso: In my short span, as I would be sitting in a meeting with her as GCEO, he would waltz in and disrupt the meeting saying whatever he wanted to or actually sit in on the meeting.
Adv Vanara: Amongst the reports that would have gone through to EXCO and the Board through you, would have been the resolution of dispute cases; both those that had been at the CCMA and those regarding investigation of senior executives. Is that correct?
Mr Mabaso: Definitely.
Adv Vanara: Ms Nkosi took the Committee through some of the cases she had worked on which impacted on the GEs. She indicated that she reported those matters to you as her manager. Were those reports and cases tabled at EXCO and subsequently at board meetings?
Mr Mabaso: They were reported as part of statistics but not in detail; for instance, the matter of Mr Masinga. Following the others, they were not under Group EXCO or Board as reports.
Adv Vanara: Correct me, but one assumes that although these would be statistics, they would have gone through EXCO to be tabled at board level and you would then interact with the Board on these statistics. What was the appetite of board members in respect of these statistics and were you asked the details around the cases? What caused them to be handled in the manner in which they were handled?
Mr Mabaso: Most of the cases were accepted for information purposes. It depended therefore on whether board members showed particular interest in pursuing certain matters. For instance, when I asked about Mr Masinga’s case, the response had been that I would be told when it had reached a particular point where a report back would be given to the Board. As Ms Nkosi has said, we all regret the review of the MOI.
Adv Vanara: Executive directors, COO, CEO and the CFO. Two of those positions are acting positions; have they been vetted?
Mr Mabaso: No, they have not.
Adv Vanara: You had already left when Mr Motsoeneng was re-employed as GE: Corporate Affairs; is that correct?
Mr Mabaso: Correct indeed.
The Chairperson asked if there was a retirement age policy at the SABC.
Mr Mabaso: There certainly is, Chairperson.
Chairperson: What age is that retirement age?
Mr Mabaso: Technically it is 65 years, because there is a pension requirement around 63 years. However, we chose to follow what Government utilises as retirement age at 65 years.
Chairperson: Had Ms Theresa Geldenhuys reached her retirement age?
Mr Mabaso: During my tenure I think she had reached retirement age. Anton Heunis also had taken early retirement on the basis of being very sick; but he is as healthy as anyone, working as an advisor in the office of the COO. The current individual at Employee Relations who formerly worked under Ms Nkosi had also gone on retirement but was recalled by Mr Motsoeneng and he is the one that deals with charges. There is Mr Lynn Mansfield who was also recalled from retirement because of a difference between Mr Motsoeneng and Mr Masinga on encryption versus non-encryption when Mr Masinga had been implementing the board approved strategy. Mr Mansfield now works on Digital Terrestrial Technology (DTT).
Chairperson: Was the Board apprised of the fact that there are SABC staff members that were formerly employed who technically speaking were not supposed to be recalled according to policy?
Mr Mabaso: I am not sure since possibly the executive directors would have reported on that as I was not involved at that level.
Ms Loliwe: Did the retired personnel possess scarce skills, such that SABC had to recall them?
Mr Mabaso: To start with I am not sure what rare skill Mr Anton Heunis possesses as there is already a GE: Commercial. Ms Nomsa Philiso was appointed after he left. Moreover there were other people that could handle DTT besides Mr Mansfield at the SABC; therefore it always spoke to the issue of “you supporting my vision”.
Ms Loliwe: Am I correct to conclude that each time you refer to the COO you are referring to Mr Motsoeneng?
Mr Mabaso: Definitely!
Ms Loliwe: What support have you provided to suspended officials at the SABC?
Mr Mabaso: I had never been called to most of the suspended officials’ proceedings. The only time I had been invited was for Mr Masinga’s proceedings when it was about to be initiated. I had a different view then and did not agree with the process and therefore was left out of all the other proceedings. Essentially there was no other support I could provide to either the Board or the EXCO.
Ms Loliwe: Where you following policy or adhering to directives from certain individuals in executing your duties and if it was the latter; can you elaborate?
Mr Mabaso: I have always endeavoured to ensure that we follow policy but where a directive was in line, I would assist; but when the directive was misaligned to policy; I would have a different view. Essentially most of the witnesses that would come to give evidence are people that reported to the COO in terms of structure therefore there were typically two organisations at SABC. There were those that reported to the CEO and those who reported to the COO. Therefore we would raise issues of governance most of the time which would antagonize you. Secondly if you were not employed through the COO you would not be supported.
Ms Loliwe: How does the process of the COO impact on the organogram of the institution and if you could indicate the cost implications thereof.
Mr Mabaso: When I came in there were lots of people that had been employed after being acting for a long time which had brought some stability. That however; came apart from the start of 2014 and there was a leadership vacuum which has continued to date which created a situation where subordinates were unsure of what would happen to their boss. What this then does is that for every new executive that gets newly employed, you put up a new strategy which dissipates and employees are then subjected to so many different strategies where nothing ever gets completed.
Dr Khoza: Very disturbing is that the most talented people have come before the Ad Hoc Committee as witnesses yet how all of them allowed this man without even a matric certificate to reign over the SABC. Can you share some light as to what is behind this?
Mr Mabaso: The man himself has said that we overdose ourselves with education. For me, I would put the blame on the Board for propelling the person as it is the Board that is supposed to rein in a person; but if the Board chooses not to take any action there is nothing much we can do as executives. When the MOI was changed, it gave the COO all the powers to purge us officially. So as these things were happening, the Board would receive information that this official has leaked information and such and such, and they would accept without questioning; we then became victims. As we tried to develop policy if it is not being approved and respected and you are always at the mercy of how happy or unhappy the Board is, it creates the paranoia which Ms Nkosi alluded to. Therefore, everyday you are worried about what new thing is going to happen.
Dr Khoza: Prof Maguvhe had referred to you as a junior staff member.
Mr Mabaso: It was the COO that told me that he had said to Prof Maguvhe that junior staff were not supposed to be dealing with such matters.
Dr Khoza: Are you aware the former CEOs that had been there during your tenure had also been juniorised?
Mr Mabaso: I am.
Dr Khoza: Judging by the high staff turnover, would you agree that governance at the SABC had completely failed?
Mr Mabaso: Certainly, I agree. All these things at the top cancelled the good things which were happening at the SABC.
Dr Khoza: I am still trying to understand what justified the bonus Mr Motsoeneng received from the MultiChoice deal of about R11 million - though I stand to be corrected - in the absence of policies that had never reached the Board or were never approved.
Mr Mabaso: I would reiterate that it was the Board’s inability to curb these things. If it was able to sing for its dinner as to how wonderful a person and rarely skilled Mr Motsoeneng was - you will remember Dr Tshidzumba would always point out that this man has done such and such - and once your thought process was that way, then that made it okay for the Board to grant that bonus to Mr Motsoeneng.
Ms Van Damme: Can you talk us through the suspension of the former GCEO, Mr Frans Matlala; assuming you would have been involved in the process as you were the GE: HR at the time. Why was he suspended?
Mr Mabaso: Certainly I was not involved therein because I only learnt from him two days thereafter when he called me.
Ms Van Damme: So as the GE: HR you were not informed as to why Mr Matlala would be suspended. I assume then you would not have been involved in the ensuing processes where he was handed a golden handshake.
Mr Mabaso: Indeed, I was not.
Ms Van Damme: We know that Mr Motsoeneng’s salary increased from between R500 000 to R1 million every year since 2013; who signed off those increases?
Mr Mabaso: I think it would be the Board chairperson who would sign off on salary increases. During my time I can attest to the fact that when Mr Motsoeneng was appointed by the Board, the Board chairperson asked what the salary range for a COO was. We then did a salary benchmark and gave the salary scales to the Board chairperson where the Board would then take a decision on that.
Ms Van Damme: So they did not consult the GE: HR for any of the salary increases and bonuses annually?
Mr Mabaso: During my tenure he did not receive any bonus but when Mr Motsoeneng was moved from acting COO to become permanent COO, the Board had required COO salary scales from HR. I have not seen any increase since then except for the adjustments to the conditions of service referred to as salary increases for all staff members.
Ms Van Damme: The PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PWC) skills audit report which was discussed in Parliament in 2014; would there be any reason for that document to be made unavailable to the Ad Hoc Committee? Have there been any amendments to that report?
Mr Mabaso: There have been no changes to my knowledge as the report resided in my office and had been submitted to the Portfolio Committee on Communications. We also implemented all the proposed recommendations from that report as it stated that we would not be ready for DTT if we did not get the required skills capacity. We made an effort to ensure that people went for strategic management programmes. There is no reason that document cannot come to the Ad Hoc Committee.
Ms Van Damme: The PWC report had found that 60% of senior management staff (SMS) did not meet the minimum strategic thinking skills for executives. Had that been met by 2016 as you were exiting the SABC?
Mr Mabaso: I am unable to confirm about the recent appointments but as I joined the SABC the skills audit landed on my desk. One observation I made in terms of competence assessments was that most of the people that drew the report downwards, were acting SMS who were unconfirmed and external people had been put into those positions full time. So if you would have done that competency assessment say in 2015 you would have gotten a different picture as I went through such an assessment together with Mr Masinga and Mr Tseisi. Therefore all the people employed after the skills audit had undergone competency assessment.
Mr Mokoena: There is a quote that says: ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’. Executive after executive is reporting that they did nothing and this for me is worrying. It is a microcosm of a bigger problem we are experiencing in SA currently. SOCs are deteriorating under the same narrative where good men stand and do nothing. The political space and society in general is becoming zombified. SA is a fighting nation and therefore it is unacceptable to hear that ‘we were afraid’. You are saying the CEO of the current GCEO is being undermined by the COO.
Mr Mabaso: I am not sure about the current status but when I was there, CEOs were indeed undermined.
Mr Mokoena: It is also your assertion that the current executive panel is mostly unqualified to fill the positions they are in.
Mr Mabaso: I cannot make that comment.
Mr Mokoena: Given the fact that some of them have crossed retirement age; some of them had been recalled, we are in a bad state at the SABC.
Mr Mabaso: Indeed we are in a bad state if one were to look at the talent pipelining as the SABC was supposed to have pipelined to recreate itself. There is a sense of no confidence in African people as the SABC has recalled white old men from retirement when space should have been created for young women.
Mr Mokoena: You said earlier that the only qualification one needed to be employed at the SABC was to fall in line with Mr Motsoeneng’s vision. What is Mr Motsoeneng’s vision?
Mr Mabaso: I am not certain but I know at a particular point when Mr Matlala came in as GCEO he took us as those reporting under him on a strategic planning trip but those who reported under Mr Motsoeneng had remained behind. As strategy belonged to me, it was like what does he know about strategy?
Mr Mokoena: Should we close down the SABC for two months and restructure everything as it seems that there are no systems and no qualified personnel?
Mr Mahlangu: What is the required qualification to be a COO?
Mr Mabaso: When I came in; the job specification which had been advertised and abandoned did require a degree.
Mr Mahlangu: Who botched up that process?
Mr Mabaso: Standing to be corrected, I think it was around Dr Ngubane’s tenure.
Mr Mahlangu: As GE: HR one assumes that all documents to do with team SA were deposited with you?
Mr Mabaso: Indeed they were.
Mr Mahlangu: What do you recall in terms of Mr Motsoeneng’s qualifications?
Mr Mabaso: I only had a certificate of attendance at Gibbs and some other certificates around that.
Mr Mahlangu: Therefore you cannot speak with authority about knowing Mr Motsoeneng. Do you know him according to his employment records and qualifications?
Mr Mabaso: I think the information in front of me would tell me about an individual’s qualifications and I had done such metrics on everyone’s qualifications at some point when the Portfolio Committee required of me to do so. That had been submitted to the Board so that it could forward it to the Committee on Communications.
Mr Mahlangu: Where did Mr Motsoeneng stand in that regard?
Mr Mabaso: As I indicated earlier, I had those particular certificates of attendance.
Mr Mahlangu: Who changed the reporting lines from CEO to COO in your reporting function?
Mr Mabaso: It was not changed organisationally or structurally but operationally it is like that. We got taken out of our senior team meetings. You would get two notes under the door successively which would say you were required on the 28th floor urgently; which was quite ridiculous. Essentially if I were to complain to my line manager, who was the CEO, that I am being dragged out of critical meetings where would that put me; as I am not sure if everyone is acting at the behest of the COO?
Mr Mahlangu: So you all feared him?
Mr Mabaso: Indeed, if the Board could not call him to order for us. It became worse when the MOI was amended to give powers to the COO, which was why Mr Masinga had fought vehemently against it.
Mr Mahlangu: Who is the current CEO?
Mr Mabaso: It is Mr James Aguma.
Mr Mahlangu: Who is he?
Mr Mabaso: He is a former AGSA auditor, who had been invited to the COO’s office to deal with the audit qualifications AGSA had found against the SABC in its audit report. He was to advise the SABC on that and then he was employed as the CFO of the SABC and he currently acts as the SABC CEO.
Mr Swart: Do you think that Mr Motsoeneng has not been called to order by the Board because of having political support from the President?
Mr Mabaso: I am not sure but going by what the media says and what Minister Muthambi said about the President of SA loving him, I can say emphatically that even the Board had been divided in terms of allegiances.
Mr Swart: As GE: HR, the Public Protector’s Report said a lot about personnel and HR and Ms Nkosi has elaborated on the challenges she had. One of the findings by the Public Protector had been: ‘Mr Motsoeneng purged senior officials leading to the loss of millions of rands on unnecessary settlements for irregular terminations of contracts of employments’. What were you able to do about that and the implementation of the Public Protector’s Report?
Mr Mabaso: Firstly, when I came in I wanted to review policies as a means of having checks and balances in the entire system as I could see holes in many areas. For instance, we needed to do job evaluations but if there was no policy for that, it was easy for line managers to push you up if they liked you. Although there was a job evaluation system, there was no policy.
Regarding the Public Protector’s Report, I played no part in the organisation such that the only role I was called on to support was when I received a letter from the attorneys the SABC had appointed that I had to be a witness on behalf of the SABC at Mr Motsoeneng’s disciplinary hearing though I was quite new at the time.
Mr Swart: Where you aware that although Werksmans had been involved in that hearing, they had withdrawn from that process? You do not know why that had happened?
Mr Mabaso: I read in the newspapers but I do not know the reasons for withdrawal, but speculation has it that Mr Sandile July, who is a very reputable labour relations practitioner at Werksmans, had thoroughly read the Public Protector’s Report and started compiling charges, which I think did not sit well.
Mr Swart: We also now know that the Public Protector had a file which would have assisted the disciplinary hearing of Mr Motsoeneng which was never used; would you know anything about that?
The Chairperson disallowed the question as Mr Swart had defied him.
Ms Kilian: You indicated that the COO had immense authority. Can you talk us through the progression of Ms Sully Motsweni who was GE: Sport where the Public Protector had found that she had moved through the system quickly? Was that during your tenure? Were any proper advertisements placed for positions at the SABC?
Mr Mabaso: I only know of her application for GE: Corporate Affairs where she had undergone the correct recruitment processes as I was there. Her movement to GE: Sport happened after I left.
Ms Kilian: Can you talk us through how Mr Motsoeneng went back to being GE: Stakeholder Relations after the court findings.
Mr Mabaso: As I indicated earlier, I was no longer at the SABC then but I can confirm that there is no policy for ad hominem positions at the SABC.
Ms Kilian: Can you tell us how many changes there were in the MOI and the intention behind those changes. To what extent did the changes undermine statutory provisions?
Mr Mabaso: For us, it was going to be a game changer around matters of discipline since it moved power from the Board.
Ms Kilian: The Public Protector found that there had been some miraculous amendments to some staff files during your tenure at the SABC. Did you have any specific provisions to ensure that staff could not access files and for documents to disappear?
Mr Mabaso: I certainly created an HR shared services but the files of the executives were kept in my office in a safe. The other copies were with shared services. However; I cannot say that someone could not have gained access to my office overnight.
Mr Chauke: In your understanding of the PFMA, what did the irregular appointments constitute in terms of fruitless and wasteful expenditure?
Mr Mabaso: I will agree that if we have people employed through a process which is costly in itself to have them removed and replaced through another recruitment process would be very costly and fruitless. Irregular appointments are definitely wasteful as they get challenged; and once the SABC loses, that became even more costly. There is a Mr Hosea Jiyane who left the SABC around 2009 after being thoroughly harassed who had then been reinstated by the Labour Court in 2015. The SABC had to pay him that entire period he been absent and find him a position. Those are fruitless expenses which the SABC incurs.
Mr Chauke: Having broken the law in terms of fruitless and wasteful expenditure, the PFMA has provisions on what must be done which is: to investigate; to recover. That means if the R11 million paid to Ms Motsoeneng was irregular, it has to be recovered entirely. Do you agree that if we were to follow the PFMA all the monies lost by the SABC could be recoverable?
Mr Mabaso: I agree and I am sure the AGCEO would agree to that as an auditor who is well versed in the PFMA.
Mr Chauke: What can you advise as the way forward for the SABC as a former GE: HR?
Mr Mabaso: At the point of an interim Board being established, a cleanup has to be done starting with the approval of policies. Also there has to be a capacity review to see whether there is no redundancy as some individuals may have been put in positions for other reasons and agendas. The SABC has to be professionalised by getting the necessary skilled people with the correct qualifications to do the work. As the SABC is dynamic, the separation between freelancers and SABC employees has to be clear so that freelancing does not get used as a backdoor for getting people into the organisation. One needs to ensure that HR would not be limited to personnel management only but that it becomes a strategic partner. The MOI definitely would have to be revised.
Chairperson: Mr Mabaso, it was your right to request that your submission be done in camera. I am more convinced now that the national cause is nobler than the personal cause, but certainly South Africans are better informed. Is there anybody from the SABC that wants to raise any questions? The Committee would end on the 28 February 2017. Therefore if Mr Mabaso remembered anything he could bring that to the attention of the Committee.
Witness: Mr Sipho Masinga (Former SABC Group Executive: Technology)
The Chairperson informed Mr Masinga that by law he was required to answer fully and satisfactorily to all questions put to him or to produce any document required in connection with the subject matter of the inquiry notwithstanding the fact that the answer or the document could incriminate him or expose him to criminal or civil proceedings or damages. Mr Masinga was however protected in that evidence given under oath or affirmation before a House or Committee may not be used against him in a court or any other place outside of Parliament except in criminal proceedings concerning a charge of perjury or a charge relating to the evidence required in criminal proceedings.
Mr Masinga then took the oath before the Committee.
Evidence leader, Adv Vanara: Good afternoon Mr Masinga. Could you for the record please state your particulars and your relationship with the SABC in terms of what capacity you served it?
Mr Masinga: My name is Sipho Masinga. I served the SABC as a Corporate Executive of Technology. I hold a B. Tech degree in electrical engineering and other management certificates. I served the SABC for more than ten years.
Adv Vanara: Mindful of the time lost, there are five issues I want to deal with in the next 30 minutes. Is the statement you provided signed and can you confirm that the contents of the statement are accurate.
Mr Masinga: I have not signed the statement but I will do so. The contents of the statement are indeed true.
Adv Vanara: At the bottom of page two of Mr Masinga’s statement, a meeting was noted between himself and Nazeem Howa from The New Age (TNA) media. Provide the Committee with the details of this meeting and what TNA Media was.
Mr Masinga: TNA Media was the parent company for ANN7. Before the launch of ANN7, there was a meeting to try and bring a contract to try and take over SABC news and rebrand it. The TNA company was going to manage it and the SABC was going to supply staff and the buildings – TNA would not pay any rent and it would collect all the advertising revenue so I knew it was not going to fly from the start.
Adv Vanara: What happened to the contract? Was it eventually signed?
Mr Masinga: No, fortunately I chaired the meeting so it was not going to go any further. I sent them back to go and write a proposal first, indicate the value proposition being offered to the SABC because I could not believe the contract was three pages.
Adv Vanara: Can you go through the MultiChoice contract and the circumstances surrounding it. You and the SABC delegation were led by the then COO, Mr Motsoeneng – was that correct?
Mr Masinga: Correct.
Adv Vanara: Can you tell the Committee what happened at that meeting?
Mr Masinga: The meeting came about because Treasury rejected the first business case for the news channel for R60 million in as much as the investment had been made by SABC since 2006. Then we come to the Portfolio Committee in around about September where I raised the agreements from the Electronics Communication Act. When that was done, we had this meeting presumably. Verona Duwarkah, then Head of TV, estimated we would make R1 million per year on the contract – this had nothing to do with the 24 hour news channel but had to do with DSTV and the fact that SABC services were the most watched services on DSTV but we were not getting paid for it. We went to discuss that and debate it with the team at MultiChoice and we highlighted the points in law and that we would be ready to proceed to court. Then we discussed other matters where I raised MultiChoice pronouncing itself on free-to-air matters particularly DSTV control matters because they had issued statements in newspapers that they were acting in the best interests of the citizens. I had an issue with this and I raised it – we argued and did not agree. There was then a private conversation between them and Mr Motsoeneng and Mr Motsoeneng then tried to lobby me – that was the beginning of the end of our relationship.
Adv Vanara: What was government’s policy around the set-up box?
Ms Masinga: The SABC, along with the government, had supported encryption. SABC did a strategy in 2007 for encryption. Then it went and lobbied government. It would make sense to secure the future of the SABC because after going digital, there would be a lot of players. Government’s policy was for encryption.
Adv Vanara: Was the MultiChoice agreement signed consistent with government’s policy on encryption or did it fly against that?
Mr Masinga: It flew against it – in my view it was an attempt at manipulation; for defying government.
Adv Vanara: You were a group executive reporting directly to the Group CEO. In your statement you allude to attempts by Mr Motsoeneng to take over or to have IT reporting to him – can you tell the Committee the circumstances surrounding that.
Mr Masinga: Indeed true. Mr Motsoeneng did approach me to try and move the technology and IT division to report to him. I warned that this was improper and there were many disagreements. It was not going to work because the executives reporting to him had no views and it was my view that if I went to report to Mr Motsoeneng, I may as well have resigned.
Adv Vanara: To whom were you going to report to having your division brought under the COO?
Mr Masinga: I was going to report to Mr Motsoeneng, according to his proposal, instead of the CEO which would be a demotion. I told Mr Motsoeneng that I was a fit and proper person – it would have effectively made Mr Motsoeneng the CEO and he was not qualified to do so and I did tell him this.
Adv Vanara: Was this one of the strategies to take away power from the CEO and divert this to the COO?
Mr Masinga: Indeed it was.
Adv Vanara: How would you explain the relationship between Mr Motsoeneng, at this stage the COO, and Ms Mokhobo?
Mr Masinga: It was terrible. I have never seen a professional behave in that fashion. I think Ms Mokhobo tried to tolerate it, maybe a little bit too much to try and maintain peace but I warned her that when dealing with a taker, they do not stop and would continue taking – one could give an arm and they would want all of you. Sometimes I would come to her office and I would feel sorry for her because I would see she was crying.
Adv Vanara: You are sharing an instance from one of your meetings as contained in your statement.
Mr Masinga: Yes, Mr Motsoeneng had the habit of stopping strategy sessions because of anti-intellectualism. If there were professors present he would mock them, make fun of them and stop people from presenting saying let us go have a drink – such childish behaviour was displayed when we were trying to run a company. He had gone around to provinces to tell staff they were going to be reporting to him – my staff asked me about this but I told them they would still be reporting to me. Then we went to the strategy meeting where Ms Mokhobo was presenting and Mr Motsoeneng spoke after her – he liked speaking after her so he could have the final word. It was so bad because Ms Mokhobo objected but she could not speak after that. The next day I was presenting and he would always attack those reporting to the CEO – he knew better than to attack me directly. When he was talking he did not like other people to talk and I told him that he likes to hear the sound of his own voice. We argued, we took a break and went outside to give Mr Motsoeneng an opportunity to address the disrespect he thought I had. It was just the two of us outside and Mr Motsoeneng told me to respect him and I told him I would never respect him if he did not respect me – what he had done the day before was really unacceptable. Before as I was challenging him those present told me to just leave it, but I could not have people addressed as if they were children in my presence. I often challenged Mr Motsoeneng behind the scenes where I tried to block what he was doing.
Adv Vanara: In your statement you discuss some successes – at the time the finances of the Corporation were beginning to get healthier. Can you talk us through that?
Mr Masinga: Yes, at some point after Ms Mokhobo’s term we had a bit of money and we lobbied hard for who would be the next CEO but the company continued to be profitable and we were in a healthy state. There was money to begin investing aggressively in infrastructure. The SABC at the time was like a construction site because there were projects everywhere. Ever since I took the role at the SABC I did not travel because there was no time to be out of the office. We then travelled to do some benchmarking to see what would be done and what would not. When I came back, I took a break and then I went to a strategy session in the Free State. One Friday evening when I was home there were power failures from load-shedding and the TV broadcast system went down for about 30 minutes. It happened again on Saturday and an investigation was done where it was discovered the problem was actually further back in the value chain. We called Barloworld who further investigated and found the boards had been fried by the power surge – the boards could not just be bought off the shelves but had to be sourced from Germany and custom made. We then restored to makeshift manual patching if problems occurred. While I was away I heard that Tiaan Olivier was changed to CEO and Anton Heunis was reporting to Mr Motsoeneng – I knew then that we were in trouble. Mr Heunis asked me to provide reasons why I should not be suspended. He called me to the office with Mr Motsoeneng and I told them I was not interested in what they had to say as they had no authority. I returned to my office to continue working. When Mr Olivier was removed, I heard the process had begun to launch a new MOI where the Board had no authority. I knew I had to focus on the MOI because effectively it would mean the SABC would no longer be an entity but a department or an extension of the Department. I wrote to the Board and called Mr Khumalo and told him that if I walked out the door, EXCO would follow. Mr Khumalo tried to speak to Mr Motsoeneng and Mr Heunis to try and resolve the matter. Sometimes professionals did not really see what was happening while in the meantime a takeover was occurring. I said that if the Board had not approved the suspension, I would fight; while if the Board did, I would resign. The Board indeed never approved the suspension hence I went to court. I succeeded in the Labour Court while I took the MOI fight to the Western Cape High Court – luckily I had quite a powerful team. The matter in the Western Cape High Court was postponed for a long time – they created a situation so convoluted, that time was bought. The mistake made was not asking for a full Bench when the matter was so complicated.
The Chairperson said Mr Masinga painted a very scary picture – the collapse of the technology department could effectively mean the collapse of the SABC or a major part of it as he understood. Who was acting in the position now?
Mr Masinga answered that the position eventually reported to Mr Motsoeneng so he finally got what he wanted. The person acting in the position was a general manager and was appointed to the position by Mr Motsoeneng.
The Chairperson asked if the absorption of the technology division into the COO unit was a result of the amendment of the MOI.
Mr Masinga replied that this was absolutely as a result of the amended MOI. It meant that Board approval was no longer needed. He found it odd that the person in the position now only had Matric.
Ms Kilian thanked Mr Masinga for clarifying some matters because according to the latest Annual Report, the person now reported to the COO. The Committee had copies of two MOIs one signed on 30 October 2014 and another was unsigned but was dated somewhere in 2016. It now appeared that there was another MOI and the picture painted by Mr Masinga was a very bad one of collusion to effectively move a document from CIPRO and then effectively backdate it – this amounted to fraud in all languages. She asked that Mr Masinga take the Committee through his personal experience in the MOI conversion.
Mr Masinga said it took him R1 million to fight the MOI because he realised it was a heist in order to take over an entity. If one could not achieve what one wanted by amending the Broadcasting Act because of the onerous process of amending a law, one could then go and amend the MOI by basically making the MOI an Act because if the MOI overrode certain sections of the Act, it would make the Act redundant. The MOI was done from 2012 to 2013 by former Minister, Ms Dina Pule –she never got to finish the process. The next Minister, Mr Yunus Carrim, was not entirely convinced about the MOI process. CIPRO rejected the document nonetheless. It then went back to whoever it came from and the document was sent back to CIPRO all without the SABC Board knowing – the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) said the Board was responsible for the running of the Corporation. The re-filed document version was approved in about March 2014. The document spoke to the appointment and removal of the Board. Typically when Mr Motsoeneng and Mr Heunis were told they did not have the authority, they would call security to march people out of the building but they knew they could not do that with me because I was right to say they did not have authority. A few months later, another amended document in 2014 emerged which was signed in September. This convoluted processes and it was through this document that I was suspended. The Board tried to fight the document but eventually they too were removed and the whole situation turned into a mess.
Mr Chauke asked what the role the SABC Board chairperson played in this. Looking at Mr Masinga’s statement, included was a paragraph which dealt with government policy and the ANC was cited in the process – he asked that more detail be provided on that. Was TNA the Gupta related company? If so, he requested a copy of the TNA proposal for control of the news channel.
Mr Masinga explained that during this time, Prof Maguvhe was still acting chairperson but without a nine-member resolution of the Board, a board chairperson had no role. With the statement on government policy, he was referring to a discussion held with Mr Motsoeneng where Mr Masinga was giving the history of what had happened in terms of how the encryption position came about.
Mr Chauke was interested in the specific response of Mr Motsoeneng who said “these ANC people are useless”. He wanted to understand the kind of person Mr Motsoeneng was.
Mr Masinga replied that the tone of Mr Motsoeneng’s reply was that he was challenging everyone else – he said “Sipho, do not tell me about those people. They are useless. All they are good for is releasing statements”. This was why he felt he could not work with Mr Motsoeneng.
Ms Van Damme found that Mr Masinga painted a picture of Mr Motsoeneng being sexist, arrogant, a bully and covetous of other people’s positions. She asked if Mr Motsoeneng ever mentioned that he had political protection when he was bragging about himself and from where that protection came.
Mr Masinga said that Mr Motsoeneng might have done that with other people but not with Mr Masinga because he knew that he was socially aware.
Ms Van Damme wanted to know what the talk in the corridors was or what other people were saying. The Committee had seen smart talented people relay how they had been bullied by Mr Motsoeneng – what were people saying in the corridors about him?
Mr Masinga said people would say those things.
Ma Van Damme probed what things he said were.
Mr Masinga did not recollect the sideshows but Mr Motsoeneng would tell people that if they could not work with him, they should leave.
Ms Van Damme wanted to better understand if Mr Motsoeneng ever bragged that he had political protection maybe not to Mr Masinga directly but to his colleagues or anybody else at the SABC. Mr Masinga’s statement outlined that Mr Motsoeneng bragged a lot about what others did but he himself was not that talented at the SABC. What was gassing him or gave him the power?
Mr Masinga outlined the very difficult meeting held with Treasury when they rejected the idea of a 24hour news channel where he felt very sorry for then Minister Carrim during the meeting. Mr Motsoeneng would say he did not care about ministers because the minister did not want the channel to progress. Mr Motsoeneng would say he instructed ministers.
Ms Van Damme sought more information about the meeting with Mr Howa from TNA who she was said was a representative of the Guptas. Mr Howa came with a proposal from an outside organisation, owned by the Guptas, which wanted to take over the SABC’s news division, produce news for the public and take over a National Key Point. She asked Mr Masinga for more information on this proposal or if the meeting was just shut down.
Mr Masinga said the meeting was a surprise one and he met Mr Howa on the stairs to the 27th floor due to a power failure. Mr Masinga then received a call to attend the meeting. Mr Motsoeneng excused himself from the meeting. The three page document was then scanned through and it spoke to the re-branding of SABC News, that the SABC would provide resources, that TNA would not pay any rental, retain the advertising revenue and the SABC would provide journalists. He soon understood the aim of the meeting. The fact that the proposal to take over a major part of the public broadcaster was only three pages was enough for him to send it back.
Ms Van Damme asked if this happened before ANN7 was launched, if Mr Masinga knew of any other attempts by the Guptas or their organisations to take over any other functions from the SABC or do any other business with the SABC.
Mr Masinga replied that the meeting certainly happened before ANN7 was launched. There were certain operational matters he did not get involved in – he was only involved in business that cut across infrastructure and required support.
Ms Loliwe noted Mr Masinga’s statement alluded to an attempt to amend the MOI and asked him to bridge the gap between the amended MOI being rejected by CIPRO and then being approved in 2014.
Mr Masinga replied that the amended MOI approved by CIPRO in 2014 was the same amended MOI from then Minister Pule in 2012. The record showed that Ms Pule wrote to the Board informing them that the articles were being amended. The letter was then used as being the resolution of the Board. It was not known on whose instruction/authority the MOI was re-submitted to CIPRO as by this time Minister Pule had left. It was like the bank informing you there was money when it was not clear from where the deposit came.
Ms Loliwe again turned to Mr Masinga’s statement requesting him to re-hash what was being said about Mr Motsoeneng having no power to do certain things such as he was not allowed to submit anything on behalf of the Board. She asked if Mr Masinga stood by what he was saying there.
Mr Masinga affirmed this noting that Board mandating was required even if a press statement was released.
Ms Loliwe noted that Mr Masinga did his best but that incorrect happenings occurred while he was away on the international benchmarking exercise – she asked if this showed there were no systems in place or what actually went wrong while Mr Masinga was away.
Mr Masinga confirmed that the breakdown of internal control systems occurred a long time before. It was pure grit and guts that enabled the SABC to limp from crisis to crisis. Sometimes when people were selected for acting positions, those who were weak and not strong were sought.
Ms Loliwe requested the Committee be provided with the original copy of the MOI and that Mr Masinga sign his statement because that was critical for the Committee.
Mr Masinga indicated that he did provide the original MOI.
Dr Khoza requested clarity in Mr Masinga’s statement when he remarked on the time he was away and the new acting CEO was appointed then.
Mr Masinga explained the acting CEO who kept the ship afloat after Ms Mokhobo was Mr Olivier where the appointment was purely based on a financial perspective. Mr Masinga was increasingly concerned about the profits posted. After he came back from the tour to Singapore with other engineers to meet their counterparts, Mr Heunis was then the new acting CEO – Mr Masinga knew this was going to be a problem.
Dr Khoza referred to Mr Masinga’s statement where he noted that Mr Motsoeneng said “these ANC people are useless. All they were good at was releasing statements which meant nothing”. She wanted to find out which individuals with authority were behind Mr Motsoeneng because clearly he was not getting his mandate from the ANC or policies of government. In other words, there was no institution or respectable system from where Mr Motsoeneng derived his mandate. It was obvious that the mandate was being derived from somewhere and she hoped Mr Masinga would be brave enough to actually tell the Committee.
Mr Masinga said Mr Motsoeneng wanted a no-encryption policy and he got it. He wanted a new MOI and he got it – Members could deduce from there.
Dr Khoza asked who replaced Mr Masinga and what informed the replacement. When this kind and level of skill was repeatedly lost, it was concerning as to whom the replacements were. Was Mr Masinga aware of what was currently happening?
Mr Masinga was aware. One of the advisers to the Minister ended up being a chairperson somewhere and this sort of happening demotivated people to fight.
Dr Khoza was very concerned that it was said Mr Motsoeneng was anti-intellectualism because she considered herself an intellectual. Obviously if one was pushed out by Mr Motsoeneng, one would be replaced with people who were like him.
Mr Masinga agreed, noting that Mr Motsoeneng said it many times.
Mr Swart commended Mr Masinga for taking a stand on the MOI at great personal expense and taking the matter to court. He asked Mr Masinga to further comment on the statement made that following the amendment of the MOI, the Board had no governance and had become an extension of the Department. Was this a correct reflection of the way Mr Masinga saw things?
Mr Masinga confirmed this noting that if the MOI stood, it contained a section which stated the Minister could approve a merger on round robin – this literally meant that if the board chairperson wanted something, he/she could send it to the Minister which made the 12 member Board redundant. The MOI also effectively made the Broadcasting Act redundant – this was the summarised net effect.
Mr Swart said such a situation could not be allowed to continue. He questioned the reaction of Mr Masinga when he heard about the final decision on the MultiChoice deal on the SABC archive which led to the quite substantial bonus being paid to Mr Motsoeneng – discussions Mr Masinga seemed to be opposed to based on his statement.
Mr Masinga said this was the very same contract – the initial one was for R60 million for the news channel. He thought that this was fine because it was for one specific news channel and it was mutually beneficial. His personal view was that Mr Motsoeneng was scared of former chairperson Mr Ngubane, to a certain extent, or respected him. When board chairperson Ms Zandile Tshabalala came in, Mr Motsoeneng’s attitude changed significantly – he became a bit more brazen and this was when the change of policy first began.
Mr Swart noted that Mr Masinga made reference in his statement to a discussion between the MultiChoice CEO and SABC COO without the SABC CEO knowing about it at all – this sounded very strange to him.
Mr Masinga pointed out that the SABC COO and MultiChoice CEO met many times. Mr Masinga asked not to be invited to those meetings because he knew they were not recorded which meant that anything that transpired there was not legal. The aim was to make the SABC about R2.5 billion over five years which was what was legally due to the Corporation but Mr Motsoeneng then negotiated a contract that paid R500 million over five years with a bonus. Mr Masinga did not understand it.
Mr Swart asked if this meant nothing had come from the attempts of Mr Masinga to negotiate that MultiChoice should pay SABC for the carrying of SABC programmes.
Mr Masinga confirmed this – the second contract eventually covered R100 million and this was where Mr Masinga really disagreed with the matter which he saw as the sale of a national asset. SABC was still on air because terrestrially, there was no more space for other competitors – this was the only reason. If tomorrow two more competitors were added to the spectrum, the SABC would be where the Post Office once was. The SABC was protected by physical constraints of available resources but going to digital, there would be new players.
Mr Mahlangu asked if the then chair, Ms Tshabalala, also attempted to become CEO.
Mr Masinga replied that Ms Tshabalala did call to say she had been asked to act as CEO – he was not sure who had asked her to do that but he was fine with Ms Tshabalala. He did remind her that there was a previous Board member also interested in the position but that that interest nearly led to the breakdown of the Board.
Mr Mahlangu asked why the other senior managers at the SABC were afraid of Mr Motsoeneng – what was it about him?
Mr Masinga thought that it might be different personalities, he did not really know why himself. Mr Motsoeneng did however make a lot of threats and was always warning people – people must have known what happened to those who challenged Mr Motsoeneng and this might then make them subdued.
Mr Mahlangu asked who appointed Mr Aguma.
Mr Masinga replied that Mr Aguma was directly and personally appointed by Mr Motsoeneng around about January 2013. He heard that Mr Aguma was from the Auditor-General where he had the account of the SABC. He soon became acting CFO – Mr Masinga opposed this because he did not have experience. Although he was an auditor, he had no experience running a finance department. This was why Mr Masinga never addressed Mr Aguma in any communication because he viewed Mr Aguma as junior to him.
Mr Mahlangu asked what the status now was of the complicated matters of encryption – was this the matter that was currently before the court?
Mr Masinga confirmed the matter was before the Constitutional Court.
Mr Mahlangu questioned whether Mr Masinga knew anything of the archives and MultiChoice.
Mr Masinga said these were the additional clauses which were being disputed under the contract that was introduced under the interim Board. The contract was wide and there was no clear agreement so he refused to participate in the process.
Mr Mahlangu probed the relationship between the SABC COO and the rest – one would assume the ones who remained are the “yes men” including the board member.
Mr Masinga agreed and noted that many settlements had been issued – close to 70% of EXCO was gone. Mr Masinga knew that when he left, EXCO was done.
Mr Mokoena wanted to confirm that Mr Motsoeneng, his cabal and the people that maintained him thought that the ruling party was useless and toothless to the point that they just wrote statements – was this what Mr Motsoeneng truly told Mr Masinga?
Mr Masinga said it was a true account of the conversation – this was why he recounted it because he viewed it as significant to the breakdown of the relationship.
Mr Mokoena asked if it was also the firm view of Mr Masinga that the Minister of Communications signed off on a document that was illegally constituted and the document was then approved by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
Mr Masinga explained that when he went to court, he tried to get the SABC file from CIPRO. He was told that to extract the file of an entity there must be approval from a director. He pressed on and used other lawyers because he was really ready to fight. The SABC file then disappeared. He was only looking for evidence of the amended document with the Board resolution and signature of the Minister – up to this day he had never seen this.
Mr Mokoena asked if Mr Masinga had anything that was evidence to the effect that Mr Motsoeneng and Mr Nazeem Howa were in the process of attempting to sell a portion of a National Key Point.
Mr Masinga explained that such things ran through phone calls and discussions in the corridor so nothing in fact was in writing. At a meeting, the SABC Head of Legal wanted all present to sign a register – Mr Masinga’s view was that such a register would be used to identify stumbling blocks.
The Chairperson asked if there was anyone present from the SABC who wished to ask Mr Masinga any questions – there were none.
The Chairperson noted the Committee processes ran until 28 February 2017 and if there was anything between now and then that Mr Masinga wished to make known to the Committee that would be useful for its processes, he was free to do so via the Committee Secretary. He wished Mr Masinga well and thanked him for his participation.
Witness: Ms Thandeka Gqubule (SABC Economics Editor representing the “SABC 8”)
Ms Gqubule provided the Committee with her statement after taking the oath.
Witness: Ms Krivani Pillay (SABC SAfm Current Affairs Producer representing the “SABC 8”)
Ms Pillay provided the Committee with her statement after taking the affirmation.
The Chairperson asked that on behalf of the Committee Members and all South Africans, Ms Gqubule and Ms Pillay accept apologies for what they had endured. The Committee collectively saluted their courage and thanked them for appearing today in the face of all the challenges.
Mr Chauke noted that in all his years of doing oversight he had never come across such a situation and collapse of democracy. Both their statements did not make reference to the SABC Board – he questioned the role of the Board during the frustrations, intimidation and threats experienced.
Ms Gqubule said the Board was obliged and duty-bound by law to take care of the independence of the newsroom but the Board had failed dismally. Under the leadership and chairmanship of Ms Ellen Tshabalala, she had a harrowing night – Mr Brian Molefe, then head of Transnet, came to the newsroom for an interview where he was asked normal journalist questions by Ms Francis Herd, an anchor reporting to Ms Gqubule. The questions related to the purchase of locomotives by Transnet – the questions could have been anticipated because they were in the public domain. Instead, an altercation happened on air where Mr Molefe was extremely aggrieved. Ms Gqubule was home when she was called back to the office because she was advised to stop whatever had angered Mr Molefe. She returned to the office where Mr Molefe had his finger in the face of Ms Herd asking her if it was the shape of his nose that warranted such a line of questioning. Ms Gqubule told Mr Molefe that Ms Herd had asked perfectly normal questions which he could have anticipated. Mr Molefe then told Ms Gqubule to see “sis’ Ellen”. For the first time she did not need to use her security tag because the doors simply opened and she was escorted by the bodyguards and people of Mr Molefe to this high office. When she arrived the secretary of the SABC Board was present. The entire evening was an assault on journalism and Ms Gqubule personally – she was told by Ms Tshabalala and Mr Molefe that she thought she was a god, that she thought she could question anybody and that she should sanction, gag or discipline Ms Herd. Ms Gqubule told them that she would do no such thing as Ms Herd was a highly trained, MBA qualified journalist and she would not prevent her from doing her work. Ms Gqubule left the meeting very late at night.
Another incident involved Ms Tshabalala during what was termed “rediffusion” – journalists present were informed that every SMS, email and phone call were being listened into as the SABC was a national key point. This brought into question how journalism using anonymous sources would be conducted and how journalism under those circumstances could be treated with integrity. Rediffusion was a system much like described in George Orwell’s 1984 where the Board chairperson and Mr Motsoeneng beamed their faces throughout the Corporation making various pronouncements which were normally assaults on journalism. The Board was complicit in the death of journalism at the SABC.
Ms Kilian thanked Ms Gqubule and Ms Pillay for being present which would allow the Committee to get to the root cause of everything. She asked if there was a need for a change in editorial policy and, if so, what the process conducted was prior to the amendments to the policy. She also probed the role of the acting group executive during the most difficult times of the SABC 8.
Ms Gqubule explained that it was the recommendation of journalists, during the 2016 change of SABC editorial policy, that the policy was unlawful – it was unlawfully adopted and procedures circumvented many discussions. With respect, she said the journalists should be asking Ms Kilian and Parliament what happened because every policy of that kind needed to come past Parliament. The editorial policy change of 2016 was flawed in four significant ways – (1) it replaced news with content when it was not clear what “content” was, (2) referral upwards which installed Mr Motsoeneng, as he called it, as the “alpha and omega” of editorial decision making, (3) the manner in which the policy was adopted circumventing many consultative processes, and, (4) the way in which it was inaugurated through a display of “utter bravado”. This was not a policy journalists can be proud of or adhere to – it must be struck down because it was unconstitutional and it was improper.
Ms Loliwe, referring to the statement of Ms Gqubule, noted it spoke to the appointment of Ms Nothando Maseko as part of a transformation initiative to empower women. She pointed out that the previous witness, Mr Sipho Masinga, told the Committee that Mr Motsoeneng said he could not be told what to do by a woman – she asked what the understanding of Ms Gqubule was of the stance of Mr Motsoeneng on women.
Ms Gqubule said Mr Motsoeneng made the rules and broke the same rules so she could not reconcile some of his statements.
Ms Loliwe questioned what the current news ombudsman was not doing which prompted the recommendation of the SABC 8 for a new one.
Ms Gqubule replied that there was no news ombudsman inside the SABC – the news ombudsman recommendation arose from research conducted by the SABC 8 and discussions they had with journalists from other countries on how to protect a newsroom and solidify it from political interference. For example, during the process of denazification after the Second World War, an internal ombudsman was created to sort out disputes with stories, story treatment and how a story should be approached, particularly political stories. The ombudsman was there to guard against bias and ensure news was balanced and fair. The ombudsman was normally an individual beyond reproach much like the Public Protector was to those aggrieved by mistreatment or maladministration in the public sector. The ombudsman was the editor of all editors in cases of dispute – such an ombudsman would often be a journalist of high standing and appointed transparently. Such a structure would assist in a highly polarised newsroom such as at the SABC. This recommendation was the contribution of the SABC 8 to solutions, given the journey travelled.
Dr Khoza said that Ms Gqubule and Ms Pillay were phenomenal women and she was very proud of their courage. As a member of the ANC, she was appalled and extremely horrified to hear what the SABC 8 had been through. She asked if Ms Gqubule and Ms Pillay felt that they were failed by the SABC Board, the Minister and the Portfolio Committee on Communications in the degeneration of governance at the SABC to the point where people were stunted. She believed that the policies created stunted people at the SABC and prohibited them from moving to the next level as envisaged by the South African democracy.
Ms Pillay confirmed that Parliament let the SABC 8 down, the Board let them down as did the Minister and the acting GCEO at the time, Mr Jimi Matthews – all of these people sold out journalists and sold out journalism. For example, Mr Matthews had an illustrious journalistic career working himself up from a cameraman to a reporter and then to a producer but when he got to the position of acting GCEO, it was like all of that went out the window. The Minister also failed the SABC 8 – she interfered unlawfully. Mr Motsoeneng certainly failed the SABC 8 – it was as if he did not have a clue about what was in the Broadcasting Act. The Board failed the SABC 8 because they allowed Mr Motsoeneng to unilaterally do what he wanted. Respectfully, Parliament also failed the SABC 8 – on 23 August 2016, members of the Portfolio Committee on Communications sat back and just accepted what the Board said where in that meeting the SABC 8 were called names, while nobody stood up. The 8 were called unethical and liars. It was now up to the Ad Hoc Committee to make the change.
Dr Khoza asked if there was agreement that the propaganda approach not only undermined democracy but also hit directly SABC’s bottom line.
Ms Pillay agreed.
Ms Van Damme said she too was extremely appalled by what she had heard. She was very pleased that today the Western Cape High Court ruled that Mr Motsoeneng could not return to the SABC. She was equally appalled by the behaviour of the Minister of Communications but because the process of the Ad Hoc Committee was inquisitorial, she would reserve her comments on what should happen to the Minister. Beside Mr Simon Tebele, then Head of News at the SABC, she asked who the other “enforcers” of Mr Motsoeneng were.
Ms Pillay replied that on her part, the other “enforcers” were the General Manager of Radio News.
Ms Gqubule added that from her side based on her specific experiences, it was Ms Nothando Maseko who would say that she did not agree with the way current affairs was covered and the “Nenegate” incident. She said that Ms Sophie Mokoena was another “enforcer”.
Ms Van Damme requested that the Committee be provided with a list of “enforcers” because they too should be held accountable. In terms of the revised editorial policy, she asked if the news producers or editors were ever consulted on the revision of the policy.
Ms Pillay noted that she returned to the SABC after working for other broadcasters so by the time she returned, the consultation process was done. This was around February 2015.
Ms Gqubule added that there was a circular inviting them to comment although she was not certain of the dates.
Mr Mahlangu wanted to know who Mr Motsoeneng and Mr Aguma were.
Ms Pillay responded that they were a law unto themselves.
Mr Mahlangu instead asked how they were located.
Ms Pillay said that she was not sure whether Mr Motsoeneng would adhere to the Western Cape High Court ruling but Mr Aguma was the acting GCEO of the SABC.
Mr Mahlangu knew their positions but he wanted to uncover their agendas at the SABC.
Ms Gqubule said this was a difficult question to answer but Mr Motsoeneng had been at the SABC for most of his career. She understood that he began in the homeland administration and then entered into the SABC although she did not regard him as a journalist. He was perhaps seen as one who sold broadcasting technology to the highest political bidder.
Mr Mahlangu noted that in their statements, the benefactors of Mr Motsoeneng were noted – he asked if these benefactors could be located for the attention of the Committee.
Ms Pillay replied that one of the things experienced with the revised editorial campaign was the 90/10 policy implementation so the musicians had confused the editorial fight with the fight for local content. As the fight of the SABC 8 was unfolding, the musicians held a press briefing not far from the SABC where they said they would lay down their lives for Mr Motsoeneng and that the SABC 8 were against transformation. In essence the musicians conflated two ideas and confused and swayed public opinion. There were also brazen colleagues who told the SABC 8 that they were grandstanding – they could be considered to be backers of Mr Motsoeneng but she did not have proof of that. She would be happy to give the matter some more thought and come back to the Committee on it.
Mr Mahlangu asked what the journalists thought the Committee could do to rescue them from this heist.
Ms Gqubule said the first thing that needed to be addressed was the damage to the SABC brought about by anti-intellectualism – journalism was essentially about the creation of knowledge and it was the first record of history so it went to the very route of epistemology and highly trained journalists were needed. Journalists were needed who could discern, learn and adapt to a fast evolving world. The newsroom could be redeemed through a fast-tracked intense massification of global training for the newsroom so that journalists knew how things ought to be universally. This did not only mean exposing journalists to Western-type newsrooms but newsrooms throughout the world. This was also not only exposure to newsrooms for profit because that was not what the SABC was – the SABC operated for the public, for the people and for development. The brain-drain at the SABC was profound and it was seen in the quality of what was being produced. The Committee should also investigate the idea of an ombud. The Broadcasting Act was exceedingly clear on training and the responsibilities of the Board – the social and ethics committee should be extended to include the obligations of the Board to actually look after the health of the newsroom. This would be useful.
Ms Pillay wanted “The Editors” programme to return to SAfm as well as “The Newspapers” slot and she did not want phone calls saying there would be no analysis.
Mr Swart also expressed outrage to hear the firsthand account of the SABC 8 – he was absolutely appalled at the way the journalists were treated and the way Mr Molefe behaved at the SABC when he had no right. This was something which needed to stop and Members needed to do something about it. The Minister needed to be held accountable along with Mr Motsoeneng and all senior officials – the SABC 8 were owed an apology as Parliament erred in not exercising its oversight. With Nenegate, he asked what the direct instruction was considering that this time last year, SA’s bond market and equities lost R500 billion – this needed more clarity. To help the Committee going forward, the recommendations mentioned were very helpful – the one he sought clarity on was the process of appointing senior news executives in the head office and the regions. He believed the truth shall set one free and this was what journalism was all about.
Ms Gqubule explained that with Nenegate, it was not so much an instruction as it was learning to refrain from the narrative that said the President crashed the currency, the equity market and bond market and explain that the Rand generally traded in a basket of emerging market currencies and on that day, the Rand was behaving uniquely in a way that could not be explained. She thought that if the Labour Relations Act was followed properly, such as advertising of posts etc, a sense of having a meritocracy would return. She would think more deeply on the matter and return to the Committee on it.
Mr Swart sought more comment on the recommendation for an investigation into the extent of political interference at the SABC and the lack of a healthy relationship between editorial and the executive / administration. This was in fact the heart of the Ad Hoc inquiry bearing in mind the investigation by the Public Protector some years ago as well.
Ms Gqubule noted that the distinction between editorial and executive/business needed to be restored – one way of doing that was scrapping the requirement that the CEO/COO was the editor in chief and install who was essentially a news and editorial person and a person of high-standing, who would then be ex-officio member of the SABC Board as well as the one who represented journalists at the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA (BCCSA). The aim was not to go against the grain of existing legislation because it was felt that if adhered to, the legislation was really good. Another matter was the appointment of the Board perhaps the vetting needed to be a bit more transparent and vigorous.
Mr Mokoena noted that political interference in news broadcasting was in no way new, without belittling the input of the SABC 8. What was new was the new depths to which had been done – this was a new low. It was what happened when democracies began to crumble and was what happened when dictatorships began to develop. It was interesting to see the party political nature of the interference – the new low was that there were factional issues with the pinpointing of individuals within organisations. It was an interesting argument especially for the ruling party that needed to be investigated. It was also interesting because in the crumbling of democracy, key institutions too began to crumble. This was seen with Eskom, Transnet and now the SABC and it was ironic that Brian Molefe would come into the SABC and point fingers at people while on TV discussing Eskom, he cried. This was a very interesting time and he was glad the production floor was present. During the elections, one of the executives said that there was a moratorium - that the EFF was not to be covered – he asked what kind of political interference there was at the SABC that bordered on interfering with the character of democracy that SA held.
Ms Gqubule said that she was with Mr Matthews at ENCA when he made the admission that he had been party to a decision to starve the EFF of coverage. This was not the custom of journalists and should not be a habit – she looked forward to the day when journalists no longer received such instructions.
Mr Mokoena asked the extent to which that kind of interference was happening.
Ms Pillay noted that the next witness representing the SABC 8, Mr Lukhanyo Calata, had those examples including those of the EFF.
Witness: Mr Lukhanyo Calata (SABC Journalist representing the “SABC 8”)
Mr Calata provided the Committee with his statement after taking the oath.
Witness: Mr Vuyo Mvoko (SABC Contributing Editor representing the “SABC 8”)
Mr Mvoko provided the Committee with his statement after taking the oath.
Mr Mokoena noted that the Committee knew about the extensive manipulation of information especially around the EFF during the 2014 election period – he asked Mr Mvoko and Mr Calata to elaborate on any other such examples. Looking at the history of Mr Motsoeneng, he came from the Free State and in that province there was huge manipulation especially with Lesedi FM which, he was told, was controlled from the Premier’s office. This control was done through the support of Mr Motsoeneng. Mr Mokoena wanted to examine this trajectory which he thought would take the Committee to the origin of the problem.
Mr Calata could not offhand recall any further incidents involving the EFF particularly in Parliament. The only incident he could recall off the top of his head was the banning of footage involving the EFF which he explained in his statement. In the SABC parliamentary office, there was a stage where there was enough resistance coming from the journalists to ensure whatever unlawful or unethical instructions came, the journalists would fight. He doubted that there was anyone there with less than 10 years experience working as a journalist so the office was quite “senior”. The understanding was that the Johannesburg office considered the parliamentary office a problematic one in the sense that the parliamentary office did not necessarily toe the line. An example was that the parliamentary office could not report on the President being in the House – this would be covered by Johannesburg.
Mr Mvoko remembered covering the anniversary of Marikana where the assistant editor on duty on the day informed him that an instruction had come from Mr Matthews that the leader of the EFF should not be covered in the story. Mr Mvoko then phoned Mr Matthews and told him the leader of the EFF would be covered because it was arbitrary not to include him in the story. Another incident was the fall out between the EFF leadership and its previous member and MP, Mr Andile Mngxitama – every effort was made to get onto the story and interview Mr Mngxitama. He did not know Mr Motsoeneng very well except as a producer at Lesedi during 2002 to 2006. In 2011 when he returned to the SABC, Mr Mvoko was tasked to do election debates but two weeks prior to the debates, Mr Phil Molefe asked Mr Mvoko to do the customary interview with the President post the State of the Nation Address (SONA). On the day of the interview, Mr Mvoko saw another side to Mr Motsoeneng – Mr Motsoeneng walked into the parliamentary office with Mr Phil Molefe and said that he did not understand why the journalists in the room did not stand up for him when he walked in. After Mr Mvoko did the interview with the President at Tuynhuis, Mr Motsoeneng walked in. Mr Phil Molefe then also walked in but Mr Motsoeneng chased him out of the room – Mr Mvoko could not forget how Mr Molefe, as head of news at the time, could be chased away like a dog by Mr Motsoeneng.
Mr Mahlangu asked if the journalists were still getting threats from Mr Motsoeneng and company.
Mr Mvoko replied that one was not sure where the threats were coming from but one could make a reasonable assumption about who would have a stake or interest in the story not being told. The SABC 8 felt that the matters before the Committee were more important than any threat that had happened to anyone at the SABC. He urged the Committee to put those matters first. There was assurance that the police were still investigating so the outcome was awaited. The SABC 8 had chosen to volunteer information to the Committee and so this “came with the territory”.
Mr Mahlangu felt that Members should take some measure of responsibility in failing to protect and salvage the SABC. There was also failure of oversight and Members could not put their heads in the sand because it was a reflection of Parliament failing to do its work. As the 20th anniversary of the Constitution was recently celebrated, Parliament needed to make a commitment to stand by the SABC and rescue the national asset from the morass in which it found itself.
Mr Swart commended the journalists for their courage and for coming forward. He thanked them for sharing information with the Committee which Members took very earnestly. Parliament owed the SABC 8 a debt of gratitude and an apology for not exercising oversight properly. He wondered what power lay behind Mr Motsoeneng – he could not understand how the Minister did not countermand the outrageous statement by Mr Motsoeneng that Matric certificates were useless. This suggested that Mr Motsoeneng might have had support right to the top to President Zuma at that stage. He asked if the journalists cared to comment on that.
Mr Mvoko replied that it baffled him just as much as it baffled the Member.
Mr Swart noted that another issue which came up earlier was “The Editors” programme being canned because it gave publicity to other newspapers yet now Members heard of the New Age breakfasts being funded indirectly by the SABC which directly contradicted why “The Editors” programme was canned. It was startling that SABC funds were being used to fund a rival television station. He asked that the Committee be provided with more information on that, perhaps even in writing. He thought that this practice was outrageous and could also impact on the financial stability of the SABC going forward. The issue of the Gupta family also came up very strongly in this regard.
Mr Mvoko reiterated from his written statement that the SABC funded The New Age breakfasts. When he was anchoring the SABC show “On the Record”, if he wanted to record an episode outside of the studio, he had to have the budget for that. Other shows like “Morning Live” would also be told funds were exhausted when the show wanted to do a very critical outside broadcast and this was a direct impact. A few years ago when he was doing “Sunday Live”, Mr Mvoko was summoned to an office to be told that from the following month TNA would take one week every month to do provincial TNAs . 75% of the guests would have been invited and the TNA presenter would have been in control of what went out on air – this was for a news/current affairs programme.
Dr Khoza thought it important to acknowledge the loss of income experienced by Mr Mvoko and the pain his family endured. Answering yes or no, she asked if there was sufficient appreciation at the SABC by the Board and Mr Motsoeneng etc that the Corporation had to be self-sustaining because the national fiscus was under immense pressure due to service delivery backlogs in SA and poverty levels.
Mr Mvoko replied that there was not sufficient appreciation.
Dr Khoza asked how advertisement revenues were being negatively impacted by the new censorship and other policies emanating from total authoritarianism at the SABC.
Mr Calata could not speak to the numbers surrounding advertisement revenue but journalists and news operated on the premise of credibility. The moment credibility was lost, audience ratings would also be lost as people lost trust and belief in the way the news was reported. Advertisers would look at these ratings numbers.
Dr Khoza noted that over the weekend, the top 200 richest people in SA were listed. One of the Gupta brothers was now worth R10 billion, more than even Patrice Motsepe. She asked if it would be reasonable to attribute some of this wealth to some of the erosion of the moral code in doing business with the state and state entities.
Mr Mvoko replied that from where he was coming, someone was being enriched or enriched further at the expense of the national broadcaster. This went without saying.
Ms Loliwe said that sometimes when one did not want to appear to be too critical, one hung oneself. She raised this because in Mr Mvoko’s statement, he said the journalists were not speaking out with a “holier than thou” attitude. She asked if this implied Mr Mvoko also had a fair share in putting the SABC where it found itself now.
Mr Mvoko answered that what journalists called self censorship was a huge part of what was wrong at the SABC because people have had to think about their livelihoods. There was ‘rediffusion’ at the SABC and the Board spoke to staff in all the regions and offices. People were told in no uncertain terms that if they did not toe the line they would be out – as was highlighted in the statements of Ms Gqubule and Ms Pillay, people were told “it’s the door or the window”. People were told that if they did not accept what management told them to do, there were lots of journalists waiting. In the run up to the election there was a workshop at the Vaal where Mr Motsoeneng addressed the gathering. Mr Mvoko asked Mr Motsoeneng about his undermining of their bosses and the effect this had on morale in the newsroom and the standards supposed to be upheld. At the workshop was a seasoned journalist who was also an executive director at the SA National Editors Forum (SANEF) and someone who had worked at the SABC as head of news to provide an outsider’s appraisal of what was being done. The next day, Ms Maseko and others in acting positions, were all demoted and a new head of news was appointed on the spot.
Ms Loliwe asked what role the Board played in defending the ills happening at the SABC.
Mr Calata thought the Board did not defend but contributed. For example, journalists would be called to the rediffusions many times sitting for two hours where the Board would endorse what Mr Motsoeneng was saying. The rediffusions were a complete waste of time where the Board essentially participated in the denegation and abuse of the SABC. He could not think of an incident where the Board came to the defence – in his opinion the Board participated in what was happening at the SABC.
Ms Van Damme congratulated Mr Mvoko and Mr Calata for standing up for what was right and ensured them that their efforts were not in vain – the Committee would not let go of the issue. Her colleagues before her in the Communications Portfolio Committee had been fighting the issue for years against ANC colleagues who refused to act – she had been fighting the matter also in the Communications Committee along with it being fought in court for years. Millions had been spent on ensuring the SABC was brought towards stability, so she would not let the matter go. She noted that Mr Matthews was one of the key “enforcers” of Mr Motsoeneng and while he had now found his backbone, it did not absolve him of all his actions. She sought more information on Mr Matthews assaulting a female SABC reporter at the State of the Nation Address (SONA) – who was the reporter and what caused the incident. She also asked which SABC reporter had her computer confiscated and was interrogated for two hours and how the matter was resolved. She thought the Committee needed to call SSA in and hold them accountable for their role in interfering in employee relations at the SABC.
Mr Calata responded that Mr Matthews was the first person to do or say something which Mr Calata thought was a bit outside of the boundaries. Growing up, Mr Calata looked up to Mr Matthews as a struggle journalist who had a well known father who was an author. On the day Mr Matthews resigned, Mr Calata thought that Mr Matthews had let the SABC 8 down because it was wrong of him to resign and then criticise what was happening at the SABC – Mr Calata thought that this was cowardly. About the colleague whose computer was confiscated, Mr Calata did not feel comfortable revealing her identity without her permission – if she agreed the name could be forwarded to the Committee.
Ms Van Damme reiterated that the SSA link would have to be investigated. About the death threats, she asked if Mr Mvoko and Mr Calata were still being threatened.
Ms Calata replied that personally he had never been threatened – this informed the decision of the four journalists present to represent the collective SABC 8, especially those who had been threatened, and prevent the perception that they were antagonising those doing threatening. It was also to prevent the threats being the sole focus because if the larger issue was dealt with, it would by default deal with the matter of the threats.
Ms Van Damme felt that the threats were intrinsically linked to the matter and was not separate – it was about an individual/s that were willing to threaten or kill people to protect themselves from being held accountable for state capture, corruption and violation of the Constitution. This was why she thought the threats were a central issue. She asked what the wording of threats were and in which form the threats came.
Mr Calata said that from what he had seen, most of the threats were in the form of SMSs. Just before the budget speech, one example of a threatening SMS was “we know the girl is going to Cape Town. She must stay away from Parliament otherwise this time we won’t miss”. This was after the incident where the car of Ms Suna Venter (one of the SABC 8) was shot at. The threats were basically warning that people were watching and monitoring movements of the journalists.
Mr Mvoko added that the other threat was for the SABC 8 to withdraw their case at the Constitutional Court.
Mr Chauke thought the bigger picture was now forming – it started with the relationship between Mr Motsoeneng and TNA. The relationship was then introduced into the SABC and in the process the SABC Board collapsed. This relationship was central to the bigger picture which Members should not lose sight of. The relationship also weakened the SABC and the next stop after collapsing the Board, was to collapse the executive. The core had really collapsed. He was also concerned by how outside individuals came into the picture like Mr Brian Molefe when there was a relationship with Mr Molefe, the Guptas and Mr Motsoeneng. The issue the Committee was dealing with was not small but much bigger because it concerned the collapse of the SABC through the driving of a clear strategy. He had learnt much through this process but the bigger picture was that as the SABC collapsed, TNA was rising – the SABC was in fact funding an opposition organisation through public monies. The issue was much bigger than once thought and may be a serious threat to democracy and to the revolution. What SA stood for was being eroded and it started at the top with a friendship that had collapsed the SABC. It was as if the obituary of the SABC was being read because there was no organisation currently. Power lay with TNA – presenting a three page proposal to take over a news channel was a display of this power and total control of the SABC. This was his observation based on the inputs made to the Committee. Prof Maguvhe himself might not understand the depths of this relationship which was well prepared. Mr Motsoeneng had created his own independent group and this was really shocking when this group had no mandate. Another area of focus would be the irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure of public funds – every cent of it would have to come back to the state.
Ms Kilian asked how it was possible that there was a Constitution and Broadcasting Act and the independence of news and views was captured in the SABC Charter which stipulated that there must be freedom of expression and journalist independence, yet there was a grouping of people that effectively “hijacked” the public broadcaster for specific interests be it their own or based on outside factors. She accepted that there was not effective parliamentary oversight conducted over the SABC, not for lack of trying, but she still questioned how this came about. At which moment did it occur prompting the current position of the SABC where people followed and acted on the instruction of Mr Motsoeneng.
Mr Calata responded that within the SABC it was an open secret that Mr Motsoeneng had the support of the President – this was openly spoken about in the SABC office that Mr Motsoeneng had the President on speed dial. Mr Motsoeneng behaved in a manner that was unexplainable other than to say that surely he must have the protection of somebody that was very important or very powerful. One day Mr Motsoeneng addressed the SABC parliamentary office where he said that if people were impressed that he was earning over R2 million a year, he said this was nothing because he wanted R10 million. This behaviour of Mr Motsoeneng could not be explained but the way Mr Calata and some of his colleagues understood it was that Mr Motsoeneng had the support of no less a powerful person than the President.
Mr Mvoko added that in the SABC newsroom, Mr Motsoeneng ensured there were people who would do exactly as he told them to do and that he would promote you to deliver on what he wanted that evening. This linked to the point that money was involved – there was no other way to explain groups of people who rocked up at court cases to be “friends of”. It was clear that something was happening. Perhaps the extent and who directly benefited required further investigation. The net effect of everything that had occurred was that corruption took place and the national public broadcaster was being destroyed from within.
Mr Calata said that recently a lot was heard about the protection of the rights of Mr Motsoeneng and the Board but when the SABC 8 were all fired there was no protection of their rights as they were fired without even being taken to a disciplinary hearing. This brought into question who got their rights protected at the SABC and whose rights were violated.
The Chairperson, in closing, reminded the Committee that when the process of hearing witnesses started, there was a collective decision to take five minutes per Member and while he was lenient today he noted that from tomorrow each Member would get five minutes to engage the witness. He thanked the SABC 8 for their attendance noting that the Committee was sensitive to concerns to have the session in-camera but the Committee was committed to openness and transparency and such a type of meeting just could not be in a closed session. He remained grateful to the journalists for agreeing to give their account to the Committee publically. He pleaded that those appearing before the Committee should not feel or be intimidated and he appealed to the law enforcement agencies to make that happen. The accounts of the SABC 8 would be taken into consideration as the report of the Committee was drafted. The Committee process ran until 28 February 2017 and if there was anything that the SABC 8 wished to share with the Committee that would be useful for its processes, they were free to do so via the Committee Secretary. He wished the SABC 8 well over the festive season and New Year.
The meeting was adjourned.
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