SABC Board Inquiry Interim Report: consideration of responses

Ad Hoc Committee on SABC Board Inquiry

21 February 2017
Chairperson: Mr A Smith (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to consider its responses to the Interim Report on the Inquiry into the fitness of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board to hold office.

The Committee had afforded all parties affected in the Interim Report the opportunity to respond to the report’s content. At this meeting, the Chairperson requested that Members withhold their recommendations for the Final Report, and instead concentrate on accurately reflecting the perspectives of the eighteen responses to the Inquiry's Interim Report. These accounts would be included in the Final Report in order to maintain procedural fairness, public confidence and transparency in the inquiry process.

The Committee heard responses from, amongst others, the so-called ‘SABC 8’, the Auditor-General of South Africa, Mr H Motsoeneng's legal team, TNA Media, and the SABC. Members noted that the SABC 8 still face threats and intimidation, and that the security of these individual was a primary concern. Mr H Motsoeneng’s legal team responded to the report on his behalf, stating that the inquiry had been prejudiced towards Mr Motsoeneng as he was not given the opportunity to appear before the Committee. The Chairperson described the document as a “letter of protest”, and the Committee refuted the claims of Mr Motsoeneng.

The SABC response to the Interim Report was 141 pages long, therefore the Committee utilised Parliamentary researchers and legal advisors to assess and accurately reflect its content. The SABC refuted the basis of the inquiry, as well as the testimony of most witnesses, stating that there had been bias against the SABC. SABC argued that the majority of witnesses were ex-employees, board members and civil society groups that had always viewed the SABC in a negative light. For this reason, they felt that the outcome of the inquiry was already predetermined. After initial confusion as to who signed off the SABC document, it was confirmed that Acting GCEO Mr James Aguma had taken ownership of the response.
Some members of the Committee were reluctant to include certain individual  responses in the Final Report, as they had not taken the opportunity to appear before the Committee under oath. Moreover, some of the responses sought to introduce new evidence for consideration, which the Committee rejected in the interest of procedural fairness. The Committee agreed to defer its review of the response submission by Minister of Communications for 22 February 2017.

Meeting report

The Chairperson noted that they would consider eighteen responses to the Inquiry's Interim Report. These were from Ms E Tshabalala, Ms R Kalidass, Mr S Masinga, Mr I Tsetsi, the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA), Mr D Mateza, Mr D Foxton, Mr H Motsoeneng, Mr M Shushu, the ‘SABC 8’, SOS Coalition, Right to Know, Media Monitoring Africa, Mr P Molefe, TNA Media, Dr B Ngubane, Ms F Muthambi, and the SABC itself. The Committee had until Friday 24 February to consider the responses and make recommendations for the Final Report.

Mr N Singh (IFP) expressed concern about the volume of information the Committee was expected to digest. He proposed keeping the Committee’s schedule flexible to allow members to properly engage with the subject matter, considering caucus responsibilities and the Finance Minister’s speech on 22 February.

Mr H Chauke (ANC) stressed the necessity to “give justice to each submission”, and noted that he was grateful for the assistance of the Parliamentary legal and research teams.

Mr S Swart (ACDP) noted that the Committee should carefully consider all submissions, avoiding the trap of ‘preferring a certain version’ of events. To this extent, many of the submissions contain allegations of bias on the Committee’s behalf.  He does not want to see the process prolonged because of legal disputes about information that is contested. Further, the recommendations would critical to the process, requiring sufficient time for deliberation and consensus amongst members.

Mr N Khubisa (NFP) noted that some the comments received referred to procedural and substantive fairness. The guideline drafted by the legal team would be useful in illuminating these issues. For practical purposes, he requested members not concern themselves with minor omissions of spelling and grammar.  

Mr Waters (DA) said he felt as if members were “cramming for an exam” considering all the resources presented to the Committee. He agreed with the point of Mr Singh and Mr Swart that the Committee should leave themselves sufficient time to agree on recommendations.

Ms J Kilian (ANC) noted that a vast number of documents had been presented by the SABC. Some of the submission attempted to discredit witnesses; the report should not be redrafted. She stressed the importance of “capturing the essence of our whole inquiry” in the recommendations.

The Chair agreed that the Committee should dedicate sufficient time to recommendations without compromising their review of the responses.

Mr J Mahlangu (ANC) requested clarity from the legal team: many of the responses include statements that were not made while under oath, nor to the Committee directly. For this reason, does the Committee not run the risk of adopting information for which nobody is responsible? The 141-page SABC response is one of those documents written by an individual that has never appeared before the Committee.

The Chair said that he was certain that the legal team would advise the Committee when the time comes to review the responses. The SABC statement should be interpreted as a response to the draft report compiled by the Committee. For all other respondents, the same point is not necessarily applicable.

Mr Chauke agreed with the point raised by Mr Mahlangu. He stressed the need to verify respondents – specifically for the SABC document - as the Committee should not “listen to someone sitting in the corner on behalf of the SABC”

The Chair requested that the legal advisor verify the individual responsible for the SABC document, however for the other respondents, this verification would not be necessary. The Chair requested that the Committee begin the review, beginning with Ms Tshabalala.

Tshabalala response
Ms Kilian noted that the email was received 35 minutes before the closure for responses on 16 February. She described Ms Tashabalala’s response as “superficial”, as she expressed discontent that her ideas were “not properly ventilated” in the draft report. Secondly, at the end of her response, Ms Tshabalala indicated that she is reserving her rights. What did the Committee include in the body of the report that could have offended Ms Tshabalala? Ms Kilian requested that the Committee merely note the email, considering that Ms Tshabalala’s testimony was little more than a background on governance procedure during her term as the SABC Chairperson.

Ms F Loliwe (ANC) noted that following her Committee appearance, Ms Tshabalala made statements that she could not substantiate. Moreover, Ms Tshabalala refused to sign an affidavit, citing the fact that she was making her statement under oath. Ms Loliwe agreed with the suggestion to merely note Ms Tshabalala’s submission.

Mr Waters said that he perceived Ms Tshabalala to be an unreliable witness, and agreed to merely note her submission.

Mr Singh said that the in the process of receiving submissions, merely taking note of individual responses would be an oversimplification. What impact will simply noting responses have on the Final Report?

The Chair said that the request to note Ms Tshabalala’s response was recognized, and asked the Committee if they were comfortable with the summary of Ms Tshabalala’s response nonetheless.

Mr Mahlangu said that he was fine with the summary of Ms Tshabalala’s statements. However he agreed with Mr Waters, noting for the record that Ms Tshabalala was not a helpful witness, and “jumped around”.

The Chair agreed to note Ms Tshabalala’s statement.

Kalidass response
The Chair indicated that Ms Kalidass’ was in agreement with the report.

Masinga response
Mr Swart noted that Mr Masinga’s response alludes to amendments in the SABC Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI). He suggested that the Committee refer back to Mr Masinga’s response while reviewing the response of the Minister of Communications. In doing so,the Committee may interpret the two different accounts simultaneously.

Ms Loliwe said that she did not have a problem with the suggestion, however any contradictions about the MOI would likely be picked up by the legal team.

Mr Waters requested that the response be dealt with immediately, rather than later.

Mr Singh said that the Committee should flag the substantive issues such as the MOI, but deal with the less pressing technicalities immediately.

The Chair reminded the Committee that the contestation pertained to the changing of the MOI by the SABC Board, as well as the Minister’s lack of resistance to that. The Committee should distinguish between the content-per-witness and the broader subject matter. He noted that Mr Masinga’s account differs from that of any other witness, including the Minister of Communications. The Chair requested that the legal advisor make a note of the need to amend the report based on Mr Masinga’s submission.

Ms Kilian said that the SABC submission also pertained to the MOI. She said that the MOI received was unsigned, and that the Committee had received three different MOIs from the SABC. The Parliament research team had prepared a document illustrating the differences between the three MOI versions.

The Chair asked if the Committee agreed with the summary of Mr Masinga’s response, with the exception of the MOI, which would be addressed later.

Ms Kilian said that the SABC submission also pertains to TNA Media, which the Committee should bear in mind. Nevertheless, she agreed to accept Mr Masinga’s submission.

AGSA response
Ms Kilian noted that the AGSA had given a very small submission, mainly dealing with a technical adjustment in the report.

Mr Swart said that he did not necessarily agree with the AGSA proposed technical adjustment, as he felt it downplayed the severity of the financial situation at the SABC. Nevertheless, Mr Swart accepted the adjustment.

On the advice of the Committee, the Chair agreed to accept the AGSA technical adjustment to an introductory paragraph.

Mateza response
Mr Mahlangu asked if Mr Dumlie Mateza had ever appeared before the Committee. Had he made a formal submission, besides the response to the draft report? How does the Committee weigh his input considering this?

The Chair said that Mr Mateza was not one of the witnesses that appeared before the Committee. He labelled Mr Mateza’s input as “unsolicited”. The Chair suggested that the Committee not include the response of Mr Mateza, considering his statement does not drastically deviate from the central narrative of the report in any case.

Foxton response
Ms Loliwe said that she was happy with the summary of Mr Foxton’s response, with the exception of a correction to the figure provided in his submission.

Ms Kilian suggested that Mr Foxton’s title as “Political and current affairs consultant” should be adjusted, as well as the figure mentioned by Ms Loliwe.

Motsoeneng response
The Chair informed members that Mr H Motsoeneng’s legal team had written a letter indicating that Mr Motsoeneng had never been given an opportunity to appear before the Committee, and that therefore the inquiry had been prejudiced towards Mr Motsoeneng. The Chair described the document as a “letter of protest”.

Mr Swart said that the Committee has no choice but to accept the response of Mr Motsoeneng’s legal representatives. He advised that the matter should be referred to the Parliamentary legal team in order to draft a response.

Mr Swart said that he did not feel that Mr Motsoeneng had been prejudiced at any point in the inquiry. 

The Chair indicated that the Parliamentary legal team and himself had already complied a response to the letter from Mr Motsoeneng’s legal team. The letter had not been signed as the Chair awaited the Committee’s buy-in. The Chair indicated that members would receive the letter of response for their endorsement.

Mr Mahlangu argued that because the letter was received from Mr Motsoeneng’s lawyers, should the Committee not include the name of the legal firm representing Mr Motsoeneng in the report?

Mr Chauke suggested that the Committee take note of Mr Mahlangu’s point and commended the Chair and the administration for compiling the letter.

Shushu response
The Chair said that Mr Shushu was attempting to introduce new evidence to the Committee, rather than attempting to comment on the Committee’s draft report. The Chair asked the Committee if it felt it necessary to entertain Mr Shushu’s new evidence.

Ms Kilian suggested that the new evidence be referred to the Portfolio Committee on Communications (PCC) for investigation. The Ad Hoc Committee cannot, at this late stage, entertain any new evidence as it would likely compromise the integrity of the investigation.

Mr Khubisa suggested the Committee note the comments, however they cannot consider new evidence.

Mr Waters noted that Mr Shushu’s response was presented in extensive detail, featuring information pertaining to illicit deals with certain companies. The Committee could take this information into consideration. It was unfortunate that Mr Shushu had not brought this information forward earlier, and recommended that the information be referred to the Portfolio Committee on Communications. Mr Waters expressed concern about the PCC, stating that they had not even begun deliberations or appointed an interim SABC board.

The Chair said that Mr Shushu’s evidence, for the purpose of the inquiry, should be considered irrelevant. The new evidence should be referred to the PCC.

Mr Mahlangu said that he agreed to refer the new evidence to the PCC.

Ms Loliwe also agreed, stating that the Committee does not have time to verify validity.

Mr Chauke said that considering the volume of new evidence presented, the Committee should package the new evidence in the form of an annexure, which can thereafter be referred to the relevant entity. 

Mr Singh said that the Committee should keep referring to its terms of reference: to make broad recommendations to Parliament, along with more specific recommendations that can be investigated further. He agreed with the approach of other members.

The Chair agreed, however this new evidence only reaffirms the contents already within the report.

Ms Kilian suggested that the new evidence be brought to the AGSA, as some claims pertain to irregular expenditure and specific contracts. When the AGSA came to the Committee, certain documents were not available, and that perhaps through this process more evidence can be unearthed.

‘SABC 8’ and Venter response
Mr Chauke asked if any recent information about the SABC 8 was communicated to the Committee? Perhaps a letter? He noted that there was a lot of information circulating about the SABC 8, specifically that the previous Chief Operating Officer (COO) is still instructing officials as if he were in charge. He said the Committee should make a note of the matter.

Mr Waters made reference to the "The Black Paper on the SABC" compiled by six of the SABC 8. The Committee had only included some of the recommendations, but not others. He requested that the Committee mention them all in the Final Report. The recommendations called for the appointment of an internal ombudsman, the establishment of a multi-stakeholder board, and increased public funding, the return of quality merit and training, and the return of personnel and programmes. Their response also highlighted the role of “the enforcers” within the SABC. Mr Waters stressed the seriousness of the claims about enforcers, stating that particular aspect must be considered for the report.

Mr Swart noted that the response makes reference to email correspondence that suggests that the SABC bore a significant amount of the cost associated with the TNA Breakfast briefings. He described this as substantiating evidence, which the Committee must take note of. Ms Suna Venter of the SABC 8 refers to the continued involvement of the former COO at the SABC, as well as the security of the ‘SABC 8’. Mr Swart noted that the SABC has responded to this issue, stating that they had referred the ‘SABC 8’ to “wellness programmes”. Lastly, Mr Swart noted that the response provided by Ms Venter supports the recommendation for a forensic investigation into the newsroom "enforcers".

Mr Singh agreed with Mr Swart that the recommendations within the ‘Black Paper’ were useful to the Committee, particularly in consideration of the Committee’s recommendations.

Ms Kilian said that the Committee could only refer specific recommendations for further investigation, therefore the feasibility of the recommendations in this regard should be considered.

Mr Waters expressed his support for Mr Swart’s point about the "enforcers", and suggested that the Committee include the names put forward by Ms Venter’s into the Final Report.

The Chair said that he agreed about adding the other recommendations, however, the inclusion of specific names may be overstepping it. Ms Venter’s submission requests the Committee “look deeper into the enforcers”, however Mr Waters’ suggestion may invoke the possibility of the Committee being taken to court or the report’s integrity being undermined.

Mr Chauke agreed with the Chairperson, stating that including names, as they appear in Ms Venter’s submission, would be highly problematic.

Ms Kilian stressed the need for the Committee to be careful not to elaborate too deeply, as the Committee could be accused of bias and “managing the truth”. She suggested the Committee deal with the principle by kick-starting the investigation process into the matter, however specific details may compromise the report.

Ms Loliwe agreed, urging the Committee not to lose sight of its mandate, and said that the Committee would not be able to follow every lead.

Mr Waters asked if Ms Venter's submission featuring the names of the enforcers would be included in the annexure of the Final Report.

The Chair confirmed the submissions would be included in the annexure as they are, and that all details – including transcripts - would be available for further investigation following the conclusion of the inquiry.

Mr Chauke said that all documents should be formally tabled for the purpose of record-keeping. Once the Committee does so, the information becomes “owned” by Parliament.

SOS Coalition response
Mr Singh said that nothing within this particular submission has any impact on the Committee’s report, but should be noted for the Committee’s recommendations.

Ms Kilian noted that the SOS Coalition had called for the formal dissolution of the SABC board in terms of the relevant sections of the Broadcasting Act. The SOS Coalition also made reference to ‘Corporate governance failures”, “Human Resources”, “Procurement”, and the MOI in their recommendations. With regards to procurement, she suggested the Committee take careful note of any information as it is at the root of the problems at the SABC.

Ms Loliwe suggested that the Committee refrain from the temptation of focusing on what the PCC is doing about the appointment of the interim board. The Committee must complete their work within a given timeframe. She suggested the inclusion of “editorial policy and censorship” in the Committee’s report.

Mr Chauke said that the Committee cannot attempt to rewrite the submissions in a desired format. He suggested that the Committee not focus too heavily on semantics and technicalities.

Right2Know response
Mr Swart noted the reference to “suspicious transactions” highlighted by Right2Know, however he suggested it was not necessary to repeat that aspect in the report as it has been thoroughly covered in the report.

The Committee agreed that the response of Right to Know did not include any new information for consideration, and accepted the summary of the response.

Media Monitoring Africa response
Ms Kilian said that the summary of the response was accurate.

Mr Khubisa agreed with Ms Kilian, but noted that some of the statements in the original response were paraphrased differently in the summary.

Mr Singh noted that many of Media Monitoring Africa’s recommendations were in fact included in the Interim Report; specifically the SABC’s bias during the build-up to the 2016 municipal elections - a point raised by Mr Mokoena (EFF) in a previous sitting. The report had already captured the SABC’s failure to adhere to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) ruling.

The Chair described Media Monitoring Africa’s recommendations as “superfluous but not discarded.”

Mr Waters proposed that the Committee make reference to Mr Motsoeneng’s ban on coverage of violent protest in the section dealing with pre-election media bias.

Mr Chauke said that he felt that Mr Water’s proposal was fair.

Ms Kilian disagreed, as combining sections on “pre-election bias” and “coverage of violent protests” would be limiting the perspective presented by Media Monitoring Africa.

The Chairperson suggested that members reserve their energy for the recommendations, rather than technical details on submissions.

Afternoon session
The Chair noted the absence of Mr Khubisa, who was attending another meeting but noted that he would return later. He requested that the Parliamentary Legal Advisor tocomment on the legal issues raised by responses received thus far.

Ms Anthea Gordon, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, commented on the SABC response where it raised that certain individuals were allowed to appear before the Committee without being under oath. She said that this was considered acceptable during the inquiry process. Following the publishing of the Interim Report, the Committee had received various responses that should be considered a reply to the implications of the report that may affect them, aligned with the principles of natural justice. Evidence received from individuals during the ‘reply phase’ of the investigation would only be permissible for consideration if these individuals had appeared before the Committee before the drafting of the Interim Report. These documents may be considered an extension of their main evidence. To this extent, she noted that the SABC had not come forward with any evidence during the inquiry process, therefore its introduction of new evidence, from a legal perspective, would not be acceptable for the purpose of the formal investigation. The evidence brought forward by the SABC could be considered by another forum. She noted that the Minister and the SABC response documents were both watermarked “Confidential”, a label which is null and void for the purpose of the investigation, given the public status of the inquiry.

Mr Chauke remarked that the SABC submission was not made under oath, nor was it clear who took responsibility for the document, as it was unsigned. Considering the absence of an accounting authority at the SABC, what weight does the document carry? The Chair had given the SABC an opportunity to appear before the Committee – an opportunity that the broadcaster did not accept. Since the SABC’s evidence contradicts that of individuals who had testified under oath, how can we consider this new information? What was the mandate of the individual that signed off on the SABC submission?

Mr Singh asked if the Committee was obliged to compose a response to the submissions received? He asked who had signed the cover letter of the SABC response.

Ms Kilian also requested clarity on who had signed off the SABC document. She expressed concern that the SABC submission may have been signed off by the Company Secretary and secretary to the SABC board, Ms Geldenhuys. If this were the case, the secretary – as the advisor to the board according to the Companies Act - had no practical position in the absence of the board.

Dr M Khosa (ANC) noted that her impression was that Mr M Maghuve had appeared before the Committee on behalf of the SABC. Was the SABC submission written on behalf of Mr Maghuve?

Mr Waters said that for legal purposes, the SABC board has not yet been dissolved. There were only three individuals left on the SABC board, and they did not at this stage have the capacity to make any decisions at the SABC. Was the document signed off by the Company Secretary and does she have the authority?

Mr Mahlangu expressed concern that considering the lack of authority attached to the SABC response, to whom should the Ad Hoc Committee reply be sent? Would it be sent to the Company Secretary? He urged the Committee not to labour on matters that have already been covered.

The Chair noted that during a committee meeting in the Old Assembly, Mr Aguma stood up and requested to contribute to the inquiry process. The Committee said this was not possible, as the SABC had not taken that opportunity when it was presented to them previously. When the Interim Report was finalised, it was sent to all stakeholders, including the SABC, and the Interim Report was addressed to Mr Aguma. In response to Mr Mahlangu’s question, the Chair noted that the SABC board had not been dissolved legally. He noted that the Company Secretary was under the authority of the CEO. This was evident in the fact that the Acting GCEO, Mr Aguma, was copied into the cover letter of the SABC submission.

Ms Gordon said that she shared the concerns of the Members outright, and confirmed that the SABC submission had not been signed, and no warm body had thus far been identified as the author of the document. As the Chairperson said, the Committee could assume that the letter was compiled by Mr Aguma, however this assumption should be confirmed as soon as possible. She noted that the SABC submission presented more evidence rather than responded to the Interim Report. The SABC submission was particularly damning of the Committee inquiry. She recommended that the Committee note the evidence, however it should not be considered for the Final Report.

The Chairperson said it would be acceptable to email Mr Aguma asking him to confirm that he is the author.

Mr Chauke said that the Chair’s proposal was acceptable, as there should be no shortcuts in the inquiry, and due process must be followed. If the Committee were to accept the response without an identifiable signatory, the Committee could find themselves in legal trouble. The Committee cannot comment on unverified information, therefore the submission be ignored until an author is identified. This was a paragon for the problem at the SABC: the fact that nobody is willing to take responsibility.

Ms Kilian requested that the Chair ask Mr Aguma if he takes responsibility for the annexures to the SABC submission.

The Chair said that the Committee would send the letter requesting confirmation from Mr Aguma. Moving on, he noted that the letter received from Mr Motsoeneng’s legal team had accused the Committee of being prejudiced towards Mr Motsoeneng by not allowing him to make a statement before the Committee. In the formal response to Mr Motsoeneng’s legal team, the Committee refuted the matters on three grounds: Firstly, that Mr Motsoeneng was not an employee of the SABC until his disciplinary hearing had been processed. Secondly, the Committee had afforded the SABC board an opportunity to appear, and the right to call witnesses to testify or endorse their statements. Thirdly, that the evidence included in the Interim Report was based on what was testified in court, as well as what was contained in the Public Protector report. On this basis, the Committee refuted Mr Motsoeneng’s response. However it would be up to the National Assembly to decide whether the Committee was, in fact, prejudiced.

All members agreed in principle to the Chair's proposal.

Molefe response
The research team said that Mr Molefe’s response dealt with three themes: the costs related to the TNA Breakfast briefings; the newspaper deal with New Age Media signed in 2012, and the deal regarding the creation of a 24-hour news channel. Mr Molefe’s submission denied the claim that Dr Ngubane had signed the deal for TNA subscription when he was Group Executive, and that this deal was instead signed by former CEO Lulama Mokhobo. Mr Molefe’s submission said that SABC bore most of the costs involved with the TNA Breakfast briefings, and all production costs for shows outside of Gauteng.

Mr Mahlangu questioned the amounts given for the cost of the TNA Breakfast briefings. He noted that Mr Molefe's submission indicated the cost was R5 million.

Mr Swart pointed out that the cost of four shows per month would amount to R5 million, totaling R60 million per year.

Ms Kilian said that Mr Molefe's submission had reported a figure of R1 million per show, of which production costs would range from R250 000 and R500 000. This excluded the cost for an Outside-Broadcasting (OB) truck, which reportedly cost around R500 000.

Mr Waters described the yearly cost of R60 million as a “staggering amount,” and requested the Committee to include the figure in the Final Report.

The Chair reminded the Committee that it should not be concerned with “rands and cents”. He noted that the Committee had not been provided with audited figures on the expenses, but the point was that there were significant costs incurred to the SABC. The Committee should be reluctant to include an unverified figure in the Final Report, but rather assess if there is information that could enrich the summary of the submission.

Ms Loliwe agreed with the Chair on this point, stating that the Committee does not have concrete proof of the actual figures.

Mr Chauke urged that Members should not be distracted by technical details, but rather focus on reflecting the principle of the submissions.

The Chair said that when the Committee forms the basis of a recommendation, and when the Final Report is presented to Parliament, the report should reflect a sense of what all parties had said.

Dr Khosa noted that Mr Molefe had indicated that SABC and TNA had entered into a “50/50 revenue-sharing agreement”. Did this revenue-sharing agreement reflect the costs incurred for the production of the show? Why did the legal team not include this aspect in the summary?

The Chair asked if the Committee felt it necessary to include information about the revenue-sharing agreement in the Final Report. He requested the advice of the research team.

The Parliament Research Team said that there was no clarity as to what the SABC would benefit from the revenue-sharing agreement.

The Chair highlighted Mr Molefe’s statemen,t “I am aware that a business case for this [TNA] contract was presented to the Group Executive which set out the responsibilities of each of the parties, including the costs and a 50/50 revenue-sharing agreement.” He asked if this should this be added to the summary of Mr Molefe’s submission.

Mr Singh proposed the Committee add Mr Molefe’s input in the Final Report.

The Chair accepted the inclusion of this input in the summary of Mr Molefe’s submission.

TNA Media response
The TNA responded to evidence of the proposed rebranding of SABC News through a business agreement with TNA, a MOU that would allow TNA Media to host Breakfast Briefings using SABC resources, and a subscription to have the Gupta-owned New Age newspaper distributed in the SABC national and provincial offices. Some of the statements provided by TNA Media contradict some of those made by Mr Molefe.

The Chair reminded the Committee that they were not discussing whether TNA Media’s submission was right or wrong, but rather to fully reflect their response to Committee’s Interim Report.

Mr Waters made reference to transcript of an email from TNA Media representative Ms Lucille Jacobs about the New Age subscription deal. He noted that Ms Jacobs had attempted to entice the SABC by promising to report news that showed that “the glass was half full” in the New Age. Mr Waters recommended this statement be included in the Interim Report.

Mr Mahlangu said that the summary of TNA Media’s response was relatively straightforward. With this considered, why do members want to treat it differently to any other response?

Mr Kilian disagreed – she requested clarity on the essence of the arrangement between the SABC and TNA Media. The emails were particularly useful in understanding the nature of the arrangement.

Mr Swart said that it was important to consider the allegations made against TNA Media, and fully reflect its response in the Final Report. Considering the volume of information provided in TNA’s submission, it would be difficult to decide what to include or exclude.

Mr Mahlangu expressed concern about the reliability of the claims made by the TNA, considering they were not made under oath.

Mr Waters said that he agreed with the point raised by Mr Swart. While the Committee’s interest is to keep the report concise, it must be cautious not to include too little information.
Mr Chauke said that the Committee should not concern themselves with the nature of the deal between the SABC and TNA, but rather focus specifically on the important points from TNA Media’s submission.

Dr Khosa said that it was necessary to include the submission of the TNA not because of the evidence they brought forward, but because they themselves were implicated in the Interim Report. In this regard, the primary point of reference should be the quality of financial decisions at the SABC, and subsequently TNA Media’s involvement therein. She reiterated the point that TNA Media had never appeared before the Committee, yet had submitted a response to the Interim Report. This should be reflected in the Final Report.

Mr Singh agreed, noting that the recommendations will call for further investigation into the evidence brought forward by TNA Media.

The Chairperson confirmed that there would be a recommendation to investigate certain contracts, however this is not the Committee’s mandate at this point.

Dr Khosa pointed out that TNA Media had confirmed the revenue-sharing agreement in their submission, despite Dr Ngubane’s denial that there was ever a deal in place.

Mr Singh highlighted that former Acting SABC CEO, Mr Anton Heunis, had confirmed on 14 November that there was a partnership between the SABC and New Age. SABC had agreed to a 60/40 split in this agreement.

The Chair noted Mr Singh’s point. He suggested that the Committee close the discussion on TNA Media, to which members agreed.

After a short interval, the Chairperson confirmed that Acting SABC CEO, Mr James Aguma, had taken ownership of the SABC submission. In the interest of reviewing submissions comprehensively, the Chair suggested that the Committee address the submission of the Communications Minister and the amended SABC MOI the following day. The Chair requested that the Parliament elaborate on the submission of Dr Ngubane, the former chairperson of the SABC board.

Ngubane response
Dr Ngubane asserted that the interim document was over-reliant on oral evidence, neglecting to make use of the documentation supposedly afforded to the Committee. Dr Ngubane also questioned the credibility of Ms Nompumelelo Dlamini as a witness, despite the fact that Ms Dlamini had signed an affidavit. Dr Ngubane further said that it was unclear how the SABC was expected to function in the absence of a board.

Ms Kilian expressed concern that although the Committee had received an affidavit from Ms Dlamini, they had not had an opportunity to cross-question her as a witness. The credibility of Mr Ngubane’s entire response relied heavily on discrediting Ms Dlamini. However,  the Committee should not compromise the strength of the report by including some submissions and neglecting others.

Mr Singh noted that the establishment of the interim board at the SABC was the responsibility of the PCC, rather than the Ad Hoc Committee, as Dr Ngubane asserts. Mr Singh agreed that Mr Ngubane’s response was heavily reliant on Ms Dlamini. Therefore, the crux of the issue would be whether Ms Dlamini’s evidence can be corroborated.

The Chair confirmed that although Ms Dlamini had signed an affidavit, she had not been cross-questioned. The Committee should nevertheless reflect Dr Ngubane’s response in the Final Report. The issue would be whether the Committee could make a recommendation based on Ms Dlamini’s evidence.

Mr Mahlangu said that the perspective of Dr Ngubane had been adequately captured in the summary of his submission. He noted that although Ms Dlamini had not been cross-examined, her affidavit provides good authority to consider her evidence.

Ms Kilian stated that Mr Ngubane may have been confused about the role of this Ad Hoc Committee in the appointment of an interim SABC board. The PCC had this responsibility.

Mr Swart noted that Dr Ngubane had refuted Mr Molefe’s statement about the SABC deal with the New Age publication. Mr Swart said that the only reasonable recommendation put forward by Mr Ngubane was for the interim board to assist in the investigation of this new evidence.

Mr Singh highlighted Dr Ngubane’s claim that the Committee had not been transparent in verifying Ms Dlamini’s affidavit, as well as affording Dr Ngubane the opportunity to review the documents to which Ms Dlamini had referred. Mr Singh requested that the Chair make a note of this particular criticism.

Ms Kilian noted that Ms Dlamini’s disciplinary hearing at the SABC had taken place after Mr Ngubane’s tenure had ended in February 2013. With this considered, how did Mr Ngubane access documents relating to Ms Dlamini’s hearing? Were they obtained illegally?

The Chair reminded the Committee that they had agreed to discuss the submission from the Minister of Communications tomorrow, along with consideration of the amendments to SABC MOI. Therefore, he suggested the Committee review the submission made by the SABC.

SABC response
The Parliament research team noted that the SABC response was 141 pages, including annexures, some of which are irrelevant for the purpose of the investigation. The SABC refuted the basis of the inquiry, as well as the testimony of most witnesses, stating that there had been bias against the SABC. It argued that the majority of witnesses were ex-employees, board members and civil society groups that had always viewed the SABC in a negative light. For this reason, the SABC felt that the outcome of the inquiry was already predetermined.

The SABC response further posited that the PCC had neglected its duties in establishing an interim board; that the removal of directors Ms Zinde, Ms Kaldidass and Mr Lubisi were fair; that no former employees were purged or formally removed from the SABC; that Mr Masinga left a “lasting negative legacy” that is still impacting the SABC business environment; that Ms Mokhobo had approved the salary increase for Mr Motsoeneng in March 2012 in accordance with due process; that Mr Shushu and Mr Tseisi were “incompetent” during their employment at the SABC; that amendments to the SABC MOI were not irregular; and that civil society continues to entice the public to refrain from paying television licences.

Although the Committee did not necessarily agree with several criticisms highlighted in the SABC submission, they nevertheless included all the responses in the Interim Report. With regards to the new evidence presented by SABC, the Committee was unanimous in refusing to consider these articles for the purpose of the investigation. The Chairperson did note that the recommendations would call for further investigation into several matters highlighted by the Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.



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