After a thorough probe and engagement with former SABC Chairperson, Dr Ben Ngubane, the Chairperson concluded that someone has misled Parliament in their submission or evidence presented through affidavits, as there were gross contradictions between the statements made by Dr Ngubane and those submitted by other witnesses at an earlier stage. The Chairperson, displeased, commented that there will be dire consequences for perjury. Some of the contradictions the Chairperson identified were whether it was ANN7 who approached the SABC or the other way around; whether Dr Ngubane drove the Foxton Communicating matter; whether SABC incurred no costs or half a million rand on the TNA breakfast shows
In the questioning by the Evidence Leader, Dr Ngubane claimed he did not read the final Public Protector’s Report, “When Governance and Ethics Fail”. The Evidence Leader failed to understand why Dr Ngubane did not challenge the Report formally in court as the Report makes damning conclusions about Dr Ngubane’s leadership style and his personal capacity. Dr Ngubane replied that at the time the final report was released, he had left the SABC and was focused fully on his chairmanship duties at the Land Bank, and assumed that the subsequent SABC Board would take the report on review. Unfortunately, this did not happen. However, he said that his responses to the provisional report of the Public Protector were not considered at all.
Dr Ngubane claimed that he did not appoint Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng to the position of Acting COO, although earlier submissions by other witnesses pointed to him as the sole Board member who unilaterally instituted that. Dr Ngubane argued that the Board appointed Mr Motsoeneng, and there is evidence to back this up. He said Mr Motsoeneng was appointed to the SABC in 1995, long before Dr Ngubane came to the SABC, and he was then brought to SABC headquarters to assist in the implementation of the findings of the Auditor General and Special Investigating Unit (SIU) reports, because there was no momentum at the time from current executives.
Dr Ngubane stated that Mr Motsoeneng's 63% salary increase in one year was within HR parameters and his salary had to be adjusted accordingly because the disparity with other group executives was huge. This was initiated and approved by HR. The Auditor General did not make a finding that it was irregular expenditure.
Members suggested that the problems the SABC is facing started during Dr Ngubane’s tenure as Board Chairman. Dr Ngubane was emphatic that when his Board came to the broadcaster, the SABC was a mess, there were weak internal and financial controls, the CEO was also very weak, there was no proper due diligence in supply chain management and procurement. Amongst the achievements of his Board was it managed to repay the Nedbank loan within two years, disciplinary action was instituted, the haemorrhaging of money stopped, employee and investor confidence was restored and sound relationships were established with the unions.
Members questioned Dr Ngubane’s ability to govern when he turned a blind eye to The New Age (TNA) breakfast shows that occurred without the approval of the Board and formal processes were not followed by Mr Phil Molefe to commission the breakfast shows. The TNA contract was only formalised by the Board after 16 shows. Members believed the costs attached to the TNA breakfast shows was covered by resources taken from the Morning Live show due to evidence submitted by Mr Vuyo Mvoko. Dr Ngubane argued that was not the case and was a gross misstatement.
Some of the many questions asked by Members included why he was casting aspersions on a Chapter Nine institution and even the judiciary; details the appointment of Mr Motsoeneng as Acting COO; the integrity of Dr Ngubane in following due processes of governance; why he did not bother to read the final Public Protector Report and take it on review; whether it was the SABC that approached TNA/ANN7 for the breakfast shows or the other way around; the implications of non-executive board members being dictated to by an executive; why Dr Ngubane resigned; and whether the appointments of Gugu Duda and Lulama Mokhobo were influenced by the fact that they were both “connected’ to Minister Pule.
During the leading of evidence from Ms Ellen Tshabalala, it was suggested that she bullied the SABC Board during her tenure as SABC Board Chairperson but she denied this.
Ms Tshabalala said that during her tenure there was gross political interference from both the ANC and the DA to push her to make certain decisions about individuals who were in senior positions at the SABC. She mentioned the Communist Party had contacted her about choosing encryption for the set top boxes. Emphatically, she said she did not succumb to such malpractices. Although the names of the politicians were not disclosed, she said this would be disclosed in a written submission.
On the implementation of the Public Protector’s remedial actions, she said the Board agreed that the remedial actions suggested by the Public Protector would be implemented to mitigate some of the pertinent issues that were causing the corporation to crumble.
However, the Committee suggested that the reason the other remedial actions were not implemented, following a trail of documentation as evidence, was because Faith Muthambi became Minister and seemingly put the Board under a lot of pressure to appoint Mr Motsoeneng as COO without taking into account the recommendations of the Public Protector.
Ms Tshabalala asserted that the Minister was also under pressure, hence she invited her to be present at the 7 July board meeting after the Board had deliberated on the COO appointment in her absence, although she was waiting at the offices of the SABC at the time. Ms Tshabalala said the appointment of the COO, Mr Motsoeneng, was due to the fact that he had been acting in that position for a long time, so the legal implications were prominently in his favour and the Board had received a letter from Mr Motsoeneng’s attorney highlighting the legal implications should he not be appointed to that position on a permanent basis.
Ms Tshabalala said that the Board was not influenced by the attorney letter to appoint Mr Motsoeneng, but it was indeed influenced by the time pressures stemming from the Minister and Parliament to fill the acting positions at the time. In addition to that, Mr Motsoeneng had gained experience in that position.
The Committee pointed out that due processes and protocol were not observed and laws were broken as a result of appointing Mr Motsoeneng.
Questions asked by Members included questioning Ms Tshabalala about political interference from politicians and political parties; why Ms Tshabalala resigned; if she ran her business from the offices of the SABC; why she was implicated in the Public Protector’s Report; about the MultiChoice deal and who initiated that deal; and the archives of the SABC, and her disregard of the Public Protector’s recommendations.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee would hear testimony from Dr Sipho Ngubane and Ms Ellen Tshabalala, both former SABC Board Chairpersons. Upon completion, the Committee would then decide on the way forward.
The Chairperson then informed Dr Ngubane that he was required by law to answer fully all the questions lawfully put to him and satisfactorily. Additionally, that he was to produce any documents that he was required to produce in connection with the subject matter of the inquiry, notwithstanding the fact that the answer or document could incriminate him or expose him to criminal or civil proceedings or damages. However, he was protected in that evidence given under oath or affirmation before a House or before the committee may not be used against her in any court or place outside Parliament except in criminal proceedings concerning a charge of perjury or charge relating to the evidence or documents required in these proceedings. So help me God.
Dr Ngubane took the oath.
The Chairperson handed over to Evidence Leader, Adv Ntuthuzelo Vanara.
Hearing: Dr Ben Ngubane
Adv Vanara: Can you please for the record state your full names.
Dr Ngubane: It is Baldwin Sipho Ngubane, but also known as Ben Ngubane because my other name is Benjamin.
Adv Vanara: You were the Chairperson of the SABC Board around 2009 to 2013, is that correct?
Dr Ngubane: 2010 January until March 2013.
Adv Vanara: During that period, you were aware that the Public Protector conducted an investigation of certain happenings at the SABC. Is that correct?
Dr Ngubane: That is correct, but the final report was only released when I was no longer at the SABC.
Adv Vanara: Your Board was meant to serve a period of five years, is that correct?
Dr Ngubane: Up to 2014.
Adv Vanara: And that Board did not finish its term, can you shed the light on the circumstances.
Dr Ngubane: First of all I must remark, Chairperson, that I got your invitation to come very late towards Christmas and I had already made arrangements for my holiday. I then wrote to you that it would be impossible to appear on 10 January because I would be just returning from my holiday and, I then requested to be given the 16 January so that I can prepare myself adequately to appear before you. I was not given that but only the 13th so I have not had enough time to prepare for this. First of all, your letter gave me the terms of reference of this inquiry, and this inquiry is about the current SABC Board to seek out its ability to take correct decisions and to lead the SABC. My Board, the one I chaired, was never mentioned in those terms of reference, in fact the terms of reference are even more confusing because you speak of previous Boards but you do not specify the time, and period. You speak of current Board members but there are no current Board members because the Board of SABC does not exist, so I have difficulty contextualising the purpose of calling me here. However, I came because I’ve served this Parliament for ten years and I respect Parliament, so I came here because the issues that were being discussed were of national importance and I want to make this clear that my head was shaved in this House in my absence. You allowed people to comment on me without letting me know that I need to be here or send someone on my behalf, so I have serious reservations and I reserve my right to take further action if your findings are adverse because I think that would be unfair. So you talk to me about why the Board I chaired was dissolved prematurely.
The Chairperson interjected and stated that the terms of reference of the Committee are very clear. And they have been adopted by the National Assembly, four hundred members of the NA, and so we are very clear about what we want to achieve. Secondly, whilst you may be correct that we are looking at the current Board, maybe we should remind you that in trying to correct the mistakes of the current Board there are certain issues that arose from the previous Boards. So ours is to try and get a sense and understand the situation and get a permanent solution, so it’s not about the individuals. Finally, when we took a decision to invite witnesses so that we could inquisitorially get to the bottom of this, it was not only limited to Board members, everybody that we thought could add value to our work was invited. So it was never about the current Board members but everybody we thought could assist Parliament in what we are trying to do. So we would request that you answer all the questions posed to you and those that were out of your tenure you could simply state so and we will take that into consideration. In our letter to you, it was stated that we need you to tell us about what transpired during your tenure, so I don’t want us to have a debate about where we are going to go and where we are not going to go. You have the right as you indicated, if you thought that what we asked was not fair and you did not prepare adequately, the Committee will take that into consideration. In terms of your appearance, we have drawn up a programme as a Committee and agreed on the programme and our programme was informed by the deadlines that Parliament had set for us. That you were on recess is something that we took into consideration, thus we allowed you three extra days of preparation. We could not move to the 16th without jeopardising our own deadlines as a Committee. I thought we had corresponded with your lawyers after they sent the second or third letter, we tried to reach a middle ground and I’m hoping that we would have at least allowed you more time. I thought that it was a compromise from both sides that we afford you the opportunity.
I would not want us to have a dialogue in terms of fairness of the proceedings and if there is any dissatisfaction, you may register that with the Committee and we will take that into consideration in our report. The letter dated 15 December stated that you would be expected to respond to what happened during your tenure. And right now, you’ve just sworn that you will answer all the questions legally put to you notwithstanding the reservations, so I’m appealing to both sides that we try and conduct this business as amicably as we can. I would have thought that these reservations would have been brought to the Committee prior so that a consensus could be reached but to bring them to this level, it’s something that we cannot talk to because you were given adequate time to prepare. I hope we can now take this matter forward, and members will engage any questions they need to engage, but indeed you reserve the right if you feel you are not adequately prepared and for the record you can state so and that will be dealt with in our final report.
Dr Ngubane: With respect Chairperson, one cannot compress three years of events into three days, the time was not adequate. There were huge events that occurred in the SABC right from the time of the interim report and taking over trying to resolve the issues. The problems at the SABC begin around 2007/8, the last profit report at SABC was in 2006 and so it’s a long story.
There was the Auditor General (AG) report which was ordered by the Portfolio Committee on Communications. The AG did a full and complete study of events in terms of governance, financial management, compliance and all sorts of things that govern a corporation. Not only that, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) also did its work, there were a lot of issues raised but the issue that collapsed the Board was the SIU report dealing with the public viewing areas put together for the 2010 World Cup, and this was during the tenure of the Board I chaired. The SIU questioned the dereliction of fiduciary duty on the part of my Board when it came to bidding, adjudication, and finalising the suppliers for the public viewing areas. They classified this expenditure as fruitless and wasteful and irregular expenditure and questioned whether my Board was not criminally responsible, but the SIU put in a qualifier that the extent of the negligence and responsibility would have to be examined further. The lawyers said the report could not be handled or dealt with by the Board; it was a matter to be handled by the Minister because the Board could not be a player and referee at the same time. Now the issue comes here, and the message was conveyed through the then Acting COO, Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng. The Board members then asked for the report, but Hlaudi refused because he said the legal opinion was that the report should be sent to the Minister, that was when the fight started. I then said to my colleagues that if the legal opinion states that it must be given to the Minister, surely it must be so, and then many arguments unveiled, and the members convened a meeting in Cape Town whilst I was engaged in Pretoria and they decided that they were going to demote Mr Motsoeneng to being a Stakeholder Manager in the CEO’s office. The letter (containing the Board’s resolutions) was then produced to me. I stated that the process was in contravention of the Broadcasting Act, that you cannot call a meeting and not invite the Chairperson when he is in the country and available. So I did not recognise the resolution or the meeting, and then I resigned because to me the Board had become dysfunctional. So that is how the Board collapsed.
Adv Vanara: You are correct the Public Protector Report was released after your Board ceased to exist, but knowing that the report dealt with the happenings during your tenure at SABC, did you have sight of the report or did you read the report?
Dr Ngubane: I had sight of the provisional Report. I then wrote a long letter in response to the provisional Report to the Public Protector on behalf of the Board. The Public Protector dealt with Hlaudi falsifying his matric qualification, irregular salary increments and also the increases that he had given his staff. I pointed all this out. For instance, on the issue of matric, Hlaudi was appointed at the SABC in 1995. He was a street kid without parents, but he managed to get sufficient help to go to school, he had reached the level of matric but he couldn’t finish that so he kept studying on and off. However, because he was a street smart person he organised plays during the struggle period in community halls, he went to local sport events and sent reports to the SABC about sport events and activities in the Free State and these reports were good enough to be used. Later in 2003 Alwyn Kloppers who was SABC Head of Regions, realising that the audience ratings at radio stations started to rise from very low levels where advertisers had not been putting money in those stations. So realising that those stations were doing well, and they found out that it was because they were reporting relevant news, because Hlaudi was providing relevant news, so they decided that they needed to take him on permanently. Kloppers put an affidavit to the Public Protector stating exactly why he employed Hlaudi knowing that he did not have a matric qualification, and Hlaudi had told him that he did not have a matric qualification. The Head of the Station of Lesedi FM also submitted an affidavit to the Public Protector stating why they took Hlaudi in. Naturally you would have expected this to influence the final report but it did not. In fact, the Public Protector did not even consider those affidavits. I also stated that we came in to the SABC in 2010 and Hlaudi had been in the SABC from 1995, previous Boards and management did not see his not having a maric as an issue, even the head of radio at the time knew that he did not have matric but they needed his skills. There was a political dimension to this, there were many black kids who came from similar backgrounds as Hlaudi; the justification was that should we leave those people outside the system? As a result there are many people employed at the SABC who do not have a matric, even today.
Adv Vanara: All I was asking was whether you had sight of the final report of the Public Protector, so due to time pressures - I’d like to give you the whole day - but unfortunately I only have 45 minutes so it will help that you answer the questions that I pose to you.
Dr Ngubane: I did not have sight of the report, because I had left the SABC, but I do know that from Kloppers and Majavu, none of what I had said as a response to the provisional report was included in the final report.
Adv Vanara: There is evidence from this committee from Mr Phil Molefe, the former SABC Acting CEO of your Board, is that correct?
Dr Ngubane: Yes.
Adv Vanara: He has testified before the Committee that Mr Motsoeneng was the Group Executive: Stakeholder Relations and he was sitting at Board meetings at your invitation. What is your response to that?
Dr Ngubane: Phil Molefe has said things under oath that are not true at all, he said that we parachuted Hlaudi from Bloemfontein to the..
Adv Vanara interjected, and posed his question again, stating that Dr Ngubane stick to answering the questions posed.
Dr Ngubane: No, that is not true, the reason is simple, it was a Board decision that Hlaudi is not only just a stakeholder manager in the office of the GCEO, he was also a stakeholder relations spokesperson for the Board. There is a written resolution of the Board on this matter. We asked Phil Molefe to put this on the internet that the Board had taken a decision that Hlaudi would become a stakeholder for the Board. He sat in the Board meetings not as a participant but as a listener to what the requirements of the turnaround strategies were, because he had to communicate this to the unions and employees, and try to build trust between the employees, the Board and the unions.
Adv Vanara: Was Mr Motsoeneng reporting to the Group CEO?
Dr Ngubane: Mr Motsoeneng was a stakeholder person in the Group CEO office as well as to the Board by Board resolution.
Adv Vanara: Now protocol and good governance practice dictate not to interfere with the role of the CEO, and that the Board maintains minimum contact with other employees of the corporation and that its link between the corporation and the Board be the CEO. Isn’t that the correct protocol?
Dr Ngubane: We get people invited to the Board meetings as well as subcommittee meetings of the Board but that does not amount to interfering, either with the other group executives or with the GCEO. Phil Molefe, he was a friend of Hlaudi’s. The only problem later on is that they quarrelled over some personal difference. On the issue of Hlaudi and Molefe, the issue never arose with Board members because the duties were very clear.
Adv Vanara: There is evidence before the Committee that Mr Motsoeneng, or whoever, prepared a memorandum for a salary hike of R500 000, and that you called Mr Molefe in the office to persuade him to approve the salary or bonus of R500 000. Is that correct?
Dr Ngubane: No, that is not correct. As a Chairperson, I do not originate salary increases or any financial matter that comes from the relevant stakeholders in the SABC. In this case Human Resources and the Finance Department did so. What Phil said, was an attempt to damage my name. He spoke of me and Hlaudi threatening him. There was never such a meeting. You can ask him to produce proof of the letter or document, the only document I have in my presentation is one of a formal proposal to adjust Mr Motsoeneng’s salary to the level of other Group Executives. This was proposed by the Head of HR and it was signed off by Lulama, the then CEO, and I approved it as the Chairman, because it was not a general salary increase but it was an adjustment.
Adv Vanara: Who appointed Mr Motsoeneng as the Acting Group COO?
Dr Ngubane: It was the Board of the SABC.
Adv Vanara: Will there be a resolution of the Board to that effect?
Dr Ngubane: Yes, there is, but that’s part of the problem I have, which is not being able to collect those documents.
Adv Vanara: I just want to read from the Public Protector Report what her findings were about Mr Motsoeneng’s appointment as Acting COO. It says ‘the allegation that the appointment of Mr Motsoeneng as Acting COO was irregular is substantiated. By allowing him to act without requisite qualification and for a period in excess of three months without the requisite Board resolution and exceeding the capped salary allowance, the SABC Board acted in violation of the SABC’s 19.2 Articles of Association which deals with appointments, SABC policy number HR002/98/A Acting in Higher Scale and Chapter 5 of the Broadcasting Act which regulates acting appointments and this constitutes improper conduct and maladministration.’.
Dr Ngubane: That is not correct.
Adv Vanara: I have not posed a question. Now, this report of the Public Protector has not been set aside by a court of law, do you agree?
Dr Ngubane: Well it came after I left the SABC so I’m not sure if they (subsequent Board) have applied for a review, but I’m saying appointment to a senior acting position depends on your skill code. If your skill code is equivalent to the actual permanent person, you can be designated as acting in that position; it does not require academic qualifications. It’s a matter of the level that you are on.
Adv Vanara: Is it correct that this entire report has not been set aside as a court of law? If you do not know, it’s fine you don’t know.
Dr Ngubane: I was not there when the final report came out, so I’m not sure what actions have been taken or are in the pipeline.
Adv Vanara: What worries me is that you keep on raising this answer that subsequent to your departure at SABC, you didn’t follow the developments around this particular report. Why? Is it because you didn’t care?
Dr Ngubane: When I left the SABC it should have meant that they sent me the report; unfortunately you want simple answers to complex questions. I was appointed to be Chairman of the Land Bank and of the SABC concurrently, when I ceased my work at the SABC I concentrated fully on my work at the Land Bank. I did not visit the SABC offices at any stage after I left. When I tell you I did not have sight of the report, it was because I left.
Adv Vanara: I’m not disputing that you did not have sight. Now I’m telling you the reason that you didn’t read the report is because you didn’t care about the damage that you caused the SABC.
Dr Ngubane: I did not cause damage at SABC, I saved the SABC. It was bankrupt when we came, the regulations were not observed, even the financial statements for the public service broadcaster and public commercial broadcaster were not finalised. It was in a mess, we sat around to try and stop the haemorrhaging of money out of the SABC, the AG found that, if you read the AG’s report, so do not accuse me falsely for destroying the SABC.
Adv Vanara: This is 10.1.2 of the Public Protector’s Report, it says ‘the former Board Chairman Dr Ben Ngubane further acted irregularly when he ordered that the qualification requirements for the appointment of the position of the COO be altered to remove academic qualifications as previously advertised, which was clearly aimed at tailor-making the advert to suit Mr Motsoeneng’s circumstances. This constitutes improper conduct, maladministration, and the abuse of unjustifiable exercise of power.’ That is what she is saying.
Dr Ngubane: Could you produce such advert because there was no advert that I altered.
Adv Vanara: I have not yet posed a question, I’ve just read you what the Public Protector said in her report, which you had no interest in reading after you saw the provisional report. So I’m still to ask you a question.
Dr Ngubane: I wish the Public Protector has produced or included such an advert, because when someone comes to the Public Protector to say that Ngubane changed such an advert, Motsoeneng’s appointment as COO never featured in my time, the only thing that featured was Motsoeneng’s appointment as an Acting COO which did not require an advert. So I wish to see the advert, because no advert ever came out on Motsoeneng’s promotion or filling the COO position in my time.
Adv Vanara: It would have served you well if you read that Public Protector Report and disagreed with it in a manner you are disagreeing with it now, and took it on review and had it set aside. Now because you did not read the final report, because of that you did not see what was in the report. You deprived yourself of an opportunity to raise the issues that you are raising now and unfortunately this Committee is not going to entertain that. In law the report of the Public Protector rightly or wrongly, whatever it says, it has not been set aside. So we take these issues as they stand because they have never been challenged. What do you have to say about that?
Dr Ngubane: Whatever the Public Protector said was said in the context of my work at SABC, I was not going to be able to foot the bill for a review process on my own. It was obviously the Corporation’s business to take the report on review, so to falsely accuse one of that is unfair.
Adv Vanara: Furthermore, the Public Protector says in view of your salary increases between yourself, Ms Mokhobo and whatever the HR report was saying that ‘the allegation that Mr Motsoeneng’s salary progression was irregular, is also substantiated that Mr Motsoeneng received salary appraisals three times in one year as alleged hiking his salary as Executive Manager Stakeholder Relations from R1.5 million to R2.4 million. His salary progression as acting Chief Operations Officer concomitantly rose irregularly from R122 961 to R211 172 which (63% increase) in 12 months. This was in violation of the Part IV of the SABC Personnel Regulations and SABC Policy HR002/9A/A Acting In Higher Scale and this constitutes improper conduct and maladministration.’ This is what the Public Protector says about you. Subsequent to this damning report, at least you will agree with me, whether it is true or false, this report is damning on you personally and professionally. Is that correct?
Dr Ngubane: No, that is not correct.
Adv Vanara: So is this report praising you? What I have read now.
Dr Ngubane: This report is created out of statements that I was not asked to corroborate, now if someone gives information and the person being accused is not given a chance to respond to that. Let me put it to you, SABC’s salaries are normally very high, there were a series of adjustments to salaries but all within the parameters of salaries at SABC. Itani [Tsiesi] received a salary progression, he was the highest paid at SABC. To address this issue you will have to take the whole HR documentation and recommendations about everybody who received salary progressions, why pick just on one case.
Chairperson: I think the question we should be asking is is he aware that there was a salary increase of 63%? Secondly, as the accounting officer at the time, the bus stopped with you. So do you think that a salary increase of 63% in one year is something normal? You were the accounting officer, and somebody gets a 63% increase regardless of what it is, so as the accounting officer, do you think that 63% increase is something that sat comfortably with you as the Board.
Dr Ngubane: Let’s put it this way, the SABC is audited by independent auditors and the AG also came into the picture in the audit of the SABC. None of the audit findings point to that as an irregular, improper, fruitless and wasteful expenditure. Now comes a report from this side, which raises an issue that we had considered to be a normal part of the process. Hlaudi came from the provinces at a very low salary and he gets given positions that make him reach the group executive level and the disparity is huge when you consider what people get in the regional offices and headquarters once they become group executive chiefs. So if you work in that environment, a salary increase of 63%, considering where the person comes from, taking into consideration the stages that he went through, is not abnormal and Hlaudi came into that situation because of the failure of group executives who were earning huge salaries and therefore, the disparities had to be corrected.
Adv Vanara: The report of the Public Protector, particularly the provisions that I have read. Were they singing praises of you and your Board, or was it an indictment of you and your Board. Yes or no?
Dr Ngubane: No, it is not that simple/ I have told you let us not make this something of an awkward situation. There were complex issues involved so you can’t say just yes or no. As I tell you this Committee will have to go to the SABC and look through all the recordings and documentation before you can come and judge us. The Public Protector never did that, so if she chooses to condemn me, it is her choice. So I will not accept that as condemnatory or praiseworthy because it is not informed by fact.
Adv Vanara: Ordinarily I would have loved to entertain and believe you, but the problem is that you never challenged the report and it stands. I have been asking all of these questions because I want to ask you if you know about consequence management.
Dr Ngubane: Of course I do, as I said there was a new Board at SABC, they took over where we left. I think they did launch a request for a review of that report but I will have to verify that. I was not involved in that, and I could not do the review on a personal level. It’s just impossible.
Adv Vanara: Why would you not launch the review in your personal capacity, when some of the provisions are damning in your personal capacity.
Dr Ngubane: How many millions would that cost, and who would pay for that?
Adv Vanara: So there is this report that speaks very badly about you both in your personal capacity and as a leader of the Board, and nothing happens to you and you get appointed as a Chairman of the Eskom Board. Isn’t that so?
Dr Ngubane: I would have loved to review the report, and I did submit my response to the provisional report, the fact that she chose not to take that into account, well I mean, I was disempowered. She could have just said that she rejects the response, or give me greater clarity and that would have been a different situation.
Adv Vanara: In view of this report which is damning of your personal capacity and leadership capacity, is there any reason why this Committee should not recommend to the National Assembly for you to be removed as the Board Chairman at Eskom for reasons specified in the Public Protector’s Report.
Dr Ngubane: There are courts in this country. I will challenge that action with all my might. I am sure that the decent citizens of this country will contribute to my fund to challenge that because it is not based on fact. It is based on someone’s conclusions without taking the necessary trouble to get the truth.
Adv Vanara: So for you to be removed from your current position, you would find money to fight that course but you didn’t have to go find money to fight this report that is damning of you.
Dr Ngubane: I told you there was a Board that succeeded our Board, it was up to them to challenge the review not individuals that have left office. So you are asking me an impossible question to get to a wrong conclusion, if you want to remove me from my position you can do so. I have served this country well in different categories. I served well at the Land Bank because the circumstances were different; there was a CEO there who knew the duties of a CEO, financial controls, and good governance. We came at the same time to the SABC, the CEO was very weak, internal controls systems were very weak and financial controls were also very weak. It was a very complex environment so I was not going to go and raise money on a matter that the Board at SABC should have taken up. I have asked one official, and as far as they are concerned, there is an application at the court to review the Public Protector’s Report.
Adv Vanara: Let me correct you, the application to review is not a court order to set aside the report. Mr Msulwa Daca whom you recommended as CFO of the SABC at the time, why was he not eventually appointed in that position; instead Ms Duda was appointed.
Dr Ngubane: Minister Padayachee, who is late, rejected the appointment of the CEO that we decided on for SABC. Mr Tau More had been an excellent candidate and we had written to the Minister and said we want to appoint Mr Tau More. Mr Padayachee called a special AGM, and changed the Articles of Association that he would take recommendations from the Board but he will appoint, and that’s how Mr Tau More was sidelined from becoming the CEO of SABC. Unfortunately, Minister Padayachee passed away and we had to restart the whole process of appointing a new CEO under Minister Dina Pule, and she said give me names that you think are appoint-able and we had panels. We did that, and she appointed Lulama Makhobo not Phil Molefe and somebody else who was there. Then comes the CFO position, we conduct interviews and set up panels, three names came up including Mr Daca, and the Minister said no and asked who did you interview and we gave her the whole list. She then said, as far as I know, there are complaints that some of the people have been left out who were shortlisted, so HR says the only name they have and think must have been a mistake to leave out was Gugu Duda and so again the panels were constituted and she was given a chance and the name was sent to the Minister, and the Minister appointed Duda. What we didn’t know at the time is that Lulama and Gugu were related to the Minister, they are relatives. So the side-lining of our recommendation follows the new Articles of Association that enables the Minister to be the one who decides on these three important positions: CEO, CFO and COO.
Adv Vanara: Lastly, with regards to the TNA Breakfast show, there were discussions that started during your tenure. Were you aware of those discussions?
Dr Ngubane: Phil hosted 16 Breakfast shows without the approval of the Board and he ordered 800 copies of The New Age to come to the SABC. We called him in, and he gave a business case why the breakfast shows were important. First of all the SABC was using its staff and production equipment for the shows. The ads would come in during the shows and that was good revenue for SABC. For instance, for 30 minutes the lowest price of a half a minute is R90 000, and an ad during a big show like Generations, a half a minute is R110 000. When you look at how many breaks that come in on the breakfast shows you can see the revenues that SABC gets, that was the business case. So we decided to let it go on, and it was Phil Molefe who initiated that.
Adv Vanara: Thank you Chairperson. No further questions.
The Chairperson handed over to the Members to submit their questions to the candidate.
Mr H Chauke (ANC) commented that they started together with Dr Ngubane in 1994 to set up Parliament, and that he was part of the delegation that negotiated the settlement that the country has today and looking upon Dr Ngubane as a leader that has shaped towards directing the country to where it is today, that is a big contribution. He then asked about the issues that were raised which Dr Ngubane responded to, and whether Dr Ngubane has a copy of the responses that he sent to the Public Protector.
Dr Ngubane replied that there is a full report of his responses in the pack that he brought along, so that can be verified. The issues raised in the Public Protector’s Report were the issues that he had touched on already that were raised by Adv Vanara as well and he believes that there is sufficient proof of his response. Essentially, he said he was querying the Public Protector’s provisions in the provisional report.
Mr Chauke responded that Dr Ngubane understands the Constitution and the powers of the Public Protector and the final report and its findings. Now that the report had come out with this kind of damning evidence, Mr Chauke asked what is Dr Ngubane’s view as a leader in this country, particularly with the fact that his leadership is challenged.
Dr Ngubane replied that the country is in trouble, and it is far away from the spirit of CODESA and the settlement that they reached in 1994. People group one another according to the camps they are on, so that is how he views the Public Protector’s Report. The Board of Eskom is also taking the State Capture Report on review, because it is full of holes. Furthermore, he was not at SABC then and he hopes that the present Board is going to go on with the review of that final report. He believes that before the court of law he will come out clean with the evidence that will be presented. He emphasised that in his time, the institutions were working well, there were effective boards and Directors-General and they worked well, so do not compare that golden era politics with South Africa today. He said he found a horrible situation at the SABC, but he would try and fix it.
Mr Chauke said the Constitution is the cornerstone of SA’s democracy, he asked if it is not a particular arrogance that he seemingly undermines the Constitution. Publicly you challenge the Chapter 9 institutions, the Public Protector, that she will regret it if Brian Molefe leaves Eskom. He asked how he explains that, considering that he contributed in putting together the Constitution.
Dr Ngubane replied that they should go and talk to the people outside, the Members here are supposed to be representing people in the country and go out there and find the people’s views on Chapter Nine institutions. It is very different from what it used to be. Al Bashir comes to the country, the court orders the government to arrest him but they do not order him to be arrested when he goes to NYC or the UN. The court said arrest him but the government can’t because he is gone, and so where are we today? South Africa has been moved out of the ICC. So please make connections, and I am not challenging the Public Protector but the quality of information on which decisions were made, that’s all.
Mr Chauke said there is a process that needs to be followed if one is dissatisfied with the findings and that process has been outlined, and Dr Ngubane knows it very well. He argued that Dr Ngubane is not telling the truth when he says he has not seen that report because it has a serious finding about him but he refuses to stand in front of the Committee and confirm that he has in fact seen the report. The report has a serious finding about him, in fact that is the beginning of the mess that we see in SABC today. At some point the final work that the Committee must do is to recover the State’s money based on the PFMA. He asked Dr Ngubane if he would agree if the Committee were to take those steps to recover the wasteful and fruitless expenditures that occurred during his tenure and the money should be recovered from those involved.
Dr Ngubane replied that the SABC started haemorrhaging money in 2007. His Board found a mess which needed to be corrected. The Board did everything, therefore, he rejected the idea that the destruction at SABC occurred because of his Board. The Board admitted to the public viewing areas that happened under his Board’s watch and hence there was a quarrel on who should handle that report, but to say that the Board was responsible for all the mess at SABC is not true.
Ms J Kilian (ANC) asked if Dr Ngubane’s Board took over shortly after an interim Board that was under the leadership of Irene Charnley in around 2009/10.
Dr Ngubane in response agreed to that.
Ms Kilian said the interim Board actually did a lot of work and unravelled the challenges and it came up with a very useful report including the SIU and steps to be taken and implemented at the SABC. She asked how seriously the subsequent Board took that report.
Dr Ngubane replied that Ms Kilian should refer to the two reports of the SCOPA engagements. The Board took the report from the interim Board, and in fact had a joint session with the interim Board when his Board took over. There was a list of issues that needed attention. Solly Mokoetle who was the Group CEO was taken to task two months later by the Board for showing no progress. He had set up a turnaround policy unit in his office run by Itani and Mr Mthembu and the Acting COO. It was clear what needed to be done, how to strengthen internal audit and so on but there was no traction because the people who were supposed to carry that out did not, they were part of the system. That’s why Hlaudi was brought in from the outside to try and help the CEO.
Ms Kilian said when Hlaudi was parachuted in, apparently he was parachuted into the office of Mr Mokoetle and thereafter he escalated to the positions he held and the salary increases, the problem of the SABC at that time was finance indeed. She asked how he as a board chairman could allow processes to set root under his guidance that were in fact contravening sound governance principles and King III principles. How did he allow such irregular actions and why did he not move these processes through his Board and ensure that the executives also performed their functions and reported to the Board as expected.
Dr Ngubane replied that the Board did all of that, and that ultimately they said Mr Motsoeneng we are going back to SCOPA in February 2012, and this was at the end of October after two sessions with SCOPA. The Acting COO was totally incapable of taking all these issues that had come up from the interim Board. They were going back to SCOPA and the Board was not satisfied with the Acting COO. They asked Mr Motsoeneng to establish a task team and come up with a plan and so he did, and they sat through December and January and came up with the report that could be taken to SCOPA.
Ms Kilian said the problem lies with the implementation, and that is where your Board failed because if you look at the Public Protector’s Report that is essentially the case. Your comments on the interim report are captured and the findings in the end are very unfavourable. She noted that he was due to come before the Portfolio Committee on Communications in February 2013, that there was a concern that Mr Motsoeneng had held onto the SIU report and started calling Board members and stated that he was sitting with a report that implicates them. They all realised that it was a set up, so the Board members called an urgent board meeting which was chaired by the Deputy Chairman in accordance with the Act, and it was a duly constituted meeting notwithstanding the fact that the Chairman was not present. You were then upset with the resolution taken which was a vote of no confidence that Mr Motsoeneng was using the SIU report to blackmail members, she asked for his comment on that.
Dr Ngubane replied that it was not Mr Motsoeneng who said the Board cannot handle this because they were implicated, it was legal opinion. Legal opinion said the report was to be presented to the Minister for further investigation. The other things mentioned he would not comment on because he was not at the meeting. He stated that surely the report must be sent to the Minister and he admitted that they were involved it was only the extent of the involvement that still had to be investigated.
Ms Kilian said that the Public Protector Report reported on his leadership style that Dr Ngubane acted as an executive chairperson and not as a person who operated within your Board, and that was evident in the meeting that you apparently did not attended with the Board but you had your own meeting with the Public Protector after the Board met. They were not aware about the salary increases of Mr Motsoeneng so nothing of that nature was in fact presented to the Board. Now within months of the appointment of the new Board in 2010, there were already concerns raised, there was a vote of no confidence in your leadership style and this was presented in Parliament to the Portfolio Committee on Communications. So right through your reign there was a problem within your Board, it was not just only at the end, so what is your comment on that?
Dr Ngubane replied that the only difference that was prominent was the appointment of the Head of News; the Board differed in terms of the criteria that were going to be used. However, in the end the Board took a resolution to appoint Phil Molefe as Head of News; the Board agreed on that including the Minister. Of all the candidates, his interview record showed that he had a credible plan with regards to austerity measures in reducing the R900 million news budget to R600 million, he had worked this out very clearly. So initially with this there had been a big fight and it came to Parliament and Parliament ordered them to go back and solve it. There was never a vote of no confidence in him by the Board, otherwise he would have left.
Ms Kilian said a presentation made to the Portfolio Committee at the time and the Board members expressed a serious concern about the way the Board was chaired under Dr Ngubane. So unfortunately part of this is part of the history and that also precipitated the resignation of four prominent members of the Board including Ms Barbara Masekela amongst others. Clearly there was a concern and these people expressed their views as a collective but there was no appetite to deal with that unfortunately, it appears. Consequently, we believe that the Public Protector’s findings are of a serious nature and points to what we experience as Parliament through our committee work. In fact, it must be borne out as a serious lesson for Parliament to know how to direct state owned companies and make them accountable to Parliament and this process is part of a new rigour to ensure that entities and departments account effectively to Parliament and Parliament will do its oversight work thoroughly.
Dr Ngubane replied that they had been to the portfolio committee meetings and it accepted the progress that was made and in fact it congratulated the Board for being able to save enough money to pay back the larger part of the Nedbank loan in two years that was backed by the government when the agreed payment period was four years and this was attributable to the stringent measures that were put in place. When one leads in this country, one needs to be tough. Democracy is good but democracy needs to be supported by decisive action. He realised that the problems were so huge that they could not afford to appoint people just because of their track record but people who can work. Back to Motsoeneng again, he helped him re-establish trust between the union and the employees at the SABC. If the committee wishes, it can conduct interviews or surveys from the employees, he eliminated labour problems, he also eliminated the freelancing system which meant a lot of people were not covered because they are employed through labour brokers and he made them permanent and receive full benefits. He took me to the regions a number of times to talk to people at regional level to reassure them that their troubles are being looked into, the structure of reporting in the regions as well as some elements of procurement were changed as a result. So we have done a lot of work to make SABC work, but it’s unfortunate that it is not seen or recognised. The Board reported to the Portfolio Committee on the progress made and it was satisfied.
Ms F Loliwe (ANC) said that Dr Ngubane stated that one cannot appoint people due to their track record, so please share with us how he can sit there and say that when Ms Nompilo Dlamini stated to the Committee that Dr Ngubane recommended a by the name of Dick Foxton to be the spokesperson and publicist for Lulama Mokhobo when he was still at the SABC.
Dr Ngubane replied that he did not appoint that company. The company was a publicist who said that he can repair the SABC image with the press and he discussed this with Lulama because she was the CEO. The publicist and Lulama went into a long engagement as to how we can bring the editors together and help project the changes that were taking place at SABC. “It was not me who did that”.
Ms Loliwe asked if he recommended them because he knew them from a previous company he worked at.
Dr Ngubane replied emphatically “no”. He knew them because they are a publicist or an advocacy person, there are many companies that do advocacy work and he did not have the power to appoint. He just said that this person has offered to do this for her. When he said that people must not be appointed based on their track record he meant that it must be horses for courses. He may have a certificate hanging on the wall but not be able to execute what the task now needs, and so Hlaudi did some wonderful work despite the fact that he did not have a formal university qualification.
The Chairperson stated that what Ms Loliwe put to him now is an affidavit that the Committee received. If indeed he stands by what he is saying, the Committee will believe it but then this person has misled Parliament through an affidavit. When Ms Loliwe asked if he recommended or participated in the recommendation, did he stand by that because the Committee will certainly follow this up. What is in the affidavit is contrary to what he is saying.
Dr Ngubane replied that he does not know who Ms Dlamini is. There was a dispute in supply chain management and he was asked to try and sort it out. He warned that one cannot just give tenders and procure without following the proper supply chain management structures. He does not remember her but he remembers the occasion and there was a huge dispute and he was trying to settle that dispute.
The Chairperson stated that somebody has certainly lied or misled Parliament, and there will be dire consequences for whoever misled Parliament.
Ms Loliwe said Dr Ngubane stated that Mokhoba and Duda were related to the Minister, does that imply that they were appointed “despite meeting the requirements” as they were both appointed. If no, what did he mean by ‘little did we know that they were related to the Minister’, and what is the significance of that?
Dr Ngubane replied that the significance of that is that there was no declaration at the time of the interviews. The SABC had a talent search company which interviewed all candidates, a priori, and they even searched the credit bureau in terms of finding out more about the people, so people had to declare their interests upfront. When it came to investigating the allocation of R1.7 million, which was unauthorised by Ms Duda, for a conference organised by the Minister, it came up that in fact they were related to the Minister. If we knew this at the time, it would have sent warning signals. Phil Molefe got the highest marks in the interview followed by another candidate whose name he does not remember. We were very concerned when we discovered during the investigation that in fact there was a relation, because this cast doubt on whether they were in fact capable or not.
Ms Loliwe said he also alluded to the fact that Mr Motsoeneng refused to give the SIU report to the Board, saying the report is to be given to the Minister and he did not do anything. She asked what the implications of a non-executive being dictated to by an executive are.
Dr Ngubane replied that they were acting on the legal advisor’s’ opinion which came through the COO’s office and at the time Hlaudi was an Acting COO and all correspondence from the lawyers was coming through Hlaudi’s office. The lawyers had said the matter was to be taken to the Minister and that is all the dispute was about.
Ms Loliwe said Dr Ngubane was the Board chairman and during his tenure, Mr Motsoeneng refused to give the Board the SIU report and nothing happened. He also stated that Phil hosted 16 breakfast shows without the approval of the Board and he went on to applaud that this brought in revenue to the SABC. She asked as the Board Chairman, why he allowed this scenario to happen.
Dr Ngubane replied that this became an issue for the Board because there was no proper contract with the newspaper (TNA), and they wanted to formalise it. Phil presented us with a business case and we felt that it was a good business case and should continue.
Ms Loliwe asked during his reign at the SABC, if what one did brings in money even if it is done irregularly, it gets applauded as in this case.
Dr Ngubane replied that he did not know. The event happened and ultimately we raised issues about the contract and the terms and conditions. By the way, the news office has a lot of autonomy in carrying out productions, so ultimately we got a good business case and we decided to continue.
Ms Loliwe asked why it was questioned at first if the news office has its own autonomy.
Dr Ngubane in response stated that for instance Phil Molefe went to India to look for partners to start the 24 hour news channel. He wanted to use SABC 3 as the 24 hour news channel. On his return, we discovered that we could not use SABC 3 as a news channel because it is a commercial station according to its licence. Things happen and there comes a time when the Board gets involved, because it must now finally approve the breakfast show as a project.
Ms Loliwe noted Dr Ngubane said the controls at SABC, the CEO and COO were very weak. What can he trace as his legacy to strengthen them whilst he was Board Chairman?
Dr Ngubane replied that it was the processes he undertook to stop the stealing of money. There were companies formed to channel funding from ads to different companies and individuals. For instance, the TV sales were being registered on landmark which is computer system, but for a person to claim a commission it had to go into SAP, so people would quickly put it on landmark and register it on SAP and collect the commission and then erase the paper trail. We changed all of that, which is why SABC could recover and pay the loan in a matter of two years. We put in many controls; that is why the haemorrhaging stopped. What caused the soliciting of the R1.7 billion government guarantee was due to people stealing money and we stopped that.
The Chairperson said on the last point made, the PFMA makes the Board the accounting authority and it says the Board must prevent unauthorised and irregular and fruitless expenditure, that’s the law of the land. The Companies Act sets out clearly the fiduciary duties of the directors and part of it is the protection of the assets of the company. Dr Ngubane has said that Mr Molefe and other people broke the law but regardless of the fact that they broke the law and accrued unauthorised and fruitless expenditure, as the accounting officer the only thing that matter to him is that it brought in revenue. Is that what mattered to him? As directors, they allowed this to happen contrary to the relevant acts, but he is saying that in hindsight it brought revenue. Therefore, it was not seen as a problem. Now the question is why he allowed Phil Molefe to enter into contracts without following the proper supply chain management and proper procurement procedures, and why was it allowed to continue?
Dr Ngubane replied that there are many outside broadcast events that take place. The editorial office takes many initiatives. If they did not do that, very few important things would have happened. The breakfast shows did not cost the SABC any money, it was the TNA that arranged the venues and got the Ministers to speak. It became clear to us there was no reason to stop that, because we were not losing money and our own shows were using our own people. There was advantage, when the case was put to us to formalise the relationship. The Board agreed but it was not a matter of condoning irregular and fruitless expenditure.
Mr N Singh (IFP) said that he does not understand why someone who has been at the SABC for a long time and reached Group Executive level does not consider furthering his education or finishing his matric, and that is something that the Board could have encouraged him to do. How does one explain this?
Dr Ngubane replied that there were 1500 employees at SABC doing work and supplying services, that’s where Ms Dlamini’s story comes from also. It became very clear that from the internal people you could not get traction in implementing the AG report because most of them were involved and making extra money and doing outside work without authorisation. Solly was right; he needed someone from outside who was not part of the system, hence Hlaudi. We got the task team that did exceptionally well, he had the ability to win the confidence of the people and organise them in such a way that work was done. The task team changed the whole perception of SCOPA and the Portfolio Committee on Communications about the turnaround strategies.
Mr Singh said that one of the Board members had said in a statement that ‘Dr Ngubane unfortunately often acted as an executive chairperson. Time and again we attempted to fix his mistakes after the fact and by a way of example I will briefly mention his illegal appointment of Mr Phil Molefe as a head of the news and current affairs without the approval of the Board.’ What did he have to say about this?
Dr Ngubane replied that if he goes back to the resolutions and minutes of the Board, Phil Molefe, after some differences of opinion, was endorsed by the full Board. Minister Nyanda presided at one of these meetings. Views were reconciled and examined in a scientific and proper manner, the weightings that had been given to each candidate in those interviews, and the Board agreed to give the position to Phil Molefe.
Ms P Van Damme (DA) said the picture of the SABC he painted under his tenure is one of success, that things were going well and he did nothing wrong and all the witnesses that came before the Committee were lying. She did not want to make assumptions, so she wanted to give him the opportunity to state two instances where he did wrong and took responsibility.
Dr Ngubane replied that we did not achieve what the Board set out to achieve. When you try to clean up a distressed organisation, the first step is to clean. Secondly, you stabilise and then manage for sustainability. And if you are lucky you enter the stage of fit for future. We tried to clean up and there were many hitches, because we were non-executive. We cannot really go in and operate the system and sometimes it happens where you instruct people to do things and then people tell you that you are being operational. However, the stealing of money was stopped during his time, which is why the SABC could accumulate money and pay back Nedbank. When he left he thought the Board had achieved something.
Ms Van Damme said she asked him about failures, but he did not take any responsibility for any failures once again and ended off talking about successes. At the end of his tenure, the SABC had R1 billion undocumented expenditure and R100 million fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and that is not a sign of success but of significant failure and Dr Ngubane is responsible for some of the problems that SABC experienced after his tenure. It is astounding that after he left the SABC, he did not take the opportunity to get hold of the Public Protector’s Report. Once again, is it correct that he never read the report that was drafted by a Chapter Nine institution related to his tenure at the SABC?
Dr Ngubane replied that he presumed he could have gone to the SABC to get the report but he did not. He said through conversations he knew that what he responded to in the provisional report was not included in the final report, and he thought the SABC Board would take the matter on review and he then got caught up with other things. He said he did enquire and was told that the application was made at the Gauteng High Court. Furthermore, he did not say that there were no failures. The Board failed to implement the AG’s report fully. Some of the prosecutions failed to give evidence and so it could not go forward. The quarrel between the Board and the Acting COO was about the SIU report that referred to the Board in terms of its own failure to control and stop fruitless and wasteful expenditure. Therefore, he accepted that the SIU report could not come to the Board because it was implicated.
Ms Van Damme said he did not have to go the SABC to read the report it was publicly available. One would assume that now that he is chairing another SOE he would have at least read a report that was drafted by a Chapter Nine institution to discover where he went wrong. This is a serious indictment on him that he never took the opportunity to read that report and what it said about him and his leadership. That is a sign that he did not care. He felt untouchable and that he was not accountable to the Public Protector and that is a serious indictment on him. Now about the Guptas and their deals at the SABC that Dr Ngubane has defended including the breakfast shows, as well as the deals at Eskom. It seems that where he goes, the Guptas follow. She asked if he has met with the members of the Guptas or their representatives. What is his relationship with the Guptas?
Dr Ngubane replied that he will be pre-empting another process that is unfolding, so with respect he would not answer the question.
Ms Van Damme said the State Capture Report deals with Eskom, so perhaps he does not want to answer that. So when he was SABC board chairperson, did he meet with any members of the Gupta family or their representatives?
Dr Ngubane replied that when the SABC started participating in the breakfast shows he would give three or four remarks. Obviously he used to sit at the table with the TNA executive because he was part of that. He did not bring the Guptas into the SABC, the whole thing came through the news channel and the Board approved the business plan.
Ms Van Damme asked if he was aware that the Guptas were trying to take over the SABC’s news division.
Dr Ngubane replied that he was aware that Phil had gone to India to meet a broadcasting company because he came back and sought permission to convert SABC into a 24 hour news channel, but we declined that.
Ms Van Damme suggested that a written submission be submitted on that because it is quite important – the part where he said Phil went to India to meet with a broadcasting company to turn SABC 3 into a news channel. Mr Molefe also said that when he refused to approve Mr Motsoeneng’s salary increase, he was summoned to Dr Ngubane. When Mr Molefe said no, Mr Motsoeneng said "Chair, I told you that this is not our man, so I'm going to Pretoria tonight’.
Ms Van Damme said that Dr Ngubane seems to dispute what everyone has said and it seems they are all lying except for him. She asked if he had a conversation with the Dina Pule to appoint Mr Motsoeneng as Acting COO, or with the President.
Dr Ngubane replied that he denies that conversation, and he does not remember such a meeting.
Ms Van Damme asked if he did not remember or it did not happen. Not remembering is plausible, right?
Dr Ngubane said he cannot remember because he thinks it did not happen. He does not know from what Molefe was taking this. This is why I wish I could see the letter in which I was recommending that.
Ms Van Damme said as a Board Chairman when someone says we will have to take this to 'Pretoria', it is not something that one can easily forget, it’s something that would stick in one’s mind for a while.
Dr Ngubane replied that he never had such discussion with Molefe and Hlaudi.
Ms Van Damme said its either a yes or no. It cannot just be I cannot remember or it never happened.
Dr Ngubane replied said that he does not remember because there is nothing that makes him remember.
Ms Van Damme said that is not a good answer. A number of witnesses have said that there was political protection from the highest office for Mr Motsoeneng. Therefore, someone of his calibre changed the requirements for the position to allow him to become COO; he approved three salary increases for him and he was invited to Board meetings because he had protection from higher offices and he was executing that protection.
Dr Ngubane replied that he explained that Hlaudi assisted the SABC and helped restored trust between the unions, and employees of the SABC, and other initiatives that the Board wanted executed and the implementation of the AG and SIU report. As far as people "saying things", I told him that this country is in a bad state. Someone tweeted that I am Zuma’s son in law, that is rubbish and these things gain traction and start trending. There is no protection that Motsoeneng gets from the President or from politicians.
Mr M Waters (DA) asked who initiated the appointment of Mr Hlaudi’s appointment for Acting COO.
Dr Ngubane replied that it was the Board, because there was no progress in the implementation of the AG and the SIU reports.
Mr Waters asked if it was not one individual who came up with it.
Dr Ngubane replied that it came through the Board and the Board accepted that.
Mr Waters said they have heard from Board members that the 63% increase was done by him unilaterally, but Dr Ngubane said that the Board approved that together.
Dr Ngubane replied that there were many adjustments happening at the SABC, as long as it was within the parameters of the salary scales and skill codes it was acceptable. It was a recommendation from HR through the finance department and GCEO.
Mr Waters said that the Board did not approve the increase, it was Dr Ngubane who approved it.
Dr Ngubane replied that all these things are in the Board minutes so they can be checked.
Mr Waters said the reason Mr Motsoeneng received the increase was because he exceeded his three months' tenure. Is that correct?
Dr Ngubane replied that he is not certain about that and that he cannot give an answer.
Mr Waters said the Board minutes will prove that. But when his increases were brought to Dr Ngubane for approval did he not ask why the acting position was not filled and why a permanent COO was not appointed at that stage?
Dr Ngubane replied that the motivation is contained in the HR document on acting positions like that of the COO. The Corporation does not advertise for them but goes according to the skill code.
Mr Waters asked why as a Board member Dr Ngubane failed to ask when the position would be advertised and filled in instead of having someone who did not have the relevant qualifications occupy it in an acting capacity for longer.
Dr Ngubane replied that Mr Motsoeneng was appointed as a Group Executive: Stakeholder Relations for five years, the appointment to Acting COO was because of the court judgement in favour of Mr Mbhebe who had been recommended by the previous Board to the Minister but the Minister did not accept that recommendation. There was no way that Charlotte Mompane could have been appointed as COO because she was also appointed in an acting position. So when Ms Mompane left, Hlaudi then occupied the acting position.
Mr Waters said that Dr Ngubane should have ensured that the position was advertised and filled appropriately.
Dr Ngubane replied that the position could not be filled before the court case judgement was executed or met with, that is why there was no COO. There was a judgement that the Minister still needed to take the matter to Cabinet but the Minister refused. So there was no filling of that position at the time. When Mr Mbhebe passed away, that is when the Minister decided to authorise the appointment of a permanent COO.
Mr Waters added which was Mr Motsoeneng, the Acting COO. Dr Ngubane stated that he would not have the money to appeal the report findings but he never read the final report, so how would he have known what he had to appeal?
Dr Ngubane replied that snippets of that report were widely publicised, but he meant formally to review it. He would not have the resources to take it on review.
Mr Waters asked when he read the snippets in the newspaper, it did not intrigue him or motivate him to get a copy of the report at all?
Dr Ngubane replied that he did not get a copy of the report. As far as he was concerned, it was going to be inherited by the next Board.
Mr Waters noted that if he was applying for a position on another board, he would have taken the time and effort to read the report because of what it says about him.
Dr Ngubane replied that he responded to the provisional report and he did not just leave it lying and did nothing. There is evidence of that in the documentation he provided.
Mr Waters said as far as The New Age is concerned, Dr Ngubane said they brought the business plan. When he said "they" he meant the newspaper?
Dr Ngubane replied that it was the acting GCEO, Mr Phil Molefe.
Mr Waters asked if The New Age newspaper was involved in the design of the business plan.
Dr Ngubane replied that it was coming from the news division, and it was presented by Mr Phil Molefe.
Mr Waters asked if there was any political pressure at all that was placed on him and the Board to accept the business plan by the Guptas given that the Guptas own the TNA.
Dr Ngubane replied that there was no political pressure on the Board, the decisions was taken by the Board on its own.
The Chairperson said that Ms Dlamini under oath states, ‘she received a call from Hlaudi informing her of an important supplier who was on his way to her office with a proposal to supply newspapers to the SABC, he requested that Ms Dlamini prepare an appointment letter for him to sign and inform other relevant members and circulate it, and from that day New Age would one of the SABC’s newspapers. Immediately a man came into the office from TNA Media. He handed her a one page document with a list of all SABC regions and a number of newspaper supplies that each would receive every month. This man told Ms Dlamini that she need not make a decision on the appointment because the matter had already been decided and finalised.’ So Mr Waters was trying to establish whether Phil approached the TNA or TNA approached Phil, and Ms Dlamini suggests that it was the other way round. This individual came to her and said she must prepare the letter for the approval because the decision was already finalised. Dr Ngubane understands it, did the SABC approach or was it approached?
Dr Ngubane replied that he does not know the processes that unfolded but he knows that Molefe agreed and initiated that 800 copies of the newspapers would come to the SABC every month, so as he understands it, it was Molefe who approached.
Mr J Mahlangu (ANC) said in his response earlier on the salary increases that the AG report did not query the increase. he said that a report came from the side. He asked which side he was referring to.
Dr Ngubane replied that the salary increase is mentioned in the Public Protector’s Report.
Mr Mahlangu said Dr Ngubane is aware that the Public Protector happens to be a Chapter Nine institution. He is sure he is aware of that but he called it a ‘side’.
Dr Ngubane replied that the Public Protector got this information not from him or from the records but someone who raised the complaint to her. Yet as far as he was concerned it was within HR parameters in the SABC.
Mr Mahlangu commented on the way Dr Ngubane spoke so passionately about Hlaudi. Given another opportunity to be at the SABC, would he confirm him as COO?
Dr Ngubane replied that he would not.
Mr Mahlangu asked why.
Dr Ngubane replied that it would be a new process. When he was there, there was no possibility of a COO and there was a court judgement on that issue. It would be a new process.
Mr Mahlangu asked if Dr Ngubane is aware that procedures were not followed for such a senior position.
Dr Ngubane replied that it was not a permanent position but an acting one, so there was no process needed. It was a matter of the Board to say that he must occupy the position.
Mr Mahlangu asked if he is aware of the atrocities that that person finally created at the SABC when senior managers were purged. Was he aware of that?
The Chairperson suggested that the word ‘atrocities’ be revised.
Dr Ngubane replied that in the Public Protector’s provisional report it speaks of purges of people in the SABC. If he went through the records, he would find that austerity measures and the terms of the government guarantee demanded that they reduce the head count by 1000. So after negotiations with trade unions and putting people at ease, Minister Nyanda asked why the process had not started. Ultimately the turnaround committee decided to recommend to the Board to start the process of head count reduction. Contracts that were expiring would not be renewed. This was endorsed at the time Robin Nicholson was the acting CEO and he wrote letters to all the people whose contracts were expiring soon warning them that their contracts would not be renewed. So the word purge is not true, it was a proper process to reduce the head count.
Mr Mahlangu asked if he was referring to the senior managers.
Dr Ngubane replied yes.
Mr Mahlangu then asked if its normal for a board chairperson to sit on an HR and appointment committee. He was raising this as a result of the appointment of the CEO and CFO then.
Dr Ngubane replied that the chairman invariably sits in the people and governance committee. The chairman does not sit on the remuneration committee. He was chairing the governance committee which made all the arrangements.
Mr Mahlangu confirmed that this was not a nominations committee but a governance committee that sat at the offices of the Spencer Steward recruitment agency.
Dr Ngubane replied that they decided to conduct the interviews at those offices because it had done the head count search, and because all the records were in that office.
Mr Mahlangu asked in his personal capacity whether he sees a justification for an individual’s salary to be increased to R1.3 million in a period of five years.
Dr Ngubane replied that he should have brought the salary structure of the SABC. When he move a person to another position, the whole structure changes in terms of payment. It was a recommendation from HR that there was a huge gap and the salary had to be adjusted.
Mr Mahlangu said in this case he picked a person without the required qualifications. Surely making such a decision would fly in the face of the King III report?
Dr Ngubane replied that, with respect, when he put a person in a position, he does not go back to the qualifications because the person is already in the position, so he remunerates them according to the scale of that position. That may come into the process of employing the person but not when a person has been long appointed in that particular position.
Mr Mahlangu asked so given the opportunity, he would do the same again. He would appoint a person who is not qualified into a position and still state that he supports the rules and dictates of law.
Dr Ngubane gave the example of people in Parliament. Some may be qualified in some expertise and some may not, but they are all MPs on the same salary scale. Regardless of whether they have a certain qualification or not, they have to behave accordingly.
Mr Mahlangu said that comparison is not relevant because the context is totally different. MPs are elected by the people. He should have known better not to make that comparison.
Mr L Mokoena (EFF) said he is not moved by the glowing picture that Dr Ngubane created of the glowing era he spoke about. The Department of Arts and Culture that he ran was one of the worst performing at the time. As for the Land Bank, he inherited a culture that was already there. And as for the SABC, he got a disclaimer. The irregular expenditure increased instead of decreased. He may have paid the Nedbank loan but the picture he created is not so glowing. As for the TNA, he says he approved a business plan. He asked at what stage in the process of installing this deal did he approve the business plan.
Dr Ngubane replied that it was after a number of breakfast shows. It was after 16 shows that it became a project of the SABC using Morning Live.
Mr Mokoena said 16 shows went on under his watch without due processes and the approval of the Board. As the Chair, he did not take any disciplinary action against Molefe or anyone else on discovering the irregularity?
Dr Ngubane replied that it was not an irregularity as such, because outside broadcast was something that happened all the time at different venues. There was no need for the Board’s approval each time. However, the fact that it was now a regular feature, the Board needed to know on what basis it was happening.
Mr Mokoena noted that Dr Ngubane said that he approved the business plan, so there was a system that would then allow him to approve a business plan. So it is a Board decision then?
Dr Ngubane replied that they came to that in order to regularise what was happening on a consistent scale or as a feature.
Mr Mokoena asked if it were not a Board decision, how he then approved a business plan.
Dr Ngubane replied that it came to Board and the Board saw the business case.
Mr Mokoena asked if it came to the Board but in a normal process it is not supposed to come to the Board.
Dr Ngubane replied in the normal process if it is a decision that it will cover certain things, it does not need to come to the Board but now the breakfast shows had become a standing feature.
Mr Mokoena noted that Dr Ngubane said he had hosted a couple of the shows. At what point in the process did he host the shows?
Dr Ngubane replied that was much later in the process.
Mr Mokoena said "you were in a state" so there were austerity plans in place due to irregular expenditure amounting to R1.5 billion. Why did he not commission the TNA deal "as standard" at the SABC.
Dr Ngubane replied that the business plan showed that there was no loss for the SABC.
Mr Mokoena asked what he meant that the SABC did not spend a cent.
Dr Ngubane replied that it came in within the Morning Live broadcast, there were adverts flighted so it was not a loss.
Mr Mokoena said that is not correct because Morning Live is a separate show. The breakfast shows were happening at different venues with different productions and sets and therefore it is different expenditure. So he cannot say that the SABC did not spend a cent.
Dr Ngubane replied that it was a part of Morning Live except that it was an outside broadcast.
Mr Mokoena said that cannot be because he said it was an outside broadcast that was outside Morning Live, therefore, a different expenditure on its own.
Dr Ngubane replied that the honourable member should go to the SABC and examine the documentation.
Mr Mokoena said that he knows production well, if you have a newsroom, it has its own production budget and if the newsroom goes into an insert somewhere else that is a separate budget by itself. He asked if he agrees with that.
Dr Ngubane replied that he is not a news person but he is just relating what he knows.
Mr Mokoena said it has been said that there was a 63% increase in Hlaudi’s salary, and Dr Ngubane said that the AG report did not report anything wrong with that. Of course this was the case, because if there was an irregular expenditure the responsibility to investigate that is the responsibility of the Board. And the AG has already told us that the Board was reluctant to investigate that. He asked Dr Ngubane what he thought about that.
Dr Ngubane replied that he had never heard that before.
Mr Mokoena remarked but that was what the AG said.
Dr Ngubane replied that he never saw that anywhere before.
Mr Mokoena asked what has he not seen, and who must implement the investigation of irregular and wasteful expenditure.
Dr Ngubane replied that if it is outside the parameters, and it is within the business plan of HR to implement salary increases to equalise earnings.
Mr Mokoena said, "No sir, if it is irregular expenditure, the PFMA and the AG regulations dictate that it is the responsibility of the Board to investigate irregular expenditure. He asked why the Board not investigate that irregular expenditure.
Dr Ngubane replied that it was because it was not irregular expenditure.
Mr Mokoena asked if he calls a 63% increase regular for one person in one year.
Dr Ngubane replied that these were tiers of upgrading which were within the parameters of HR, so it was not and could not be reported as irregular.
Mr Mokoena said that in the beginning Dr Ngubane stated that he had not read the Public Protector’s Report, and then he did not know if there was a review of the Public Protector’s Report and then later he stated that he enquired, and found out that there was a review at the High Court. He asked so which one is it: whether he knew there was a review or not.
Dr Ngubane replied that he knows now because he had checked.
Mr Mokoena said but in the beginning he said he did not know. Was he lying to Parliament?
Dr Ngubane replied that he is not lying to Parliament. He did not follow up on the actions that had to be taken because he was outside of the SABC but now he has checked to find out the position of the Board on the review.
Mr Mokoena said it is not only Phil Molefe who said that Hlaudi used to sit in the Board meetings at his request, the Secretary also confirmed that. He asked what his reason for inviting him to board meetings was.
Dr Ngubane replied that, as mentioned before, he was invited because they were faced with a refusal to implement the AG report and the turnaround strategy.
Mr Mokoena asked what regulation he relied on to invite a non board member to sit in the meeting.
Dr Ngubane replied that Mr Motsoeneng became the stakeholder responsible for communicating Board decisions to the staff, so it was a simple operational situation.
Mr N Nkwankwa (UDM) said Dr Ngubane painted a glowing picture about Hlaudi in the SABC during his tenure. He shared his concern about the fact that it seems there are many people praising Hlaudi. He asked what skills he brought to the SABC that were extraordinary.
Dr Ngubane replied that when one convinces a trade union that it must accept a turnaround strategy in an organisation, it is a prominent skill, and uplifts the low level staff in the organisation so that most part time and casual employees became permanent. There were also many issues in the implementation of the AG report that we depended on Mr Motsoeneng to drive. For instance the task team he led that worked through to produce significant steps in prosecutions and disciplinary hearings that were not happening before.
Mr Nkwankwa said perhaps the undermining of the GCEO started then because Hlaudi then became the CEO in terms of managing those relationships. When Dr Ngubane answered the question posed by Adv Vanara earlier about qualifications and minimum requirements, he said he wanted to see the advertisement because he said he did not change any advertisement because it was an acting position which is true. The Public Protector’s Report does not say that he changed the advertisement but it says that he ordered the qualifications and minimum requirements for the position to be altered to remove academic qualifications as previously advertised. In any environment, whether a position has been advertised or not, to appoint a person in an acting capacity there are minimum requirements that must be adhered to, is that not so?
Dr Ngubane said no. It is the skill code level that decides who gets what acting position.
Mr Nkwankwa asked if he did not consider minimum requirements, is that what he is saying?
Dr Ngubane replied that if he is already at a group executive level in any organisation then he can be appointed to an acting position.
Mr Nkwankwa asked even if he arrived into those positions irregularly?
Dr Ngubane said no.
Mr Nkwankwa said Dr Ngubane mentioned that Mr Motsoeneng assisted the SABC to re-establish trust between the organisation and the trade unions and its employees, right?
Dr Ngubane said yes.
Mr Nkwankwa said he had been told that Dr Ngubane refused to fly economy class when he was coming down here. Is that correct?
Dr Ngubane said yes, because he paid for his own ticket.
Mr Nkwankwa asked so Dr Ngubane paid for business class even though the Committee offered him a ticket?
Dr Ngubane said yes.
Mr Nkwankwa said it seems Dr Ngubane has a negative perception about the Chapter Nine institutions and says that people out there have a negative perception about these institutions too. But when Mr Nkwankwa interacts with the people out there, and he moves around in circles as a person who campaigns on a daily basis, they do not hold a similar views as Dr Ngubane when it comes to Chapter Nine institutions. Mr Nkwankwa had also interacted with some of the SABC employees. They do not hold similar views about what Dr Ngubane is saying about Hlaudi. Someone in this meeting said that he has terrorised them, and we had to change the words but that is pretty much what they said, some of them live in fear. He asked would Dr Ngubane not say that his perception is influenced by the circles that he moves in, like the business class circle not the ordinary members of the public.
Dr Ngubane replied that he is talking about an era where we were facing certain difficulties and having someone who was able to help us solve those difficulties.
Mr Nkwankwa said the difficulties still remain and have gotten worse. He was shocked by one of the statements Dr Ngubane made in relation to the Public Protector Report, saying if he belongs to a particular faction he will be destroyed or killed in this country. Therefore, he portrayed the Public Protector Report as the outcome of a faction, rather than a report of a Chapter Nine institution. He asked if Dr Ngubane honestly holds that to be a valid statement.
Dr Ngubane replied that he did not say all those things but that when he traces back the submissions those things come from factions.
Mr Nkwankwa said but that was his assessment and view of the Public Protector’s Report when he was asked why he did not read the Public Protector’s Report; that was what he said.
Dr Ngubane replied that he made recommendations and other people also made recommendations which were considered to be “truer” than what he said. He would have expected that his responses should have been given serious consideration and tested against existing documentation.
Mr Nkwankwa asked if labelling the Public Protector’s Report, which is a Chapter Nine institution, as a product of a faction is a valid statement.
Dr Ngubane replied that he did not say that but the information that informed the report and the provisional report, came from information from people within SABC and within the board. There was a faction that did not want him, and by that time, by the way, he had already resigned.
Mr Nkwankwa said that around 2010 complaints were submitted to the then Minister in the form of memorandum from board members who subsequently resigned and they complained that Dr Ngubane was operating as a ‘law unto himself’. Would Dr Ngubane say that his contribution included the appointment of the Acting COO as well as his appointment of the Group Executive: News and Current Affairs at the time which he said was “resolved”. Would he not say that at some point he made a considerable contribution to the problems at the SABC? And would he not say that the people at the SABC are currently stewing in his soup?
Dr Ngubane replied no because he had stated the actions they had taken to put things right, and they managed to turn the SABC around and discipline a number of people and institute disciplinary processes.
Mr Nkwankwa said he is talking about the mayhem Dr Ngubane left at the SABC yet he thinks he did well. But the Committee holds a different view based on the evidence it has reviewed in front of it. As a concluding statement, he wanted to bring attention to the statement Dr Ngubane made on 1 September 2016 when the Eskom board appeared before the Committee on Public Enterprises: ‘this campaign to kill trust in Eskom and to actually portray that we are bought or captured, is nonsense’ and his former CEO of Eskom added ‘perhaps I am captured but I am captured by the Constitution’. However, it later came out in the Public Protector’s Report on State Capture that what he was saying was not true. The Committee is considering everything he has said but there are two reports that are a serious indictment on him, although he has taken the second one on review. Does he think that this Committee should trust everything he has said to it today?
Dr Ngubane replied that it is up to the Committee, but everything must be based on evidence. If there is wrongdoing there are courts in the country, he can be taken there, but if the evidence is not elicited, then it is based on speculation and one cannot destroy people based on speculation. He invited the Committee to the SABC, Eskom and Land Bank to find the wrongdoing that he is being accused of and he will welcome the consequences.
Mr Nkwankwa put it to him that, to a considerable degree, the SABC is stewing in his soup.
Dr Ngubane replied that is not true. The SABC was found in a bad state, money leaking out all the time and weak internal controls and all those things stopped. That was his contribution to the SABC and he used people who wanted to work with him to achieve that. If those people were not the correct people, then at least what they set out to achieve was achieved. If there is wrongdoing, please establish a full commission to establish the facts.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) said it is clear that the SABC had problems way back from 2008/09 and it seems Dr Ngubane had made some changes but by the same token there has been evidence presented about political interference. He asked if he understood Dr Ngubane correctly when he said that there was no political interference. Mr Peter Harris was part of his board and one of the reasons he resigned was the intolerable political interference of the Communications Ministry in the board’s decisions. Would he comment on this?
Dr Ngubane replied that the board met a couple of times with the Ministry and they were concerned with how we were meeting the conditions of the government guarantee, whether we were implementing austerity and reducing the leave and strengthening internal controls. There was no political interference. Those claims came from David Niddrie, not Peter Harris, but he was surprised he later on said that Phil Molefe was imposed as Head of News, which was not true. The fact was that we ultimately agreed that he deserved to be appointed as head of news. There was a difference of opinion which then found consensus which meant Molefe was later on employed. In any situation people will make conclusions and he gave the example of what is trending on the social networks - that he is Zuma’s son in law - which is utter nonsense.
Mr Swart said that he was not the member of the Portfolio Committee on Communications but there was memorandum in June 2010 that accused Dr Ngubane of a series of incidents and a consistent pattern of behaviour and the then minister signed it. He asked what his response to those allegations was.
Dr Ngubane replied that the Minister did not agree with that. They presented their reports and he presented his and the conclusion from the Committee was that the Board needed to go and sort it out.
Mr Swart said and there was a briefing in March 2013 where Ms Susanne Vos made serious allegations against him. She said that ’time and again Dr Ngubane often acted illegally (in terms of our defined roles and responsibilities as non executive directors) and by way of proof of this right up until his recent resignation he attempted to overturn a decision taken by the majority of Board members in a properly constituted Board meeting.’ Did he agree with that?
Dr Ngubane replied that he disagreed that the meeting was properly constituted, because he should have been notified and been at the meeting and they could have taken a vote and won the day but they did not. They decided to meet regardless and wanted me to execute what they had decided was procedural and so he decided to resign.
Mr Swart said the Public Protector and his fellow board members have issued serious concerns about his leadership style. Does he not think that those concerns should be taken seriously?
Dr Ngubane replied that there are many people who sent him SMSes showing their support, but there will probably be 50 others who would say no. So it is really for the public to judge.
Mr Swart said there was also Ms Lulama Mokhobo who presented evidence about her relationship with Hlaudi, and to the degree that she was undermined and she indicated that he tried to assist in that relationship but it was further aggravated under the next board. Could he indicate what role he tried to play in that relationship, because it seemed already that Hlaudi had undermined her and he tried to facilitate in that regard.
Dr Ngubane replied that there was a time when she wanted to resign and she was in tears at a Public Broadcasting Services (PBS) board subcommittee meeting, but he was not there. It was Hlaudi who came to tell him about the situation and that she was resigning. He then called her into his office and indicated that we cannot afford people resigning because we need to work together and she should continue to work together.
Mr Swart said the breakfast show is still a matter of concern. The Chairperson indicated that there is evidence that there are costs related to the shows amounting to hundreds of millions of rands that seemed to have been moved away from Morning Live. With hindsight, does he think he would have done it differently if he had other information available to him?
Dr Ngubane replied that broadcasts are part of the business plan and they do not entail the separating of expenditure outside of a business plan, and if it brings additional revenue, that was part of the business plan. Vuyo Mvoko was not talking from knowledge that the breakfast shows were operating with money meant for Morning Live. He suggested that they call everyone concerned in this area and gather the truth, because he is acting from what he knows to be the truth; it was beneficial to the SABC and its staff.
Mr Swart said Dr Ngubane indicated that he follows the news, so he is sure he followed the state of the SABC after he left, and would he agree that it was in a deteriorated state after he left. Whilst a lot of evidence has been around Mr Motsoeneng, Dr Ngubane seems to have a glowing report of him. Would he comment on the report about the seven-minute praise song on the news where Hlaudi was praised, if he was aware of that and does that not seem odd to him now?
Dr Ngubane replied that Hlaudi repeatedly said that we must put on local music and local films because that will give income to the musicians and actors or actresses of this country. They could not do those things in his time due to austerity and the pressures they had to try and save money. He was happy to hear that SABC is now going to bring in 90% local content onto its platforms. He heard about the songs but he considered them in that context.
Mr Swart said the issue about that particular song was aired for Hlaudi and was shown in the news and that does not seem to be correct.
Dr Ngubane replied that he has not seen that. But in terms of the changes that have happened, he is happy that they happened.
The Chairperson said they might seem to be flogging a dead horse but Dr Ngubane says there was a business plan that was presented to him about the TNA deal. Does he recall what was the cost to TNA, because he is trying to understand that this cost SABC nothing, because there is production involved, there must be cost and why would TNA charitably subsidise the SABC? Who subsidised the production of this and secondly, he is struggling to find another example where two rivals or where a company brand advertises and gives air space to its rival, ANN7? Every once in a while we have these ANN7 breakfast shows flighted on an SABC channel. So just for clarity, there has to be a cost associated with the production whether its salaries or something. Dr Ngubane has consistently said no money was used by the SABC towards those costs. It could only mean that it was money received from TNA unless it was offset by the advertising. If so, as the accounting officer, does Dr Ngubane think it makes sense for SABC to flight adverts of its rival. Is it wise for the SABC to flight the adverts of its rival?
Dr Ngubane replied that ANN7 is not involved in the breakfast, it is an SABC production. If TNA arranges a breakfast show and people do not turn up to buy the tables or do not get sponsorship to flight the event, it is not SABC’s problem and for us it was a mandate for informing the community about what government does which was something that did not happen before. If Business Day came with the same proposal we probably would have considered it. So it is a normal outside broadcast based on the business plan and which does not take money away from the Corporation.
The Chairperson asked if Dr Ngubane would promote his rival, because he understands the cost effect of it. Is there no mileage gained by them every time we flight the breakfast shows, because an advertisement costs money and right now he is trying to understand the thought process of the SABC. There might have been a well thought out plan but this Committee must make recommendations for the Board going forward. Does he think it is wise for this to continue being so?
Ms Kilian added that the TNA gets free advertisement on the breakfast show, and those tables in the breakfast shows are paid by the public purse and someone must derived a benefit from it.
Dr Ngubane replied that the Committee should perhaps call in the people who were responsible for broadcast matters to provide financial records. The advertisers are solicited by SABC and ANN7 has nothing to do with getting advertisers. The problem in the past with international content and the channels, is that they took the power away from the channels and went to Hollywood and bought the material and the channels could not flight that because the advertisers could not buy space in those films. Now these breakfast shows are sold to advertisers and there are advertisements on those shows. He requested that the Committee ask the technical people to provide the technical aspects of this.
Prof N Khubisa (NFP) said when Dr Ngubane took over as SABC Chairman, he said earlier one of the friends at the JSE wished him a safe landing and good luck. When Dr Ngubane got there, he found that there was already the AG report and reported that a lot of issues were violated as well as the King II and III, the PFMA, the Broadcasting Act and so forth. So what did he set as his priorities?
Dr Ngubane replied that it was implementing the findings of the AG, and about 1500 people were doing illegal business with the SABC and therefore mechanisms were set up to mitigate that and instituting disciplinary action, working with unions, etc. We set about achieving that and trying to recover the revenues to build up the reserves to bail ourselves out of the government guarantee.
Prof Khubisa asked what were the milestones or highlights of his achievements in that, because where he stands the SABC has not changed from when Dr Ngubane started up to now.
Dr Ngubane replied that when he was able to pay R800 million to settle a R1 billion loan within two years, he failed to understand that that is not change. We prosecuted and opened cases with the NPA and disciplined a number of people who had left and run away because they were escaping discipline. If we had left the SABC, it would have gone completely insolvent and there would have been strikes. The independent producers came to a meeting with us and said they had not been paid for so long. We decided that all payments amounting to R200 000 would be paid immediately and those above would be paid in piecemeal, and they were happy. For a long time they had not been able to produce any content, and now he sees many movies and shows that are produced here. It is all from those changes we effected, so he failed to understand what he meant that there had not been changes.
Prof Khubisa stated that Mr Chauke and other members pointed out that when he came to the SABC he commanded a wealth of knowledge that put him in good standing. Now here is an individual whose salary increased three times in one year by 63%. How did he view that? Secondly, were there any other staff members who got more or less the same increase within a year?
Dr Ngubane replied the internal audit unit came in earlier in 2010 or late 2010, and that person needed to have an adjustment of salary and it was done. That is one case that he recalls fairly easily. The difference with the one he talking about is that he came in from a regional office to a GE position, and the gaps were very wide, so HR decided to bridge that gap and accelerated it. It was within the parameters and if it was irregular expenditure, the audit would have picked it up.
Prof Khubisa said that he indicated earlier that Hlaudi had been a street kid, and how he came in to the SABC after his role in organising plays and so. He did not have a matric certificate. Was it because he was recognising prior learning that he received the position, and if so, was it done for others at the organisation?
Dr Ngubane replied that he did not bring in Hlaudi from Bloemfontein but Solly Mokoetle did because of the need he recognised in his office. When he arrived he changed the tone in the radio stations, and there was big differences in those radio station and they were making money and he would take me into staff meetings. We went to Mpumalanga where there was a strike looming, and he saw two Mercedes Benz and he asked why the people are driving Mercedes Benz, he also did not know. Dr Ngubane then asked Phil to investigate, and the news broke out to the Portfolio Committee and Phil had not reported about it. He then asked Hlaudi to go and investigate and within three days he came back with a report. There were kickbacks, irregular expenditures and so on and he had a report to present to the Portfolio Committee. He instructed Hlaudi to inform the people to take back the 20 cars, and they would not be paid the R20 million they expected and we did not pay a cent. So when things like this happen, is it about the qualification or the ability of the person to do the job properly? And there was no one else; senior people were refusing to implement the findings of the AG report and the SIU, it was not favouritism but practical actions. There were too many sittings were senior people did not come to bring in evidence but they ran away calling in sick and frustrating the whole process. Solly Mokoetle suggested that he knew someone who could carry out the job well.
Prof Khubisa said the TNA breakfast shows were flighted 16 times on SABC. Was it a pilot? With regard to the business plan, what about bidding, was that not needed for transparency and accountability?
Dr Ngubane replied that it came as an initiative from the news section. The news section holds a lot of outside broadcast for all sorts of events but because it was a consistent feature we needed to formalise and examine the business plan which made sense and we went forward with it.
Dr M Khoza (ANC) said that she would focus more on some of the issues raised that are of concern to the public. The SABC would ordinarily be dealt with by the Committee on Communications. One would see that there is something wrong with the SOEs and there has been a decline in the public confidence in SOEs. She asked as a leader if he equally accepts successes or failures of any institutions that he leads.
Dr Ngubane replied that yes, he does.
Dr Khoza said that the Committee had seen many witnesses and they have all submitted their concerns about the behaviour of Hlaudi. When someone is good at public relations, it does not necessarily mean that they are good at operations. She asked if he agrees with that.
Dr Ngubane replied yes to that.
Dr Khoza asked does he not think that it was a bad decision to move Hlaudi from Stakeholder Relations to Operations, even if it is an acting position. Does he not think he was setting up the SABC for failure for taking that decision?
Dr Ngubane replied that they we driven in terms of achieving results in the prosecution of people, reducing the financial losses and the computer hacking, it was simply a question of operational gains. So the issue of qualifications did not feature at all. SCOPA was demanding results and we had to use whatever talent we had available at the time.
Dr Khoza said that she is not buying the story of qualifications. There are four generally agreed competencies of a COO, so in his view, was Hlaudi a strategic leader with a focus on detail.
Dr Ngubane replied that he surprised him with his strategic vision.
Dr Khoza secondly asked if he appreciated talent.
Dr Ngubane replied that he organised talent at the SABC to produce results.
Dr Khoza said by appreciating talent she meant developing it and sustaining the talent in the organisation.
Dr Ngubane replied that the task team that were created have now multiplied, the film finance people are working together as a unit so the disparities that were there before regarding people buying film properties versus the channels being able to these to the advertisers is gone. So if a person can organise in such a way he get excellence and progression that to him displays talent.
Dr Khoza said that she has a problem with how he analyses cost drivers and evaluates financial implications in an institution. There are a number of people that have resigned and had to be given golden handshakes, all of them citing Hlaudi as the root cause of their leaving the institution. Yet Dr Ngubane still says this person was contributing to the company's sustainability - it does not make sense.
Dr Ngubane replied that in his time it made a huge difference and no one resigned except the people who decided not to renew their contracts.
Dr Khoza said that a good COO must not have an ego, so does he think Hlaudi did not have an ego.
Dr Ngubane replied that people behave differently.
Dr Khoza asked if he was data driven, and had the ability to analyse the statistics, and is he still happy about the decision that he took then and still stands by it.
Dr Ngubane replied that he has not examined the financial statements of the SABC but when he left the SABC could pay its suppliers and meet the requirements of the loan and guarantee conditions. What happened subsequently he could not venture into that, but in his time there was progress.
Dr Khoza stated that Dr Ngubane is casting aspersions on Chapter Nine institutions, the very same institutions that were established to strengthen the democracy of this country as part of the checks and balances. She asked why is he doing that. There is a journalist who wrote, ‘Ngubane then turned on Molefe in a viciously vengeful way, which tells you everything about how the ANC operates'. She asked if he does not think that his pronouncements today cast aspersions on the ANC and perpetuates these kinds of perceptions about the ANC when he is attacking the Chapter Nine institutions which prevent these wrongdoings in state owned companies.
Dr Ngubane replied that he did not cast aspersions on Chapter Nine institutions but he queries "how the information gets there" and what steps are taken to verify the truth of the information when making decisions.
Dr Khoza stated that he continuously defended Hlaudi despite the pronouncements that the courts have actually made on Hlaudi. The enormity of the pronouncements he made go beyond the Chapter Nine institutions to as far as casting aspersions on the judiciary of the country.
Dr Ngubane replied that he is probably misunderstood. He stated that some of the things that have happened create other problems. We cannot do or accept things that may further break down the institutions when we have not bothered to establish the truth. He pleaded with the House to go and peruse the documentation for tangible evidence, instead of the hearsay and the submissions that have been made before the Committee.
Dr Khoza said that he must understand that courts do not make decisions without evidence. She asked if he believes that the SABC has governance challenges and that he was part of causing those challenges.
Dr Ngubane replied that there are governance challenges in all sorts of institutions because they are run by people; often times people do things without due and thorough diligence being adhered to. Therefore, we need to stick to the scientific examination of any information we have then we can take the right decisions. We tried implementing the AG and SIU reports and we succeeded in that. Yes there were other challenges but the object was to try and recover what was remaining of that organisation and it survived and strikes did not happen, investors and advertisers came back. He does wish that the Committee institutes a proper investigation and condemns people based on the evidence.
The Chairperson stated that the Head of Technical, Mr Masinga, appeared before the Committee to talk about the meeting he had with the TNA CEO. He said, ‘The TNA Media is the parent company of ANN7, before the launch of the ANN7, there was a meeting to try and bring a contract to SABC from ANN7. ANN7 was going to manage the SABC.’ In essence he was saying that ANN7 was going to take over the news channel of SABC and re-brand it and the SABC was going to provide the venue and HR, and TNA/ANN7 was going to take the advertising. He was raising this because this was the second person who came to the Committee and stated that it was ANN7 who approached the SABC, not the other way round. He was raising this because it has become blatantly clear that some participants are not taking this seriously. Dr Ngubane said that he was not involved in the Dick Foxton Communicating mentioned earlier. Under oath, Dlamini said Dr Ngubane did and it was quoted. Under oath, Vuyo Mvoko said that Morning Live diverts resources to ANN7 and spends about half million and Dr Ngubane says no cost is incurred by SABC. The assertions from both Mr Masinga and Ms Dlamini seem to suggest it was ANN7/TNA that were the initiators between the SABC and TNA. Dr Ngubane stated that the initiator when it came to the board level was Phil Molefe. So he is raising these points so that he understands that he will never compromise the integrity of this Committee’s work and there have been a lot of direct contradictions. The Committee will find a way to verify these things and the book will be thrown at those that have undermined Parliament. Somebody has misled Parliament and not taken the process seriously and somebody will pay the price for it. By the end of the report, these contradictions will be noted. It was perjury and somebody must go to jail for all this. It’s clear that something is not correct based on the evidence presented.
In conclusion he thanked the Dr Ngubane and stated that the Committee will begin writing its report after the next hearing, up to the 24th. Dr Ngubane can present whatever he deems the Committee should look into before its starts writing up its report.
Dr Ngubane thanked the Chairperson, and said that he did not have enough time to prepare as much as he would have liked to. He requested the draft report when it comes out so he could comment appropriately.
Mr Nkwankwa raised a separate issue regarding Hlaudi. The UDM feels that in the interest of fairness and justice, Hlaudi should be given an opportunity to respond to everything that has been presented so far. This is because everything that has been said in the Committee centres around him.
The Chairperson responded that this will be noted and evaluated on how it can be taken forward.
Hearing: Ms Ellen Tshabalala
Ms Ellen Tshabalala was welcomed and took the oath.
Adv Vanara: Please state your full names.
Ms Tshabalala: It is Ellen Zandile Tshabalala.
Adv Vanara: You were the active member and Chairman of the SABC interim Board in 2013, is that correct?
Ms Tshabalala: Yes that is correct.
Adv Vanara: The Board was eventually appointed and you were appointed as a non-executive member of that Board, in 2013, is that correct?
Ms Tshabalala: Yes that is correct, I got appointed to a fully fetched Board in 2014.
Adv Vanara: You did not finish your term, you resigned in December 2014?
Ms Tshabalala: Yes that is correct, but I resigned in December 2015.
Adv Vanara: As a non-executive member of that Board, you had other business that you were charged with in different boards. And you had your own business, is that correct?
Ms Tshabalala: Yes that is correct sir.
Adv Vanara: Is it also correct that you were the non-executive chairperson of the Board.
Ms Tshabalala: Yes that is correct.
Adv Vanara: In the interest of time I would like to discuss three things: how the Board dealt with the Public Protector Report, the appointment of the COO and your interaction with the general members of the Corporation. The Public Protector Report, When Governance and Ethics Fail, are you aware of that report?
Ms Tshabalala: Yes I am aware of it.
Adv Vanara: The Report did not necessarily deal with the Board you were chairing but the prior board, is that correct?
Ms Tshabalala: Yes its correct.
Adv Vanara: So yours was just to implement the Report, is that correct?
Ms Tshabalala: I would have an input in that regard, but we solicited legal advice on whether those were recommendations.
Adv Vanara: The question was, you were not implicated in the Report because you were not there, but you were to deal with the implementation of what emanated from the report, is that correct?
Ms Tshabalala: I am implicated in the Report in areas of management that came all the way before I joined. As a fairly new chairperson I was surprised.
Adv Vanara: Is it true that you had an office at the SABC?
Ms Tshabalala: It was the office of the Chair and the Deputy Chair.
Adv Vanara: You had an assistant assisting you in that office, is that correct?
Ms Tshabalala: Seemingly that is the design at the SABC. I was appraised that she would be the one responsible for me and the deputy chair.
Adv Vanara: The business that you were running, where was it situated and running from?
Ms Tshabalala: I had offices in the Johannesburg central and Cape Town, Long Street.
Adv Vanara: So you were not running your business from the SABC offices?
Ms Tshabalala: Not at all.
Adv Vanara: The Report of the Public Protector, you received the interim one before the final report. Is that correct?
Ms Tshabalala: Yes, we did receive the interim, but we were surprised that the Office of the Public Protector decided to publish the report before we physically received the report.
Adv Vanara: When you say ‘we’ who are you referring to?
Ms Tshabalala: The Board.
Adv Vanara: When the Board received the interim Report, who dealt with it?
Ms Tshabalala: It was through the company secretary, due to time constraints we quickly assembled the nomination and governance committee which had to give guidance to the Board on how to handle the report. Because I was implicated in the report, I requested the deputy chair take the lead.
Adv Vanara: There is evidence before the Committee, even in the Public Protector Report itself that you, to the exclusion of other board members, dealt with the interim report as an executive chairperson.
Ms Tshabalala: That is not true, I have evidence of all that preceded prior to us responding to the Public Protector.
Adv Vanara: Who sat on the governance committee.
Ms Tshabalala: During the interim Board that I chaired, you will recall that there were very few members on that Board and one of the members recused themselves. In constituting ourselves accordingly, we participated in most board committees, because we were very few and we spread ourselves across all board committee, except for my attending the audit committee. I did, however, attend the audit committee meeting at the request of the members only to make an assessment not an input.
Adv Vanara: The interim Public Protector Report was dealt with by the interim Board, is that what you are saying?
Ms Tshabalala: Yes that is correct.
Adv Vanara: The final Report came through, and how did the Board deal with it, and was it ever tabled as an agenda item in one of the Board meetings, and if so, what were the resolutions taken on how it will be implemented.
Ms Tshabalala: I was quite pleased with the involvement of the board members in interrogating the Report; the reality is that in any situation there are those who will be negative and those who will be positive. However, I was comfortable as a chair on some of the suggestions made by the members which were quite substantive and they have applied their minds and the majority of the members suggested the Report be forwarded to the Minister.
Adv Vanara: How did your Board on receipt of the Report deal with the contents? There were adverse findings in that Report that pertained to salary increments, the appointment of the COO and Ms Duda. So what did the Board do with the contents?
Ms Tshabalala: Other things were obvious, but some things you cannot deny. It did bother me though that the credibility of the information was largely rumour. The complainants were two employee members. It's important to note that there are certain parameters of an employee complaining that they have to exhaust, its written in the policies and they are given that opportunity. That employee’s work in the SABC for a lengthy period of time does not change much because I heard reports about their behaviour and their outputs from the previous leaders. That they then go outside and report on the inefficiencies and dysfunctionalities of the SABC, was indeed an anomaly to me. I also found the role played by the GCEO, who is the cardinal vein of the organisation (and I can read all that we put when we advertised for a CEO), it was disturbing for me that she found it necessary to go and complain to the Public Protector and not to the Minister and the Chair or the Portfolio Committee. I would also like to share that, when I resigned, I requested an exit interview but that did not happen, just to give my view on what I think are the areas of focus for SABC to focus on. It's a very big challenge, and many organisations need an ad hoc committee. My unhappiness with the CEO stemmed from the fact that I did not have the privilege to listen to most of the submissions that were made, including the accusation by the then CEO, Ms Lulama Mokhobo, who has been the CEO in my time.
Adv Vanara: There was a meeting on 2 July 2014 between the Board and its shareholder, where you received a briefing from the Minister. What did the Minister say to the Board with regard to the implementation of the Public Protector Report by the Board?
Ms Tshabalala: Which Minister? Since I served under three Ministers, Dina Pule, Yusuf Carrim and Faith Muthambi.
Adv Vanara: It was Minister Muthambi.
Ms Tshabalala: It is true that the Minister was under pressure in terms of the timeliness that Parliament had put in place. The Minister came to the SABC to address the issue of the appointment of the directors. It was for the appointment of the CFO and COO, so we held a board meeting and addressed the board issues.
Adv Vanara: You just confirmed the issues that the Minister addressed which was the implementation of the Public Protector Report by the board, and what were her instructions on the implementation of the Public Protector Report?
Ms Tshabalala: The Minister was very bothered because there were publications that were reporting on delays in implementing the Public Protector Report, and the Minister felt the urgency to implement the Report and send out a response that the Report is being considered and implemented.
Adv Vanara: So basically, the Minister wanted to fast track the implementation of the Public Protector Report?
Ms Tshabalala: Maybe fast track is a harsh word. I think she also wanted to understand where we were in terms of the response.
Adv Vanara: Did the Minister mention anything about the vacancy of the COO position.
Ms Tshabalala: Yes, she did and it was not the first time, because it was the pressure we had from the interim and her assuming office.
Adv Vanara: What did she say about the filling of that vacancy.
Ms Tshabalala: When you join the company as a board there must be a hand over as well as an audit to assess what has gone wrong to focus on. Unfortunately we did not have that period due to a lot outstanding issues, so we were deliberating on the thoughts around the financial model, the Public Protector and the publications that were negative about the SABC which had an impact on destroying SABC advertising.
Adv Vanara: What did the Minister say about the filling of the vacant position of a COO.
Ms Tshabalala: The Minister said she was patiently waiting for the information from the Board and she hopes that the Board will resolve the matters asap.
Adv Vanara: Five says later she meets again, on 7 July 2014, this is a special meeting. There were two items on the agenda, the COO matter and the Public Protector Report. What was urgent about this meeting?
Ms Tshabalala: It must have been urgent just like all the other urgent issues that were put as such by Parliament. The issue of appointments at senior level posed an impediment, the Public Protector Report and meeting the deadline, and giving a position on controls and dealing with time lines and meeting deadlines.
Adv Vanara: Who decided on the 7 July meeting.
Ms Tshabalala: The Minister raised her issues with the Board Chairman which was me at the time. I informed the company secretary that the Minister would like to come to assess how far we were in the implementation of the Public Protector Report and the appointment of the executives, so it was the Minister. During that period, Tian [Olivier] was acting as a CFO, so the vacuum was not around the appointment of the CFO but generally.
Adv Vanara: Who called that special meeting.
Ms Tshabalala: It was myself, having discussed this with the Minister.
Adv Vanara: Why was the agenda a secretive or a matter of national interest, some board members who came here testified that they could not make head or tail why that item of COO was on the agenda. Why did you decide to put it in the fashion which you did?
Ms Tshabalala: I cannot even remember how it was paraphrased, but it was a special board meeting to deal with two items the Public Protector Report and appointment of those positions.
Adv Vanara: The secretary who you requested to send the notice the day before the meeting, could not make out the item in the agenda because it said the ‘COO matter’. You were inviting non-executive members of the Board to a meeting on matters that you and the Minister only discussed or were aware of and you are not transparent and there were no supporting documentation. Why was there no support documentation for that meeting?
Ms Tshabalala: It is not true that the members of the Board were not aware, there were many issues including Ms Duda, so the legal department gave us advice that these are the scenarios and gave us the routes we could have taken. The reason for us to deliberate prior to the Minister insisting to come was purely to make sure that we take the right route.
Adv Vanara: If this was a Board meeting, why did you invite the Minister to the meeting.
Ms Tshabalala: It was merely due to the gravity of the issues. The reality is that the Minister appoints the three directors so it would not have been an arbitrary meeting because in the end we had to motivate to the Minister collectively for her to appoint.
Adv Vanara: The Minister was not at the meeting, she was idling at the SABC offices. Is that not correct?
Ms Tshabalala: No, she was not idling. We organised a meeting and held it. We requested that the Minister comes after the decision was made, this was a push for us to come up with a decisions so that when we meet the Minister we have a collective view from board, because it was our duty to ensure that we exhaust all avenues before consulting the Minister.
Adv Vanara: So why was the Minister at the SABC between 6pm until 11pm at the SABC, babysitting a board? Because the Minister could have received the resolution the following day.
Ms Tshabalala: She was not babysitting us, the Board had to arrive at a position comfortably, hence, the Minister did not come in at the time.
Adv Vanara: I have the minutes of that meeting where you bullied the Board into taking a decision, I’m putting it to you because you and the Minister had an understanding that come what may that evening there was going to be a Board decision for the Minister’s consideration.
Ms Tshabalala: I had to seek legal counsel on the terms of reference of this Committee the most outstanding thing was that the mandate for this committee is to enquire..
Adv Vanara interjected and ordered Ms Tshabalala to answer the question.
Ms Tshabalala: I reserve my rights, but you already accused me that I bullied the members of the board. To answer your question, board members did have an opportunity to express their views even in the presence of the Minister.
Adv Vanara: Mam, you did bully the board members. Prof Khumalo in the minutes stated that ‘he had been keeping quiet in protest because he was of the view that the Chairman had been unfair to cut him off in the midst without having heard what he intended to say, he felt prejudiced and he had been prejudged and deprived of an opportunity to perform his duty as a director’. You never contested that, it is in your minutes.
Ms Tshabalala: I was very frustrated with his absence when that matter had to be dealt with when we needed his input in a big way, so now the pressure was on the Board to make some kind of decision making. Personally, I do believe in decision making and I do not believe in holding onto things for a long time.
Adv Vanara: The Board decision is recorded in these minutes, there was a whole debate on what transpired in that meeting. Ultimately, those who defied logic agreed that Mr Motsoeneng should fill the position of COO but there is a proviso that states that Mr Mchunu, an attorney invited to the meeting, should advise the Board before the recommendation was sent to the Minister, but the recommendation was sent to the Minister without the legal opinion of Mr Mchunu on the board decision. Why did that happen and was that not contrary to the decision of the Board you chaired?
Ms Tshabalala: Our fiduciary duty was never at any stage given to any attorney. It was the role of the Board to come up with that decision, so I really did not feel the need to solicit any legal opinion on something that solely depended on the Board's capability to decide.
Mr N Singh (IFP) stated that there were a number of recommendations made in the Public Protector Report at the time. When the Portfolio Committee asked Ms Tshabalala about the Public Protector Report you said ‘if the Public Protector produces any suspicious information about any individual or business, it does not necessary mean its viable’. He asked what she meant by this, because in that report there were concerns that were expressed about the then acting CEO. Which recommendations did your Board not agree with and what actions was taken in implementing the report recommendations given the fact that the Board did not see it fit to take the Report on review.
Ms Tshabalala replied that when the Report was received, the Board felt that every evidence that was presented was solicited, it was based on interviews. By the way, there was never a situation where everybody who sat in the Board did not understand where Mr Motsoeneng’s matter came from. There was evidence of Mr Motsoeneng being fired and coming back to the SABC. So everything that pertains to Mr Motsoeneng, the Board had to get the evidence from the lawyer that was responsible in terms of why he left, came back and who was instrumental in getting him back and what the reasons motivated for that were. She stated that her concern was more to do with demystifying what were rumours and what were the facts. Mr Mchunu was going to present the facts so that what the Public Protector said can be weighed against the facts presented by the lawyer.
Mr Singh stated that it seems Mr Mchunu's report and its recommendations carried more weight than the Public Protector Report. He asked if that is what she is saying.
Ms Tshabalala replied "she" made certain accusations about Mr Motsoeneng conniving with Ministers and that Ms Tshabalala could be bullied by Mr Motsoeneng, and that is not a fact. She also alluded that she had interviews with people who wanted Mr Motsoeneng out and those who wanted Mr Motsoeneng back. One of the people that wanted Mr Motsoeneng back was Ms Nzimande who originally went to Ms Tshabalala and said that Mr Motsoeneng is a problem. Ms Tshabalala believed that there is a serious imbalance in terms of factual information and what the Public Protector alluded to.
Mr Singh referred to the TNA breakfast briefings and asked when her Board met did it ever consider it to be something worthwhile continuing given that there was a perception that certain people and companies were benefiting at the expense of the SABC. He asked for her concerns on that.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she shared some concerns about this with the executives. However, in many instances she discovered that the executives were entrenched in the business and when they do not want to do something, they did not do so. Some of the executive presentations were very misleading, and they were coming from senior executives and as the Board we pushed the company secretary to get more information. The issue of sponsorship was a concern especially in the board committee that dealt with PBS, and this was raised by board members and the Board wanted to see what the value system of the SABC is in terms of all sponsorships and it did not isolate the TNA breakfast briefings. It was not an isolated matter but it did arise from the Board committee.
Dr Khoza asked if Ms Tshabalala joined the SABC in 2010.
Ms Tshabalala replied that it was in 2013.
Dr Khoza said but you served in the interim. There was information coming from the executives that was presented to the Board that was leading. She asked if Ms Tshabalala can share the information that was presented and who the members were who misled the board.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she chose the sporadic areas of serious concern for the Board, and one of them was risk management. That was her area of concern and she got the chief executive along with the executive dealing with risk to present to the Board the risk factors of the SABC. It took a lengthy period before that happened. It meant having robust and sometimes negative interactions, between the CEO and the board members that led to a stand-off. As the chair she had to find a way of reconciling and making sure that the CEO did not feel abused but the board members deserved to have that information. When that meeting took place, board members were very disappointed, because it was not specific to the challenges that the SABC was facing. She then questioned the role of the CEO. Secondly, there was gross negligence on the part of the CEO when the Board was dealing with the issue of set top box controls, what we were asked to do was to present a position. When the Board confided in the CEO about national anticipating having the matter closed in 2010 which was the timeline given to ITU, the Board needed to make sure what the hold-up was.
Dr Khoza stated that those examples do not sound misleading. She should outline specifically the issues presented that were actually misleading. It seems that the response did not go as far as she wanted it to.
Ms Tshabalala replied that it was misleading because when she requested information from the CEO about the position of the SABC for reporting to the Minister, the CEO replied accordingly, and Ms Tshabalala took her word for it, and took the matter to the board. The operators led by Mr Motsoeneng and some members of the PBS present vehemently opposed the CEO's position. Now the Board was listening to the CEO who they trusted and yet that area depended on operations so the information presented by the CEO was misleading.
Dr Khoza asked if she should consider the COO’s views as opposed to the CEO, and she must remember that the CEO is the accounting officer. Why would she opt for the other instead of the accounting officer who understands the consequences that comes with taking wrong decisions?
Ms Tshabalala replied that the Board did not believe anything. The issue of set top box control is technical matter and if the technical people opposed the position of the CEO, it then raised concerns on the board. It was then proposed that the Board has a workshop to learn more about the technicality of the set top box control and to understand clearly about the decision that needed to be made. There was enormous pressure from the political space, which was a surprise. Why would Minister Nzimande worry so much about the encryption and prioritise the issue of digital telecoms over the funding of the SABC which was in tatters? The Board exhausted its avenues in terms of understanding, and the Deputy President requested a meeting with the shareholder and all protocol was observed. Her office spoke to the shareholder, and the shareholder was communicating with her and she passed the message to the CEO and so on. She requested that the whole thing be elementarised so that at cabinet level she can respond with an understanding of what this thing was.
Dr Khoza stated that Minister Nzimande has been mentioned but she is uncertain where this fits in and asked for clarity, and how does he get involved with SABC matters and the encryption.
Ms Tshabalala replied that when she joined the SABC she received a call from the Communist Party by the then spokesperson or deputy secretary asking her to support Minister Carrim in agreeing to the encryption of the set top box. At that time she was not aware or knew what it was. She questioned the involvement of the Communist Party because that was a technical matter. It would be in contempt of the law. Secondly, the Board was overwhelmed by politicians asking it to support this encryption. There was gross political interference and it has the potential to influence employees from giving the Board the correct information because they are influenced from outside.
The Chairperson said that the incumbent (Dr Ngubane) that was sitting prior to her engagement, stated that there was no political interference. The Committee understands that Ms Tshabalala did not serve at the same time but he asked her to recognise the role of the Committee and assist the Committee to reconcile the two contrary statements made by her and Dr Ngubane about political interference during their tenure. And furthermore, is it a surprise that there is a difference?
Ms Tshabalala replied that she is not surprised, because the levels were different. During her tenure there was gross political interference.
Prof Khubisa stated that before she came to the Board there was a Public Protector Report which stated a number of critical issues. He asked if she convened the meeting with her Board with an aim to attend to those critical issues outlined by the Public Protector in her report.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she did in a formal meeting of the nominations and governance board committee. She requested to be recused because she was also implicated so she requested the Deputy Chair to lead.
Prof Khubisa asked about the Public Protector recommendations that she wanted the Board to achieve within a short space of time. He asked for the specific outcomes that she set for the board.
Ms Tshabalala replied that there were issues that at a glance of seeing the report one could identify with. The dysfunctionalilty of corporate governance, and there were areas where it was completely flouted and it took measures to interrogate all policies at the SABC in order to debate the policies to ascertain if they talked to the organisation and rectify those issues first before moving forward.
Prof Khubisa asked about the major issue that she wanted to attend to very urgently.
Ms Tshabalala replied that there was a host of them which were committed to in Parliament. The issue of employees was also prominent and sometimes managers would complain about the difficulty they were facing when reprimanding subordinates. She asked the CEO to deal with this and explain to all members that it is not about politics and that employees must do their work and not threaten to go to politicians. Secondly, negative publications and their effects on the SABC brand, financial viability of the organisation and long term sustainability was key. What also caused dysfunctionality at the SABC is the financial model – 3% comes from government, 86% comes from advertising and 11% comes from licensing. During her tenure she took the trouble (because there were many complaints levelled against SABC for not meeting the needs of the country) to come to a Committee of Chairs to explain to it the challenges in the financial model and why there were certain limitations in terms of delivery. She brought the chief of news, CEO (Lulama Mokhobo) as well, and what surprised the SABC Board was it did not know about that the state of affairs in the financial model. In 2002 there was a Stellenbosch conference that committed or resolved itself to beef up the funding of SABC by 60%. To date, that has not been the case. She mentioned that because it calls for executives and the CEO and the Board to go and look for funding to make SABC sustainable. They would recall when Mr Motsoeneng went out to the public to say that he raised the money. It poses a challenge to give people that responsibility without challenging it in Parliament or with the Minister, so from time to time she found herself having the responsibility to explain to the Minister that a priority is the funding model to ensure that the SABC is self-sustaining. The impact of the poor SABC funding was a direct impact on the SABC which was depending on other avenues for financial sustainability.
Prof Khubisa asked about the rationale behind the MultiChoice deal, and how it unfolded as well as the spin-offs for the SABC, and whether there were individuals who benefited from that deal.
Ms Tshabalala replied that the initiation of collaborating with MultiChoice was initiated long before she came. It was highlighted that there was a need for an agreement of this nature, but due to funding constraints it could not go forward and produce. Mr Jimi Matthews came to the Board on several occasions pleading with the Board to present the idea, but funding was the challenge.
Mr Swart asked her to briefly be more specific about the nature of political interference taking into account the submission made by Peter Harris when he resigned.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she would request not to name names. Basically most interference stemmed from DA, ANC and the Communist Party. Most of the challenges came from those three. The politicians ignored the fact that protocol suggested that politicians speak to the Minister and the Minister should call the Board Chair.
Mr Swart referred to the July meeting and the appointment of the COO. The court recently indicated that the decision in July to appoint Mr Motsoeneng would have been perceived by members of the public as displaying a contentious attitude to the Public Protector. So against that background, surely one would have been very careful considering what the Public Protector had already said when you finalised the appointment of the COO at that meeting. He asked if she would agree with that.
Ms Tshabalala replied that there were many contentious issues about the nature of the processes the SABC followed to employ, and some of them were litigious issues that took the SABC to court. She does not view it around Mr Motsoeneng only. However, it was matter which it had to be seized with in terms of correcting the situation within the organisation.
Mr Swart asked if the letter that she read was a letter from the COO’s attorney recommending that he be appointed in that meeting.
Ms Tshabalala replied yes.
Mr Swart asked if she got any counter views in that regard. He asked if it was not strange to read a letter from the attorneys representing someone who was to be appointed at that meeting.
Ms Tshabalala replied that the content of the letter was not trying to push the Board to appoint but to take note of the challenges that the Board might face legally, so it was referred to the lawyers to explain it further. The letter stated be aware that they have made someone act for a lengthy period of time and that has a legal recourse.
Mr Swart stated that it would appear that there was a push to finalise that appointment very urgently. He asked if that was correct.
Ms Tshabalala replied yes it was correct and it was not because of the letters or submissions that were made. It was duly based on the business and it beginning to ail and that people were making decisions that worked against the organisation. The Board aligned with Parliament which stated that the Board confirm appointments and get rid of acting positions.
Ms Loliwe stated that Ms Tshabalala was so quick to say that she was called by the Minister of Higher Education and that she said that he called her as leader of the Communist Party. Then she was quick to back track and not want to mention the leaders of the other parties. She asked what she would say if she calls the Minister a scapegoat.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she was misunderstood. The Minister did not actually make the call but it was a member of the Communist Party that called her to support the encryption. Her responsibility is to listen to the business and escalate the matter according to all the protocols set before.
Ms Loliwe stated that in addition to what she will say about MultiChoice, she can explain why she mentioned the Minister of Higher Education. The Board Chairperson that came after you, when he was in front of the Committee stated that if he had his way he would kick everybody out of the SABC, so it was your legacy that he was alluding to. She asked what she can say to that.
Ms Tshabalala replied that the push for the appointment of senior executives was contentious even in the political arena. There were politicians who stated that for her to succeed she had to get rid of certain people as suggested by those politicians, but she refused to follow that but gave people the benefit of the doubt to prove themselves.
Ms Loliwe stated that Ms Mokhobo testified that she usually clashed with Ms Tshabalala a lot regarding decisions that were taken.
Ms Tshabalala replied that fortunately she had been an employee herself for many years. She is aware of the employee's rights. She called the CEO to discuss working together and mitigating the negative perception of women's inability to work effectively together. She did not feel burden by that. She felt there was lack of maturity when she had standoffs with board members, where she then tried to protect sides, the CEO and the board members. Ms Mokhobo also threatened that she was resigning and she had to beg her not to resign, and tried to resolve the matters. The conflict resolution process was going on in the Board.
Ms Loliwe stated that Ms Mokhobo said that she and the Board Chairperson clashed a lot, so she asked for some specificity in this regard.
Ms Tshabalala replied that the Committee has all the right to get the minutes as in many instances it happened in the presence of board members and she would call Ms Mokhobo aside to reprimand her because she would have many stand-offs with senior board members. It was not necessarily between the two of them but the Deputy Chair.
Mr Waters stated that with regards to political interference mentioned earlier, when she mentioned she received a phone call from the Communist Party to support the encryption. However, it seems that she is conflating politicians holding her accountable to political interference. MPs that serve in the Portfolio Committee and in fact any politician in Parliament has a right to hold her accountable and so that is not political interference. He asked if the current Minister of Communications at all asked her to support or influenced in any decisions particularly the appointment of the COO, and whether Minister asked her to support that appointment.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she does not recall a situation where a Minister tried to persuade her to make a particular decision. She believes that the parastatal under her purview delivered on its mandate. Maybe it was to lash the Board, but it was good.
Mr Waters asked if she asked the Minister why the appointment of the COO was more important than filling the position of CFO.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she did not because she understood the heat that operations was faced with and they were having a lot of challenges. She was trying to avoid a situation where many matters were directed to the Board because the operations person could not take decision. Some of the acting positions did not understand that when you are acting you are representing the organisation, therefore, one must understand that they must decisions.
Mr Waters asked if she discussed any individuals for the job of COO.
Ms Tshabalala replied that they did not.
Mr Waters said she then went into the meeting with the board members and pushed for the appointment of a particular individual which individual had been outlined in the Public Protector Report was not fit to occupy that position.
Ms Tshabalala replied that it is not correct that she pushed for that appointment, she allowed members to participate in the debate. Most of the board members were for the appointment to avoid litigation and some of them were not interested in Mr Motsoeneng being the COO.
Mr Waters asked if she was influenced at all by any other Minister or proxies.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she does not like to be influenced because she wants to hold a view that she wants to be able to stand in court and protect her decision.
Mr Waters stated that she mentioned the Public Protector Report was imbalanced in her opinion, if so, he asked why did the Board not take it on review.
Ms Tshabalala replied that the Board in its deliberations, some held the view that it is a gossip and others that it was a serious matter and it needed to be dealt with. So the consensus was that it must be implemented. The board members interrogated the Report and applied their minds to it.
Ms P Van Damme (DA) stated that when Ms Tshabalala was nominated to serve on the board, the nomination letter came on an ANC letterhead. She asked why she sent a nomination to a Board that is supposed to be independent, on an ANC letterhead, and in terms of her nomination, how did it happen. She questioned whether she approached Nathi (from ANC Luthuli House) or Nathi approached her.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she does not even know who Nathi is, and does not understand how Parliament advertises to the public that it must nominate. She saw the call for nominations in the newspaper and her focus was more on the burial of her father.
Ms Van Damme stated that one of the people that motivated for her appointment was Ms Muthambi who served on the Portfolio Committee of Communications. She asked if she had any relationship with Minister Muthambi.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she did not.
Ms Van Damme stated that upon reading the Public Protector Report, she asked about her views on what the Public Protector Report outlined as recommendations.
Ms Tshabalala replied that some of the things that were picked in the Report were a cause for concern and they should rightfully be so for the Board and the executives. After a meeting with “her”, Ms Tshabalala felt that there had been a rush to conclude “her” report and unfairly so because other members said that they were not interviewed. Thus she had to balance what “she” said in the report, what the lawyers’ evidence-led report was saying, and the information that was not furnished by members who were not interviewed.
Ms Van Damme asked if she was required to implement the recommendations or they were just mere suggestions.
Ms Tshabalala replied that there was a feeling that the Board had to implement; and the inheritance of all the baggage of poor performance had to be taken seriously to improve the level of performance. There was a needed for an effective delivery to Parliament.
Ms Van Damme stated that is not entirely correct because she read the minutes. The Board resolved that in dealing with the Public Protector Report, the Board would implement the recommendations of the Public Protector. At that time, the Minister of Communications was Mr Carrim. The Board’s attitude towards the Public Protector Report changed when Minister Muthambi became the Communications Minister. Suddenly Mchunu was appointed, and there was uncertainty about the Public Protector Report as well as implementation of the remedial actions. She asked how would she respond to that.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she does not have the documentation referred to by Ms Van Damme. She recalls that it was the view of the members that they should just implement the report and other members felt that they cannot just implement without the facts. The reason why Mr Mchunu was invited to the Board was to present his genesis on the matter of Mr Motsoeneng in terms of his appointment.
Ms Van Damme stated that is not correct. The Board minutes dated 18 March was a Board resolution and it agreed that those recommendations be implemented. The change and the inviting of Mchunu Attorneys and having several Board meetings again on whether to implement those recommendations happened when Minister Muthambi became the Minister. She asked how she would respond to that.
Ms Tshabalala replied that the Minister had very little to do with the contents of the report. She had something to do with the timeline of the report and whether the Board would deliver on time, and at that time the Board had established a committee to assist, as well as the legal opinion.
The Chairperson asked if the minutes Ms Van Damme is referring to are readily available because these minutes would be signed minutes, and therefore, a Board decision. Then that decision gets diverted. If those minutes are available they can be used as a point of reference to refresh the memory.
Ms Van Damme stated that there were minutes during Minister Carrim’s tenure and then the minutes when Minister Muthambi became a Minister of Communications; it is all reflected in the minutes. And she stated emphatically that she does not believe that Ms Tshabalala does not remember; it is all in the minutes of a meeting she chaired.
Ms Tshabalala replied that it would not be correct for her to respond on behalf of the Board on events that did not happen. The reality is that all governance structures and the committee that was set up, did what they had to do and the report was produced for the Public Protector and none of those facts were in the public domain.
Ms Van Damme stated that on 22 August 2014, a report was submitted to the Public Protector with an implementation plan. She asked if she also does not remember that.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she remembers.
Ms Van Damme asked what is it exactly, because she said earlier that she did not report but remembers now the implementation plan that was submitted to the Public Protector on 22 August 2014.
Ms Tshabalala replied that there were facts that were not true in the Public Protector Report and Mr Mchunu produced a completely different report from the Public Protector and there were elements that were true. One of them was the issue of dysfunctionality and issues around corporate governance, and that she agrees with this because she witnessed it at the SABC.
The Chairperson stated that for the sake of fairness and accuracy, let them preface it with: If the Committee is able to produce the minutes that state that the Board resolved to implement the Public Protector’s remedial actions, would she concede, having seen that document, that what she said here was contrary to the board’s decision (unless there is another document that supports the Board changed its mind on that).
Ms Tshabalala replied that it would help if all the documentation is perused and the meetings at which decisions were made, some decisions were rescinded and she would appreciate if the entire documentation on the Public Protector Report be unpacked to arrive at a decision.
Mr F Mokoena (EFF) asked if she got any political pressure from the Minister to appoint the COO.
Ms Tshabalala replied no.
Mr Mokoena asked if it was totally her decision to call the meeting and pressurise the Board to make that decision.
Ms Tshabalala replied that the Minister requested to come to the meeting to assess the Board in terms of the appointment.
Mr Mokoena said that the processes were flouted, and she did not call for interviews and someone was nominated to a position and the following the day the Minister announced the appointment. He asked what the huge pressure was that she could not explain.
Ms Tshabalala replied that the pressured stemmed from Parliament that the Board had to fill the executive positions urgently.
Mr Mokoena doubted this and said he was not convinced, and asked “even if it means that the processes must be flouted to appoint without due processes?”
Ms Tshabalala replied that the process was not flouted. To let a person act for a long period of time that is not prescribed in the labour law has the potential to be a litigious matter, so the Board had to weigh whether to pursue the route of making recommendations on the person and then trace the recommendations that were made in the previous boards, which the Board did to see what the Board could be getting itself into. The potential to advertise was also given to her Board by the SABC employees saying as a state owned company (SOC), the Corporation must be transparent, and the two positions must be advertised fully.
Mr Mokoena stated that the Broadcasting Act is very specific about the appointment of executives, and the Act governs how the SABC must be run. He asked what informed her decision to flout and go against the Broadcasting Act, and inform the Board to come to such a decision.
Ms Tshabalala replied that it sounds like an accusation. The reasons advanced by the SABC legal team to the board was that labour law suggests that if somebody had been employed to act in a position for a long period of time, that position must be legitimised as you are raising a legitimate expectation for that individual. So the Board weighed its decision based on those two reasons - that given the recommendations from the previous boards, and the records - why did it not just fill the position to get the operations running.
Mr Mokoena stated that she called a meeting for appointing a COO. It was not said that this was a meeting to appoint Mr Motsoeneng, and were there any other names suggested, if so, what names were discussed or presented?
Ms Tshabalala replied that several suggestion were made and it was based on the experience that the executives had at the SABC and whether they would be legitimate to hold the position. It came up that he was the most competent because he had been in that position.
Mr Mokoena stated that the Minister suggested otherwise, and asked if she was misleading Parliament.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she is not. There is evidence to what she submits. She wrote to the Minister to give the Minister the background of how the Board arrived at this decision.
Mr Mokoena stated that the company secretary spoke against the suggestion of appointing Mr Motsoeneng due to the reasons outlined by the Public Protector. He asked how the Board made a decision for someone whose case is sub judice.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she alluded to the Report being facts or suggestions. The Board was seized with ensuring that the Report is factual and what Judge Schipper’s verdict included was that those were recommendations and that the Public Protector is not a judge and that it is up to the business to decide what to do with the recommendations. Some of the things that were in the Report were indeed true, but some of them were not and it seemed that it protected the role of the CEO.
Mr Nkwankwa asked if she is talking about the very same judge who decided that those recommendations could not be ignored. He asked why the Report was not taken on judicial review.
Ms Tshabalala replied that the contestation of the Report was something that the Board considered but after sending the report to the Public Protector, there was no comfort that their report was taken seriously because there has never been any rebut of the information that was presented by the Board. It seemed as though it was thrown in the bin. When the issue was highly negated by the public on how the Public Protector conducted this particular Report, it confirmed the suspicion of the Board that the other things were hearsay and not factual.
Mr Nkwankwa stated that it seemed she did not care, just like Dr Ngubane. He reminded her that in one of her statements, she outlined that the Board looked for a lawyer, hence the appointment of Mr Mchunu, that would not mislead Parliament. That implies that she believed the Public Protector Report was misleading but nothing was done about it.
Ms Tshabalala replied that the Board exhausted avenues to get the facts on the issues. One other fact that the Public Protector was correct about was the continuous procurement of goods and services. The Board expressed its dissatisfaction regarding this.
Mr Nkwankwa stated that on the points that she did not agree with in the Public Protector Report, she felt like she could ignore them because she thought it was in the dust bin, and she got that attitude from the Minister, as there was a lot of correspondence between the Public Protector and Minister during that time as the Public Protector was trying to correct the mistakes. With regards to political interference, he asked about the individuals that were involved but she mentioned the political parties.
Ms Tshabalala asked if he is referring to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Mr Kholwane.
Mr Nkwankwa said yes.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she did not have a problem with Mr Kholwane, but subsequently there was a chairperson Ms Moloi-Moropa, it was not good from the first day. Ms Moloi-Moropa did not want to listen to what she had to say, hence she took the matter to court, and when she arrived at the meeting she was..
Mr Nkwankwa stated that he was referring to specific examples of interference and what those issues were when it came to the ANC and the DA.
Ms Tshabalala replied that this will warrant a written submission with the political parties and she does not want to cause commotion.
Mr Nkwankwa stated that her relationship with the company secretary was not good according to her, and that affected your processing in dealing with the Public Protector Report and in fact her advice was often ignored. He asked her to comment on that.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she does not recall any differences except when she said she was resigning due to big differences between her and the Deputy Chair. She tried convincing her not go.
Mr Nkwankwa stated that she was given a through pass by the previous Board particularly on the matter regarding the appointment of the COO.
Mr J Mahlangu (ANC) stated that she mentioned the name of Nzimande and later on she stated that the Minister did not call her.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she mentioned Nzimande on a separate issue, and as far as the Communist Party she not entirely sure which position they occupied, whether they were spokesperson, and there were many insinuations from the Minister in the public domain about the SABC.
Mr Mahlangu asked for more information about the MultiChoice deal. Furthermore, he stated that she sold the assets of the SABC to the competition.
Ms Tshabalala replied that is not true, and the SABC has a lot of agreements with other broadcasters. She expressed her concerns about legitimate partnerships. The initial stage of bringing the deal on board started a long time before but the major challenge was funding.
Mr Mahlangu asked about the implication of the deal.
Ms Tshabalala replied that the deal suggests that SABC and MultiChoice agree to a particular multi-channel operations matter.
Mr Mahlangu asked if he was correct in saying that it denies people access to the archives freely.
Ms Tshabalala replied that the SABC has been using the DStv platforms for a long time, and the use of the platform has been a concentrated effort to sell SABC outside the country.
Mr Mahlangu asked if it is free and accessible to all.
Ms Tshabalala replied that MultiChoice gave SABC R550 million to offset what the SABC was encountering in terms of the establishment of the channel.
Mr Mahlangu asked if ordinary South Africans are able to access these archives which they were able to access before the deal.
Ms Tshabalala replied that the issue of encryption is like putting a key in the door but not using it, the SABC was not in a good financial position to do that because it required a lot structures to be put in place and we did not want encryption, because there are billions of money sitting in Treasury to subsidise the poor. So an agreement was reached to ensure that this does not frustrate the content of the SABC but provide the leverage to popularise the SABC.
Mr Mahlangu stated that the court has made a particular ruling regarding the COO appointment. She as chair has put that person in a precarious position now the court has made a ruling and that person is affected. He asked for her comment on that.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she did not follow all the court proceedings after she left the Board after she allowed Mr Motsoeneng to be appointed in a position which he initially came from.
Ms Kilian stated that she was part of the meeting where the MultiChoice deal was discussed. She asked her to tell the Committee about who initiated this deal. Part of the deal is to also let go of the sole propriety of the SABC’s archives. Mr Naidoo offered that the contract be reviewed but there was no appetite for that. She asked whether Mr Motsoeneng was given the authority to sign, and why he was given that authority to sign.
Ms Tshabalala replied that it was both the operators or SABC and MultiChoice. And it became a critical matter solely because the competition is way ahead of the SABC. The matter was discussed many years before, and there is evidence to show what was frustrating the SABC on this matter. The archives are a big issue and she encouraged the Committee to trace the history of the archives, and many accusations have been levelled about individuals who took advantage of them. Both parties agreed and the agreement was not to sell the archives to MultiChoice.
Ms Kilian stated that she finds it very difficult if she goes through the Mchunu Attorneys report as it is dissecting the Public Protector Report but it is not providing additional evidence but just the history of Mr Motsoeneng’s appointment, and the issue of public trust. There was evidence of symbols that were provided to the SABC that Mr Kloppers knew all along that he did not have a matric and why that was done. She asked on what basis the Mchunu report can tell the Committee about Mr Kloppers.
Ms Kilian said that it was mentioned earlier that it is not true that SABC members were purged, If one peruses the Public Protector Report, it found 14 members who complained but the Public Protector could find evidence of Motsoeneng’s involvement in only 7 of the 14 cases. Secondly, the Public Protector said some board members did not like Mr Motsoeneng but minutes of the board meetings reflect that members objected on the basis that no due process was being followed on the Public Protector Report, so it was not a personal matter. Thirdly, she said the interim Public Protector Report was discussed by the interim Board, but on page 10 of the Public Protector Report it stated that you acknowledged that you excluded other board members. How does Ms Tshabalala explain these contradictions? If one looks at the contradictions and what the Committee finds in the documentation, how does she expect the Committee to judge her perception of the role of the Committee and its serious attempt to get to the bottom of the truth? And how does she view the Committee’s concern she was not being 100% honest with the Committee?
Ms Tshabalala replied that there are issues that were raised that she did not say a word about, particularly about purging.
Ms Kilian interrupted to say that is not true. There is evidence to that effect and those that the Public Protector could find evidence on.
Ms Tshabalala replied it is important to deal with facts in Parliament, and that the Chair of the Portfolio Committee should engage the Board and the CEO to assess what has been projected in the public and ascertain whether it is true or not. She requested that the Board be exposed based on facts and share these with the Chair of the Portfolio Committee, and the Board Chairperson and the CEO should come and account to the Chair of the Portfolio Committee. The Board had its view and that should be respected. The complement of the full Board disagreed and agreed. It is not a favourable thing to take decisions based on a vote and those that go to the public and express the views about the Chairperson. She totally disliked it when the person who was very unhappy with the MultiChoice deal, went to the SABC legal team to request all contracts pertaining to the MultiChoice deal. She as Board chair could not allow that and she instructed the respective member to follow proper protocol. It was the full complement of the Board.
Mr Chauke commented that he was not sure if Ms Tshabalala was responding to the questions posed. He then asked about her view that she confirmed with a legal opinion prior to the COO appointment which implies that the legal opinion held so much more weight than the contents of the Public Protector Report. The disagreement here was there were those who were saying that the law must be followed.
Ms Tshabalala replied that disagreements in boards are a norm in her experience. She does not know whether she is referring to abiding within the law regarding Mr Motsoeneng. In her view the court is not dealing with the appointment of the COO but it is dealing with the issue of the recent Board placing Mr Motsoeneng in a position that he occupied before.
Mr Chauke asked about the avenues that identified Mr Motsoeneng or championed his appointment.
Ms Tshabalala replied that there were a number of people who called her to say that they do not like Mr Motsoeneng and asked if there were things that could be used to jeopardise his appointment.
Mr Chauke asked who those people were and which politicians were instructing her to fire certain people. He asked why she left the SABC as a chairperson.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she mentioned earlier that she does not have much information to substantiate certain things. With regards to the political interference and mentioning names of politicians, she will not disclose the names and she reserves her right not to disclose.
Mr Chauke said that the Committee will then call you again to come to discuss those issues under oath, because she has made serious statements here. Lastly, he asked if Parliament instructed her to go and break the law in the appointment of the said person.
Mr Nkwankwa stated that Ms Tshabalala had already agreed to disclose certain matters in writing, so she cannot turn around and change her mind saying that she reserves her right not to disclose.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she will provide a written submission on what transpired during her tenure.
The Chairperson specified that it must also include political interference.
Ms Tshabalala explained why she left the SABC, saying it was because of the negative media around SABC and her personal academic qualifications. When she tried to address her matter in Parliament she found a negative attitude of not even wanting to listen to her, and she understood this. She understood that there was a plan to not have her as Board Chair.
Mr Chauke interjected that it is now coming out that there are more politicians that were involved. In her submission to Parliament, she must now add who was supposed to be the Board Chairperson.
The Chairperson asked if the minutes of the 7 July meeting reflect what actually transpired in the meeting. Are the minutes a true reflection of what happened in that meeting and did she invite the Minister because that is what the minutes of the meeting say?
Ms Tshabalala replied that she did not invite the Minister, it was an issue that she and the Minister discussed and she argued that the Board cannot be left out on this topic. So she organised a Board meeting to which the Minister would come only after the Board had deliberated on the COO appointment.
The Chairperson stated that this information comes from the source documents that are in the custody of the company secretary of the Corporation. Now when Ms Tshabalala denies the accuracy of the minutes, it brings into question how much weight the Committee should put on the documentation received from the SABC, if she argues that the minutes are not a true reflection of what happened during the 7 July meeting.
Ms Tshabalala replied that the Minister called and complained about the delays and she asked what would it take for the SABC to meet the deadlines. Ms Tshabalala then suggested that it would be helpful if the Minister comes to the meeting and expresses her concerns about the urgency of delivering on time.
The Chairperson asked if she was aware that board members were invited to that particular meeting via SMSes, and to explain why it happened in this fashion.
Ms Tshabalala replied that in the SABC Board Charter it is prescribed how many times the Board must meet, and historically the Board met so many times to deal with certain issues. People now do not want to take up positions at the SABC due to the manner things are dealt with. When the Board was inviting applications for certain senior and executive positions, a lot of women withdrew because of the culture and the nature in which things were happening at the SABC. People get insulted. The Board met many times for reasons of ensuring that it achieves what it needed to achieve and the Board was under pressure not to address certain personal agendas.
The Chairperson asked what Ms Tshabalala understood to be the archives of the SABC.
Ms Tshabalala replied that it is all the information that the SABC has invested in terms of the accumulation of events. Before she joined the SABC she was curious to see how it has the capability to store so much information.
The Chairperson asked by the time she left where was the archive material or who was the custodian of the archive material.
Ms Tshabalala replied that the Board entrusted the archives to the PBS board committee and they were very aggressive in gathering facts on the archives.
The Chairperson asked if she would regard the Mzansi Magic channel on DStv as the archives of the SABC.
Ms Tshabalala replied that she does not think it forms part of the archive of the SABC.
The Chairperson said that it does form part of the archives of the SABC. The Broadcasting Act reflects that the SABC is to establish and maintain libraries and archives. Mzansi Magic is sitting on DStv, and so he asked if she agrees that it forms part of the archives and that we are not the custodians of that material because it is on a DStv channel unless the SABC owns that channel. If the SABC does not own that channel, does it not contravene the Broadcasting Act, and whoever made that decision went against the Broadcasting Act? In her term, her Board went on to do the opposite of what the Broadcasting Act reflects about the archives.
Ms Tshabalala replied that it is a cause for concern. Furthermore, for the SABC not to be able to use the wide platform which DStv provides is a challenge in terms of viewers that it wants to attract to SABC. She expressed her concern that we are very archaic in the manner in which we think, because the CEO justified that we have repeats of the soapies, and yet the demand from young people was that they wanted fresh content and new material. There was a sense of becoming irrelevant, so now the challenge was to bring in new content without losing the archives to the disadvantage of the business. The emergence of other channels was in mind with SABC becoming popularised on the platform of DStv. So there was a discussion at the operations level to say that the partnerships developed with other broadcasters and the Public Broadcasting Services (PBS) must weigh whether those partnerships benefit SABC and must present that to the board committee.
The Chairperson stated that when the Minister appeared before the Committee last year, the Minister said that no archives of the SABC were sold to MultiChoice. The majority of South Africans do not have access to it, and now the Committee needs to verify the statement of the Minister that no archives were sold. Between her and the Minister, one will have to come back to the Committee to verify this.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Tshabalala for her presence and stated that she has 24 hours to prepare anything she still needs to furnish to the Committee, in terms of supporting documentation and written responses. It is unfortunate that she was the last one. On the 19 and 20 January, the Committee will convene, having received inputs from the Members, and put together a draft report. It will be put to the Committee formally on 24 January. It will be sent to the SABC executive members for comment between the 24th up to the 9 February. On 14 February, the Committee will convene and consider the comments received from all the stakeholders. Hopefully it will be able to collate everything received from the stakeholders and a final report be submitted on 28 February.
The Chairperson thanked everyone for their presence and declared the meeting adjourned.
No related documents
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.