The South African Broadcasting Corporation affirmed its commitment to show rugby. It felt that it was not being given a fair chance to acquire rights to matches. It was willing to enter into some arrangement with SuperSport so that there could be equitable sharing of matches. They did have a problem in that they were obliged to maintain a certain ratio of local content programmes, and sport did not fall into this category. This had created a false impression that the corporation was biased towards showing soap operas rather than rugby. None were scheduled on a Saturday afternoon anyway. It did have an obligation to show rugby as a sport of national interest. Approaches made by the South African Rugby Union and sponsors were often made at very short notice which made it difficult to accept the offers.
Members criticised the SABC for failing to fulfil its mandate. They said their dealings with the South African Rugby Union showed poor business practice while there was a suggestion of corruption in some of the reported correspondence. The President of the South African Rugby Union was accused of misleading Parliament on the ‘soap opera’ issue, and he apologised for any remarks he may have made at an earlier meeting. This was under instruction of the Chairperson. Members also felt that there were elements of racism in rugby rights not being given to the public broadcaster, and linked this to a perceived racist control of the sport.
The process to appoint Mr Pieter de Villiers as Springbok coach was described. He had been identified as the best candidate at the assessment committee level and had narrowly won the vote at the President’s Council. Mr Hoskins was forced to withdraw comments made at an earlier meeting which suggested Mr de Villiers had been appointed for transformation purposes rather than one of the other candidates who was judged to be a better coach.
Members questioned Mr Stofile on allegations that he was involved in a third force with the aim of destabilising rugby. These allegations were denied. Members also alleged that rugby was being controlled by some secret organisation. Mr Hoskins was accused of not being a good leader.
The circumstances surrounding the appearance of Mr Gert van Schalkwyk in the Mpumalanga rugby team was discussed. The lawyer who had issued a legal opinion on the matter said this had only been a response and not a formal opinion. Another case was discussed where a player in Mpumalanga had been racially abused by an opposing coach. Mr Hoskins said that harsh action would be taken if this were confirmed.
Due to the poor attendance by Premier Soccer League club representatives and the non-attendance of the South African Football Association, it was agreed to have another meeting after the recess to discuss the issue of developing a base of South African football supporters. The SABC should play a key role in driving the campaign, but all clubs needed to be involved as well.
The Chairperson said that one aim of the meeting was to continue some discussions which had started the previous week. The other aim was to meet with the Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs. The Committee was concerned about the lack of support for the national football team. He had been approached by the Portfolio Committee on Communications. Their Chairperson had raised the matters addressed by South African Rugby Union (SARU) President, Mr Oregan Hoskins, and was concerned.
This Committee had also taken exception to the attitude of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) towards sport, especially rugby. He said that his counterpart on the Communications Committee said this could not be the case, but Mr Hoskins’s comments were on record. The mandate of the SABC was to educate, to inform and to entertain. Soap operas were given preference to Currie Cup rugby. This was one of the key competitions in South African rugby. He asked about the nature of the relationship between SARU and the SABC.
The Chairperson said that the SABC infrastructure was correct. Members were able to listen to radio commentary of rugby matches all over the country. SARU had alleged that they had made offers to the SABC but had waited a long time but the SABC never reverted to them. He asked what SARU could do to address this. The SABC was being irresponsible, and the choice of soap operas over rugby was not a popular one. The Currie Cup deserved to be shown. He reminded guests that this was not a court of law. However, proceedings might reveal that the mandate of the SABC might have to be changed.
Presentation by South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)
Mr Mvuzo Mbebe (SABC Group Executive for Content Enterprises) said that he was constrained. His only experience of the matter in question was a clip that was shown on SABC News. He would however present on the truth of the allegations that SARU was waiting for a response from the SABC, that the SABC placed no value on rugby and that the SABC did not take the sport seriously.
The Chairperson said that the Currie Cup was an important element in the promotion of rugby. Coverage made rugby part of the Mass Participation Programme (MPP) agenda and served an important transformation function.
Mr Mbebe introduced his delegation which included Mr Zola Yeye (General Manager) who had been seconded to SARU by the SABC to serve as manager of the Springbok team, and Ms Thandiwe Mathibela, a Communications Manager. Mr Sizwe Nzimande of SABC Sport was unable to attend although he was an ardent rugby player. The SABC had not come to attack anybody but only to respond to the allegations made. It would do so in a constrained manner as it had on numerous occasions in the past.
The Chairperson said that Mr Donald Lee would always remind him of the consequences of misleading Parliament. He asked Mr Mbebe if he would tell the truth and nothing else.
Mr Mbebe confirmed that he would. He would present the facts. The latest meeting with SARU had been held three weeks previously. The SABC did not want to go public as this would hinder the process of finding solutions. This echoed SARU’s attitude.
He said there were two issues to address. The first false perception was that SARU had made a proposal to the SABC, which had not responded for a long time. The second false perception was that SABC would rather show soap operas than rugby. This had never been said or even discussed, unless it was a remark made off the record in a private meeting. He assured the Committee that this was not the case. He was the SABC’s delegated person to deal with rugby matters, although the Chief Executive was involved at times. If such a statement had been made, he would like to know who had made it. In fact, there were no soap operas televised on the days when rugby was played. Even on a Friday the last soap opera was Generations, which was aired at 20h00. The SABC would shift this to accommodate a live match.
Mr Mbebe then outlined the recent history of dealing with SARU. On 4 February 2008 he had sent a letter to Mr Hoskins. The SABC had been surprised by reports in the weekend newspapers about the deal between SARU and SuperSport. The SABC and SARU had engaged on numerous occasions and there was an expectation of some sort of deal after the expiry of the current SANZAR contract. Matters were still standing, and the SABC waited for SARU’s response. An urgent meeting was requested. The SABC had never been approached regarding the SuperSport deal, and would have responded positively. He believed the allegations were not true.
He said that Mr Hoskins replied the following day. Mr Mpumelelo Tshume, the Chairperson of the SARU Board, had given the SABC an opportunity to respond prior to the SuperSport deal being concluded. However, Mr Mbebe said that the SABC had received nothing from Mr Tshume. They did meet with SARU in February. No records were kept of this meeting. The SABC had raised their concerns. Mr Tshume had asked if the remarks made at a meeting held in the house of Mr Ncula (former Deputy CEO of SARU) had been discussed. A proposal had been made at that meeting.
He said that South African Airways (SAA) was going to sponsor a national club competition, and was going to make the television coverage available to the SABC. This meeting happened in the first week of the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France. Mr Tshume had said there that he wanted the club championship to go to the SABC rather than SuperSport. However, the tournament was starting in five days’ time. In fact, the World Cup was kicking off on the Friday and the club tournament the next day.
Mr Mbebe said that the SABC’s response was that it was very late notice. The SABC had invested all its resources into World Cup coverage. Their answer was that they would see what they could do. They had promised to record highlights for use in the rugby magazine programme. This had happened. SuperSport had shown the matches live at a later stage.
He said that he had a confidential discussion with Mr Tshume, who told Mr Mbebe that SARU had been approached by SuperSport for a five-year contract. Mr Tshume was uncomfortable with this. More competition was coming in the form of Telkom Media and others. It was a wise move to do business at that time. The SABC had proposed to be part of the new contract. Mr Mbebe could have gone to the Board then, but first wanted to see a proposal. The SARU Board had met at the end of September. The SuperSport issue was to be settled at the end of that month. Mr Tshume said that he would give a proposal to the SABC, and would show them the proposal from SuperSport.
Mr Mbebe said that Mr Tshume claimed that he had sent a proposal to SABC CEO, Adv Mpofu, but had received no response. If the matter was so important then Mr Tshume could have at least made a telephone call. The only correspondence of which Mr Mbebe was aware was a two-line email which Mr Tshume sent to Adv Mpofu. After the discussion in September, the next meeting had been in February 2008 except for one brief meeting. After the World Cup final, Mr Zola Yeye had been called by Mr Cheeky Watson. He was told that SARU was about to sign with SuperSport. Mr Mbebe had called Mr Watson immediately and was told the meeting was about to start. After the meeting, Mr Watson told him that no decision had been taken. Mr Mbebe then called Mr Stofile, who did not know what had happened. He had been informed that the SABC had declined the broadcast rights. Everybody knew what had happened since then.
He said that on the return of the Springbok squad, he had not gone to the airport himself. Adv Mpofu and some staff members had gone to OR Thambo Airport to greet the team, who thanked the SABC for their hard work. He had a very brief meeting with Mr Hoskins, and was told that the SABC had declined the broadcast rights deal. There was never an official document. The whole process had started under the presidency of Mr Ncanune.
Mr Mbebe said that when deciding on sports coverage, the SABC used four categories. The most important category was sports of national interest as defined by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). The second category was minority sports, the third development sports and the fourth was other sport outside these definitions. The codes of national interest were soccer, netball, boxing, athletics, rugby and cricket. This data was presented in every presentation made by the SABC. The company was required to cover these sports live and to present magazine programmes. The amount of rugby coverage should be 19% of the SABC’s sport coverage but they could not achieve this target at present.
He said that the SABC had a sub-licensing arrangement with SuperSport. The SABC was allowed to show all Test matches in South Africa provided that transmission was delayed until after the final whistle. Currie Cup and Super 14 highlights could be shown 72 hours after the match. News clips of a maximum of three minutes could be used provided that SuperSport was credited as the source. The Currie Cup final could be shown with the same delay as Test matches. The same applied to the Super14 final provided that a South African team was playing. At least the SABC was able to cover matches live on radio. This was better than nothing but it did not serve the nation.
Mr Mbebe said that SuperSport was under no obligation to sub-license rugby coverage. The SABC would require a boost from Parliament. SABC 2 was the dedicated channel for rugby coverage. No soap operas were scheduled in the Saturday afternoon slot which rugby could occupy. The SABC also had the strategy to deliver sport with commentary in all eleven official languages. They had forced some of the vernacular medium stations to cover rugby live. He asked how there could be two different rules.
He said that the SABC had never desired full rights to rugby. This had been put forward to Messrs Ncanune, Brian van Rooyen and Hoskins in his first term as President. All the SABC wanted was two matches per week, whether Super 14 or Currie Cup, the Vodacom Cup and Tests, with highlights of all other matches for later transmission. It wanted access to play-off matches. The SABC would like to be co-owner of development programmes, and access for news stories. It had made a proposal for the Rainbow Cup.
Mr Mbebe said that the Vodacom Cup was a competition that went to the heart of development. Four years ago all matches had been played in major venues such as Ellis Park and Newlands. The SABC had wanted one condition if it was to cover the Vodacom Cup. It insisted that matches be played in the townships. This had started while the SABC had been able to televise matches. Most of its games were played in the townships. The competition was a transition from the amateur to the professional game. It touched the hearts and minds of ordinary South Africans. There had been similar issues while Mr van Rooyen had been President of SARU.
He said that it was a fact that the SABC had consistently chased rugby rights for the last eight years through three presidencies. They had always responded to SARU. Since losing the rights to SuperSport they had concluded sublicensing agreements and had been in negotiations as late as May 2008. SuperSport had understood the position, and was going to revert to the SABC at their next meeting. The SABC still had an outstanding meeting with SARU and would take the issue further then.
Mr Mbebe said that Mr Hoskins took the SABC into his confidence each time they met. He understood the plight of the SABC. He pledged to get rugby on the SABC. He believed that Mr Hoskins was sincere and that Mr Hoskins was pushing for the SABC to get Currie Cup coverage.
He emphasised that the SABC had never wholeheartedly wanted the rugby broadcast rights. They understood the needs of SuperSport. However, the SABC did command a bigger audience at times. It was looking for a way to improve its content. It had never emphasised soap operas over rugby. A meeting with SARU had been held three weeks previously, which was the follow-up to the meeting in February.
Mr Mbebe said that he had regular correspondence with Mr Hoskins, some of which was confidential. They tried to find common ground. Rugby now belonged to SuperSport, but SARU wanted the SABC to have a share. Instead of fighting, they should rather arrange a meeting for the three parties to determine this common ground. They could use the model of the PSL rights dispensation. SARU was enthusiastic about reaching such a settlement, and would facilitate the meeting. He had also spoken with SuperSport CEO, Mr Imtiaz Patel, who agreed to the meeting.
He said that at the meeting in May, Mr Hoskins had made the point that he wanted to see a resolution before the end of 2008 so things would have to be done quickly. At that stage, the start of the Currie Cup was just three weeks away. At that late stage, the SABC would have been unable to make arrangements for live coverage. The time slot on Saturday afternoons was already earmarked for other sports, and it would be unfair to dump them at short notice.
Mr Mbebe said that a contract could be drawn up within three weeks. SuperSport had already chosen the matches they wished to broadcast, which left only the less desirable matches for the SABC. It would be tight to make the arrangements within three weeks, but the SABC would see what it could do. To date the three-way meeting had not been held, and had been moved to July. He asked why this should be so late.
He said they had tried to meet with SARU earlier. They realised that the union was pre-occupied with election issues during March 2008, and had written to Mr Hoskins on about 7 April to remind him of the decision to hold a meeting. Mr Hoskins had agreed to this, and the parties had settled on a date of 25 April 2008. On either 17 or 18 April Mr Hoskins had sent a letter to the SABC saying that this date was no longer suitable due to international commitments and a full diary. SARU suggested 21 May, but Mr Mbebe was in Los Angeles at that time. He had agreed to meet with SARU on 27 May even though he was only returning to South Africa on that day. This was a sign of his commitment.
The Chairperson said that the SABC had provided the answers the Committee was looking for. The explanations cast clouds on the SABC’s delivery on its mandate. He would not lie. Everything that was said was on record. The SABC had obligations to the taxpayer. The Department of Communication needed a better understanding.
Mr T Louw (ANC) had questions but suggested to the Chairperson that he wanted to hear Mr Hoskins respond to the SABC presentation first.
Mr D Lee (DA) had two issues. Mr Mbebe had mentioned requests made by Mr Tshume. In the email to Adv Mpofu he had asked the SABC CEO to consider the deal for broadcast rights but there was an offer attached to it. He reminded Adv Mpofu in the email that he had a human resources consultancy business. Mr Lee now needed to choose his words carefully. The scenario sounded strange, and corruption came to mind. This issue had to be cleared up. The second question was that when the SABC had been approached to make a proposal, SARU said that the SuperSport proposal would be made available. He asked if this was the way to do business. It surely did not sound like fair practice. He asked if he had heard this correctly.
Mr Mbebe replied that Mr Tshume had said that he had been in contact with Adv Mpofu. The email message he had quoted was the only evidence of this. There was a need to continue the discussion. Mr Tshume had asked that Adv Mpofu did not forget the discussion. He did not think that the matters were linked, and that it had referred to a private meeting.
Mr Lee asked if the name of the company had been mentioned.
Mr Mbebe replied it was not mentioned, just the nature of the business. On whether it was proper to show the contracts, he said that SuperSport was going to make a proposal to SARU. This was out of the ordinary. SARU should have gone to the market. In June 2009 all rights would be renewed. If this provision were waived, then it would be fair if SARU told the SABC about the SuperSport proposal. When the current contract with SANZAR expired, it would be correct if the SABC could be part of the mix. The rights had been extended therefore it was only fair that the SABC be given the information.
The Chairperson asked if the SABC did not feel uncomfortable with this arrangement.
Mr Mbebe replied that they did not.
The Chairperson said that the SABC had been invited in terms of Section 56 of the Constitution. They were invited to provide the National Assembly with information. In the rules of Parliament, Rule 138 required guests to answer questions fully and to provide necessary documents even if these were incriminating. Evidence should be given under oath, and the presenters were protected outside of Parliament for information presented to the Committee. This was upheld even if such evidence could lead to criminal proceedings.
Mr Louw said that broadcasting rugby was a business decision. SARU had never made a bid proposal. He asked if there was an open tender. Mr Mbebe had not elaborated on this question, and Mr Louw was more interested in what had not been said. He asked why such short notice was given. There were three occasions when broadcast rights had been discussed shortly before matches or the start of tournaments.
Mr Mbebe replied that the SABC had asked why the notice was so late when they had been approached regarding the club championships. As the sponsor, SAA had insisted on having the SABC involved. The sponsorship had been concluded shortly beforehand. He did not know exactly when. Negotiations on the Currie Cup had only started three weeks before the tournament started. The SABC had asked SARU several times for clarification but they had been busy with their elections.
The Chairperson asked if Mr Mbebe was saying that he had never discussed the perceived bias of the SABC towards soap operas with Mr Hoskins.
Mr Mbebe said that the last time the SABC had been approached by SARU regarding rights for SANZAR matches was when Mr Kempthorne was still in office in 1995. There was no documentary evidence to the contrary. He had been head of sport for the last seven years and in that time the SABC had never been given a proposal or an invitation to tender. Unless he had missed something, there had never been proper discussion or a formal proposal.
The Chairperson repeated his question as to whether the SABC had ever declared its preference to show soap operas rather than rugby.
Mr Mbebe said he had never discussed this topic with Mr Hoskins.
The Chairperson said that the radio infrastructure was in place. He asked if the SABC was still keen to negotiate with SARU or other bodies regarding television rights.
Mr Mbebe said that when he saw the clip on the news he had called the SARU President. The SABC was still committed to negotiate with SARU and SuperSport. This hearing did not change the SABC’s commitment to rugby. The SABC was equally committed now. The situation would not affect public and private relationships. The SABC was a public institution. His own feelings had not changed. Even if there were personal feelings, there was a still a job to be done.
The Chairperson said this was clear. This meeting had been called because of the embarrassment to the country. The utterances had turned the whole of South Africa cold.
Mr Hoskins confirmed that Mr Mbebe had called him soon after the meeting where the comment was made about the alleged bias towards soap operas. He hoped that the media had reported fully on the matter. The excerpt of the meeting shown on the news was chosen for its sensational value. He had sent a letter the next day to apologise for any belittling which might have been felt. He had no doubt that this letter had been accepted in good faith.
He said that his memory was not always perfect. His emphasis might be different to that of others. It was important that relations between the parties should prosper for the country’s sake. He had never been afraid to apologise when he was wrong. He had met Mr Mbebe on his return immediately after a long flight from the United States together with some other SARU members.
Mr Hoskins said that Mr Mbebe had started this meeting on an informal basis, and had said that SABC still reserved its right to tender for broadcast rights. The President viewed the deal with SuperSport as lawful, and there was nothing improper. SuperSport was an existing partner. SARU still had a commitment to the SABC. When the time came for the renewal of broadcast rights for the Tri-Nations and Super 14 competitions then the SABC would be open to tender. There was no exclusive deal. SARU appreciated the importance of having rugby televised on a free-to-air channel, especially the SABC. SARU had some control over the on-selling of Currie Cup rights to SuperSport. There was an understanding that SARU would work with the SABC to have rugby screened on the public broadcaster.
Getting to the supposed bias of the SABC towards soap operas, Mr Hoskins said that it was important for the broadcaster to pull all the plugs to get Currie Cup rugby in 2008. He had heard the comment about the soap operas while Mr Mbebe was talking to other members of his delegation at the latest meeting. They were saying that they could not move local content programmes, not even a soapie. It was a light-hearted conversation, and was not mentioned in the formal meeting. The official position was that there was no time available for Currie Cup rugby this year due to the need to show local content and to honour contractual agreements. He apologised to the Committee if he had misled them by commenting on this the previous week.
Mr Hoskins said that SARU would set up the three-way meeting so that the federation could work together with the SABC and SuperSport. South Africa would be the secretariat for SANZAR in 2009, and he hoped that they would have more influence on broadcast rights then. He thanked Mr Mbebe for his veracity. At the September meeting, Mr Tshume had indicated that SARU had put a proposal to the SABC but there had been no further discussion. He was aware that SuperSport was present at this meeting.
The Chairperson said that the SuperSport delegation was acting as friends of the court.
Mr Hoskins said that apart from the games indicated by Mr Mbebe, SuperSport had offered Vodacom Cup rugby to the SABC in 2006 and 2007. He did not want to cause a division, but wanted to work as part of a threesome in the best interests of rugby. As SARU president it was his mission to ensure that rugby was seen on the SABC channels. Of his visits to the broadcasters, 80% were to the SABC and only 20% to SuperSport. In fact, SARU’s official partner, SuperSport, thought that he was favouring the SABC. He said that it was an attritional job. He wished his successors God’s blessings. There were unbelievable competing forces. He had to be humble.
The Chairperson said that the spirit of ubuntu had to be upheld.
Mr J Masango (DA) said he did not understand the problem that prevented rugby on the SABC. Private meetings were held and those present had to rely on their memories. He asked if this was the right course to follow. He asked why the important business was not conducted in formal meetings with minutes being kept. In 2007 the SABC had lost the rights to local soccer and fingers had been pointed. It was time that the SABC got their act together. Sports belonged to the majority.
Mr C Frolick (ANC) said that the guests should not be reviewing old news. Space had to be found to broadcast a sport of national interest like rugby.
Mr R Reid (ANC) said that the input from Mr Hoskins was not truthful. No one was in a position to say that the SABC preferred soap operas to rugby. Mr Hoskins had apologised, but the fact was that he had lied to the Committee. This was uncalled for.
Mr Louw said that the SABC and SARU were both managing companies worth billions. This was very, very serious. The sport had international appeal, and the highest skilled persons were needed in management positions. As the President, Mr Hoskins had a mandate. He asked why private meetings were held to discuss serious issues. He asked why Mr Mbebe allowed this to happen. The lack of an open tender process showed that SARU did not want the people to have access to rugby. The fact that 80% of Mr Hoskins’s visits were to the SABC was a sign of his guilty conscience. This was the only thing that could be the reason.
Mr Mbebe said that the SABC did have its act together. Competition for broadcast rights happened all over the world. The SABC had beaten SuperSport for the rights to the World Cup and the Olympic Games. It was a competitive environment. Once the rights had been won, the losing broadcaster was free to negotiate with their rival. The SABC had not lost the rights to rugby, as they had never even been offered to them. They had been knocking on the door for eight years, and in fact they should be congratulated for their persistence.
He acknowledged that there had been private meetings, and it had pained him to reveal the contents thereof. Even in formal meetings there would always be some side discussions at which critical issues were addressed. His stance was that formal meetings and correspondence should be the driving forces. He realised that what was said at informal meetings with members of SARU should not be confused with the official stance of the federation. The SARU President had summed up the business of the meetings correctly.
Mr Mbebe said that the remark about soap operas had been overheard by Mr Hoskins. It had been no more than banter. On the Vodacom Cup issue, the discussion had been taken forward. SARU had met with the SABC and Vodacom. The latter party was excited at the prospect of the SABC being involved. Their clients were the SABC and SuperSport. The SABC would respond to a proposal, but this had never happened. The meeting on 27 May had been historic as there had been an agreement between three parties. SuperSport had to be there. They might fight a lot, but there was also cooperation. He hoped that cool heads would prevail at the meeting in July, although if a deal was struck it would probably only come into effect in 2009.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would set up a meeting with SuperSport in the following parliamentary session. The Committee had an equal obligation to form a relationship with SuperSport, who said they had no problems in discussing issues with the SABC even if there were some hotheads present.
Mr Lee said that SARU was inconveniencing the SABC a lot by foisting such late arrangements on them. He asked what the tender processes were, or if the rights were awarded on an ad hoc basis. A good thing had happened exactly thirteen years previously as South Africa had won the Rugby World Cup on this day in 1995. He was sorry if he had misunderstood Mr Hoskins. It was a big man who could say that he was sorry.
Mr Hoskins appreciated the sentiments. He said that the nature of the game of rugby was that players would beat each other up on the field and talk about it afterwards. It was his intention to get Currie Cup rugby on the SABC, and SARU was looking for possibilities. He did not understand the workings of television but he accepted the bona fides of the SABC. Television broadcast rights were an international phenomenon. An open tenders system would not guarantee the best price. He thought that everything should be transparent and should be on the basis of open tenders, but television deals were not the same. The deals were usually exclusive. There were other dynamics involved. Competing companies could get together and collude to drop the price rather than compete for the highest bid. He was happy that the SABC and SuperSport would share the rights for the Rugby World Cup in 2011. The triumvirate should be given a chance to work.
The Chairperson said that it was not the intent of Mr Hoskins to cause strife.
Mr D Dikgacwi (ANC) said that he understood that Mr Hoskins had apologised for the remarks about the soap operas. He had been at pains to accept that the SABC valued soap operas more than rugby. It was the right time to correct this perception. This had not been done. The impression was given that the SABC did not care. They had now performed a somersault. The Committee had been misled.
Mr Louw did not understand. SARU had a schedule for all matches, even those in 2009. He asked why they had only approached the SABC at the eleventh hour. It was not possible that SARU did not know when the matches were scheduled less than a month before the time. They had been in business for a hundred years, and by now they knew what to do. It made political sense to SARU to accommodate the public broadcaster as they did not want to be seen to be shunning the SABC.
The Chairperson could not answer on behalf of SARU. Mr Lee had expressed a view that there had been a lot of inconvenience towards the SABC. The pain of the SABC was enough to convince him. He said that the SABC was given short notice and asked if there was not another way to deal with the situation.
Mr Hoskins said that the rights for rugby lay with SuperSport. They had not paid any commission to SARU, and the federation was not indebted to them in any way except in regarding SuperSport as their television partners.
The Chairperson said that the 10% syndrome did not apply to SARU as it did to the PSL. The practice was rife in soccer circles.
Mr Hoskins said he would make no comment on this. It might look like he could walk into Mr Mbebe’s office but this was because he had the game at heart. The rights had been sold to SuperSport and there was big money involved, but they could not dictate to SARU. He was trying to get things going with the SABC. He had told them that SuperSport had made an offer. He did not need any animosity.
The Chairperson asked if this was fair to those who were not privy to the discussion. It was up to SARU to explain.
Mr Michael Khuauoe (ANC, a member of the Portfolio Committee on Communications) said that the process was not fair to the SABC. Mr Hoskins’s view was that the SABC was unable to deliver. Government represented the concerns of the public.
Mr Louw said that SARU was indebted to SuperSport but was also indebted to the people of South Africa. The majority of black people watched sport on the SABC channels. Black children were playing cricket and netball because of the exposure on television. SARU was controlled by a secret organisation and he was not afraid to put his head on the block to say this. If this were not the case then SARU would not be struggling to implement its transformation policy.
He said that the broadcast rights had been given to SuperSport. The SABC had not been given a fair chance to bid for the rights because they were controlled by black people. SuperSport was a white business with investment from overseas. This went against the constitutional mandate to implement transformation. He did not believe anything that SARU was saying. People in his constituency wanted to watch rugby and were not concerned about the business dealings which might make this possible. The Committee would sit year in and year out with the same problem. He reiterated his viewpoint that SARU was racist and controlled by some secret organisation.
The Chairperson said there were political questions to be answered. It was not so much an issue of business sense but of the interests of the people. None of the Members had disputed the rights of SuperSport, but they were saying that rugby coverage should not be exclusive to their domain. The public broadcaster had a responsibility.
Mr Reid said there were many issues surrounding the broadcasting deal. One of these was social responsibility. Business had a duty to promote access to rugby. The SABC was not the sole public broadcaster in the world. He mentioned the examples of Cuba and the former East Germany, where television coverage of sport had led to excellent performances. The fact that the rights in South Africa had gone to an elite channel meant that only the rich few had access to it.
The Chairperson said that the Members were outspoken. The public broadcaster must inspire the nation. SuperSport could not have exclusive rights. There should be a 50/50 distribution. He did not think it was right to persist with a business sense approach through thick and thin. A balance was needed. He said that the country was now fourteen years into a new dispensation. He could not applaud the lilywhite codes, but the children must be inspired to become part of these codes to ensure change. South Africa was a developing state. Government had a role to ensure that a balance was maintained.
He said that there should not be a hostile relationship between the parties. Better use should be made of what was available in the interests of the people. A statement had been made that the SABC had been irresponsible over the deal with the PSL. He agreed that no proper proposal had been made by SARU. A two-line email could not be a proposal. This could have been read differently, but a simple reading stank of corruption. Major decisions could not be informed by this kind of communication. It was clear that no proposal was made to the SABC. SARU must not think that this was the case.
Mr Komphela said that Mr Hoskins was a decent person. The issue of the soap operas had been raised unequivocally. Mr Hoskins had raised the issue in a soft way and was now in pain. The President must apologise as he had brought the matter into the Committee. He would love to see what happened when the discussions were held. Mr Hoskins may have apologised to the SABC, but he still owed an apology to the Committee.
Mr Hoskins repeated his apology to the Committee.
Mr Mbebe re-emphasised the point that he wanted to make sure that rugby was put back on the public broadcaster in the television medium. It was already there for radio. The SABC would discuss if they could do this. There were two games scheduled for the coming Friday. There was not enough time to ask ICASA for a variation on the local content regulations, as the national team was not involved. The SABC should ask the Committee to look into local content regulations. Even local sport did not count as local content.
The Chairperson said this was a valid point. The relevant law should be repealed if it was not in the interests of the people.
Mr Mbebe said this was an issue. The SABC had a mandate to cover development sport, but even school sport was regarded as international support. There was no doubt that an agreement could be reached between the three parties. He was hopeful that an agreement could be found this time.
Presentation by former SARU Deputy President, Mr Mike Stofile
Mr Frolick, acting as Chairperson, said that another issue which had arisen from the meeting with SARU the previous week was the contest over the appointment of Mr Pieter de Villiers as Springbok coach. Mr Mike Stofile, former Deputy President of SARU, had been invited to make a presentation on the matter.
Mr Stofile said that he had been part of the process which had appointed Mr de Villiers. SARU had an Assessment Committee which recommended candidates for appointment of national coaches and selectors by SARU’s President’s Council. This was an ad hoc committee under the chairmanship of the Deputy President. He named all the other members. Mr Andy Marinos was included on the Assessment Committee to recommend the new coach as a players’ representative. The first meeting was held on 1 October 2007, and the post was advertised on 5 October 2007. Once applications had been received, the next meeting was 29 October in Johannesburg. Mr Johan Prinsloo, the CEO of SARU, was co-opted to direct the process. The then current coach, Mr Jake White, had been approached but had indicated that he was not available for another appointment. A short list of candidates was drawn up. The criteria used included strategy, communication ability, decision making ability, leadership, coaching ability, emotional intelligence and player management. Four persons were identified, namely Mr Chester Williams, Mr de Villiers, Mr Heyneke Meyer and Mr Alistair Coetzee.
Mr Komphela, resuming the Chair, asked Mr Stofile if he would tell the truth and nothing else.
Mr Stofile said that he would.
The Chairperson explained that he had been put in the hot seat by the Speaker, and had therefore to ask the presenters to take an oath.
Mr Stofile continued to describe the selection process. The short-listed candidates had been subjected to psychometric testing. It had been agreed that the names would be kept confidential although the names were leaked to the media during December 2007. Various accusations had been made. As a result of this, Mr Marinos had resigned as player representative. Candidates had been expected to put a business plan together which covered all aspects. They also had to prepare a coaching plan. Their coaching ability had to be demonstrated, partially by asking them to analyse video extracts of match situations. Interviews were postponed but were held on 7 and 8 January 2008. On 5 December a draft contract had been circulated to the committee members, something which had not been done with Mr White. There had been agreement that this was needed.
He said that the applicants were assessed during the interviews. The majority vote was that Mr de Villiers was the recommended candidate. He had impressed the committee with his business plan, experience, motivational skills, interpersonal relations and professional ability. His commitment to transformation was also impressive. All in all it was recognised that Mr de Villiers was the most suitable candidate.
The Chairperson said that Mr Stofile had sent a letter to Parliament and had been invited to present his case. There had by no means been an attack by Mr Hoskins on the integrity of the selection process. The matter had now been raised. Some utterances had been made which had led to Mr Stofile being criticised. At the discussion the previous week, Members had asked why the committee had recommended Mr de Villiers. Some contrary information had been given.
Mr Hoskins said that he had never questioned the integrity of the process.
Mr Louw said that during the discussion the previous week Mr Stofile had been reported to have met with a third force. He asked who this could be.
Mr Dikgacwi asked if these documents spoke to the whole process of selection. Mr de Villiers had been appointed as he was the best candidate. Mr Hoskins had made a statement to the contrary, and that other considerations had been taken into account. He asked if Mr Stofile had made a true report, and if there were not any other issues. Mr de Villiers had been branded as an affirmative action coach. He asked if Mr de Villiers had truly been selected on merit. He knew what his record was, and at this stage of his career he had proved more successful than Mr White. He was disturbed. He had no problem if Mr de Villiers had been selected to improve transformation, but Mr Stofile must say if the selection was on merit. He asked if this perception was still held. Mr Stofile must not be economic with the truth.
Mr Frolick referred to Mr Stofile’s letter. This contested the statement made previously by Mr Hoskins, who had said that the name forwarded to the President’s Council was in fact Heyneke Meyer. He asked if this could be restated, and if Mr Stofile could say if Mr Meyer was in fact the preferred choice.
Mr Stofile was surprised at being linked to a third force. It was a difficult question to answer as he did not know who this might be.
The Chairperson said there was a tendency to bring third forces into political debate. They would come to this later.
Mr Stofile denied that Mr de Villiers had been a transformation appointment. He had been appointed as having the most expertise. There was a vote but the majority of President’s Council members had supported Mr de Villiers. Mr Meyer’s name would only have been mentioned as one of the candidates.
Mr Frolick was puzzled. He asked how Mr Meyer’s name had come up. He asked if Mr de Villiers was recommended in a unanimous decision. At the recent Test at Loftus Versveld, the conservatism of the old order was demonstrated by some spectators displaying the old flag. Mr de Villiers and the Springbok team were showing a commitment to transformation.
Mr Stofile said there had been a long deliberation, but no scorecards had been kept. Mr Meyer and Mr de Villiers had emerged as being the two best qualified candidates. At the end the decision was unanimous, although there had been one vote for Mr Meyer. He offered to name the person.
The Chairperson said that during the time that SARU was conducting its elections, the Sunday Times had published an article alleging that the ANC wanted to take over rugby. Mr Hoskins had spoken to him about a third force, but there was no evidence at the time. Mr Hoskins had been uncomfortable at the meeting the previous week. The ANC had no business in running rugby, although it was looking for sport to be run in a transformed way.
He said that Mr Stofile had been reported to be meeting with the third force. Now he was pretending that he knew nothing about this. President Hoskins had been up front about this had named Mr Schalk Burger senior and Mr Johan Rupert as the people involved. Mr Stofile could not go to the people to make rugby ungovernable, if he felt that he was losing his position on the Executive. He could not do that. This was causing a lot of pain. If he lost in the election, then that was the end of the story.
Mr Louw asked if Mr Hoskins had recommended Mr de Villiers at any stage, or any other candidate.
Mr Stofile pointed out that the report about the ANC’s alleged interference in rugby had in fact been published in the Rapport.
The Chairperson apologised for this error.
Mr Stofile said that he had sued the newspaper and that court proceedings were underway. He said the committee had not received any recommendations from anybody. The process had been conducted independently.
Mr Louw wanted an unequivocal answer. He repeated his earlier question.
Mr Stofile said this had never happened.
The Chairperson said that the sub judice case should be left there. The issue of the third force had caused pain to Mr Hoskins.
Mr Stofile said he knew of no third force. He had never seen Mr Rupert. He said that Mr Burger had asked to meet him. The first time was when he had come to Cape Town to address the President’s Council in 2006. The President of SARU had called him to ask when he was coming to Cape Town and said he would take him to meet with Mr Rupert, who wanted to see Mr Stofile. He had agreed to this meeting. Subsequent to making this arrangement, he had consulted many people to learn more about Mr Rupert. He had received mixed advice and as a result he had decided not to meet Mr Rupert. He had turned off his mobile phone and had kept a low profile for the rest of his stay.
He said that the President’s Council had met the day after his arrival. The Blue Bulls Union had put forward a vote of no confidence. Letters from sponsors had been received but were not discussed. Mr Jacky Abrahams had then taken Mr Stofile to visit Mr Burger on his farm, which was used as a practice venue for the Springbok team. Mr Stofile was not happy about this. At the time Mr Schalk Burger junior was facing a disciplinary hearing in Europe after being cited. His father was furious as SARU had not provided any legal representation although the CEO was with him. They had talked rugby, and Mr Burger was angry over some issues. Mr Stofile had told him that he did not know why he was there, and Mr Burger had told him that Mr Stofile was the third force. Both men laughed about this and the issue was not discussed much further. They could not work out who the third force was. There were some squabbles in the Eastern Cape at the time in which Mr Cheeky Watson was involved. There was competition between Schalk Burger junior and Luke Watson for a place in the national team at the time. Very subjective reasons were being given.
Mr Stofile said that the argument was not helping. There should be a place for both players in the team. Mr Burger and others were coming with expertise and money to help build the game. They were not opening the doors for others. This was the only issue, and they had not met again. He had been pressurised again in December to meet with Mr Rupert. Mr Hoskins was furious early in 2007. Mr Stofile had 75% of the support at the time and Mr Hoskins was nervous. He had called Mr Hoskins and told him that he had met with Mr Burger and Mr Rupert in Paris during the World Cup. He had asked Mr Hoskins why he had not come to see him. He stressed that he had never actually met Mr Rupert.
The Chairperson said this was why the presenters had been put under oath. It was a very serious matter. Members had been appointed as Commissioners of Oaths. This would happen when very emphatic matters were raised. Mr Frolick had told Mr Hoskins that there was no third force, but there was an allegation that it did indeed exist and that Messrs Stofile, Burger and Rupert were its members.
He said that if Mr Meyer had in fact been the number one candidate to be appointed as coach, then it would not have been wrong for the President to intervene and recommend Mr de Villiers. There were many factors involved and the Committee would support such an intervention. Mr Hoskins should have the documents to prove his case.
Mr Hoskins indicated that he needed to leave the room briefly, and the Chairperson decided to adjourn the meeting for lunch.
When the meeting resumed, Mr Hoskins said that the report presented by Mr Stofile was correct. Mr de Villiers had been identified as the most suitable candidate. The committee’s report was presented to the President’s Council. Questions were put to committee members. Some President’s Council members had kept prodding about what had led to the decision being made. However, the committee members had been sworn to secrecy. One of the President’s Council delegates, Mr Jan Marais, had asked how the decision had been reached. A huge debate followed and a vote had been taken. The main contenders were Mr Meyer and Mr de Villiers. The vote was split and ended in favour of Mr de Villiers. Mr Christo Ferreira, the legal representative for SARU, had listened to the tapes of the meeting.
The Chairperson asked if this was the same person who had given a legal opinion in the case involving the Mpumalanga Rugby Union.
Mr Hoskins said that it was. He quoted one member of the assessment committee who had said that “on pure rugby ability, it’s Heyneke”. He repeated this quotation. He had subsequently met with Mr de Villiers and they had spoken openly. They had agreed to work together for rugby and to transform the game.
The Chairperson said that as a leader, whatever the outcome was of the communal decision, the leaders must work together. This was a profound point. If things had not gone according to his wishes, then he had to accept the communal decision. He had a duty to make Mr de Villiers feel welcome in his job.
Mr Reid said that after Mr de Villiers’s appointment, Mr Hoskins had said that it was a transformation appointment. He asked if this was still his view. He asked that if the person quoted by Mr Hoskins was white or black.
Mr Dikgacwi said that Mr Hoskins was expressing a personal view. While a committee was in place not all would agree, but the majority view had to prevail. The SARU President had met with former captains and had then run off to the International Rugby Board. When the views of whites were raised they were accepted as being the popular view. He had witnessed so many things concerning the SARU President’s attitude and conduct that he wondered if he was serious about transformation. Ladies had been removed from the President’s Council, and blacks had been pushed into the corner. Mr Hoskins should now withdraw his statement and apologise. He had shown no sign of retraction yet. The country must know that Mr de Villiers was appointed on merit. He must tell the country that he had lied.
Ms W Makgate (ANC) was concerned with the leadership style. Collective decisions were binding. A matter could be debated and a vote taken, and it was up to the leader to support the decision.
Mr Louw said that rugby was in the wrong hands. This was clear to him. Those in charge were not really in charge. Mr Stofile had said that the recommendation of Mr de Villiers had been overwhelming except for one member of the committee. The SARU President said that there had been a split vote at the President’s Council. He did not understand this. Clarification was needed as somebody was lying. He had no more trust in Mr Hoskins, who was not behaving like a leader. He must stop behaving like a conveyer belt. He had to show leadership. All that he was saying was second-hand reporting. He was being pressurised by someone. This must stop. It went to the core of his integrity and his leadership style.
Mr Stofile said that there had not been a vote at the assessment committee. Of the eight members, seven had supported Mr de Villiers and one had disagreed. Mr Hoskins said that at the President’s Council there had been a split vote.
Mr Hoskins said that the vote at the President’s Council had been ten to nine in favour of Mr de Villiers.
The Chairperson understood that. The President’s Council had doubted the majority view of the assessment committee and had had to go to the vote. They doubted the decision of their own committee. He asked why the issue had gone to the vote.
Mr Hoskins said that one could speculate on all things. In hindsight it had not been a clever decision. The distrust had been so rife at the time.
The Chairperson said that the issue must be laid to rest. It was a bad reflection on SARU. It was pity that he had to speak like this. He wanted Mr Hoskins to withdraw his statement. He must say that Mr de Villiers was the preferred candidate from the start.
Mr Hoskins said that if he understood the position correctly, the assessment committee had recommended Mr de Villiers and this had been confirmed by the vote. He agreed that this is what had happened.
The Chairperson said that the previous week Mr Hoskins had said that Mr Meyer was the preferred candidate but that the SARU President had then intervened. The President was now misleading the Committee. It was clear that Mr de Villiers was the favoured candidate at all levels.
Mr Hoskins formally withdraw his statement.
The Chairperson said there was another matter to attend to while the SARU delegation was still present. He was happy that Mr Ferreira was present. He had given the Mpumalanga Rugby Union (MRU) a legal opinion on the presence of Mr Gert van Schalkwyk in the Pumas team. The Committee had been forced to get an opinion from a Parliamentary Legal Advisor. The Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 confirmed that Mr van Schalkwyk was deemed as being a convicted murderer, despite the appeal process still being underway. The SARU constitution also prevented convicted criminals from playing rugby.
He said that the Pumas were getting unprecedented coverage from the SABC. Mr van Schalkwyk had been found guilty at three different levels and had now gone to the Constitutional Court. None of the three courts had suspended the sentence handed down originally.
Mr Ferreira sketched the background. He had been called by a reporter on the van Schalkwyk issue. At that stage he did not know that he was playing. The reporter had asked if there was anything prohibiting this. Mr Ferreira was not aware of anything. He felt that SARU could not stop him. On the legal side, the opinion of SARU should come from the CEO, Managing Director or President. There were precedents for convicted people taking part in sport. He mentioned the case of Mr Ben Zimri of the Delicious Rugby Club. He had been given a life suspension by the Boland rugby union. He had appealed this and played two games for his club. SARU could not prohibit this. The Code of Conduct said that all penalties were suspended while an appeal was being processed. Another example was Mr Henry Tromp. He had served a sentence for manslaughter and subsequently was awarded Springbok colours.
He said that there were external opinions from a criminal point of view that the conviction was suspended until the appeal process was exhausted. He had told the reporter that he was not guilty until found guilty by the highest appeal court. The appeal itself suspended the sentence. This was the legal point of view.
Mr Ferreira said that there had been a press release from the MRU. Mr Hoskins had been unhappy about this. The MRU had said that the matter was still sub judice and that the player must be given a fair chance to play. He had read this press release and had responded to it. His comments had been taken as a legal opinion.
He said that he had not wanted to discuss the moral position with the reporter. Mr Hoskins had sent a letter to the President of the MRU in which he felt that Mr van Schalkwyk should not be playing. This was not a legal opinion.
The Chairperson said that the MRU had thought this was a legal opinion. In terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, a judge must specifically suspend a sentence if it was to be appealed. Otherwise the sentence would stand. There had been a blatant disregard for life. The President of SARU had written a letter, but the MRU President, Mr Mentz, was hell-bent on accepting the legal opinion attributed to Mr Ferreira.
Mr Louw said it was strange hearing what Mr Ferreira had said, as he had been quoted verbatim by Mr Mentz when he had appeared before the Committee. When one called a lawyer, one would always be asking for a legal opinion, and Mr Ferreira should have known that he was giving an opinion.
The Chairperson said that he agreed, but Mr Ferreira had said that he was not giving a legal opinion.
Mr Ferreira said that he was not asked for a legal opinion. He was simply making a response to a press release. He did not understand this as being a legal opinion.
The Chairperson said it was then clear that it was not a legal opinion. He turned his attention to another matter. He had received an email regarding a match which had been played between the Middelburg and Witbank Pharaohs clubs on 21 June 2008. An incident of utter racism had occurred. A Witbank player, Mr Mantu Sithole had been sworn at by the Middelburg coach. The Chairperson quoted the words which had been used and they were particularly offensive. This player had also been labelled as a quota player by his opponents. Criminal charges had been laid. Mr Sithole had represented the Pumas at all age levels and had been selected for the South African Schools team for two years. He was contracted to the Pumas. The whole Witbank team had resolved never to play against Middelburg again.
He said that the Middelburg coach’s name was Willie Oosthuizen. It was a sad reflection that such incidents were still happening and that such a deep racist was being harboured in rugby. He had received emails resenting the Committee’s alleged interference in “our rugby”. This coach did not deserve to coach children. He might represent a minority, but this was still a bad reflection on the sport. The incident was very disturbing.
Mr Dikgacwi said that these things would keep on happening. The mother body said that it had no right to deal in provincial matters. Constitutions of provincial bodies were not in line with that of the national federation, which in its turn was not in line with the country’s Constitution. This needed to be sorted out. It seemed to him that the MRU constitution allowed these words to be used.
Mr Louw also felt that such incidents would not stop. He asked why the old flag was still allowed into stadiums. SARU had done nothing. The old anthem was still being sung, and SARU was doing nothing about this either. These practices would not stop. The SARU constitution could not supersede the South African Constitution. There should be sentencing guidelines. Rugby was controlled by people who did not want transformation. There was no leadership. The government should nationalise rugby which would loosen the grip of these people. Transformation should be in the best interests of all.
The Chairperson said that the Committee was not interested in controlling sport, but it was interested in assisting with reviving football. The captain of the Springboks had shown himself to be a gentleman with his comments regretting the display of the old flag at the Loftus Test. That was the mark of a leader.
Mr Hoskins said that he would like to see the correspondence on the issue. If the accused person were found to be guilty of the alleged offence, then he would never again coach in South Africa.
The Chairperson said that this would set the record straight. He appreciated SARU’s response.
Presentation by Premier Soccer League Clubs
The Chairperson said that the SABC was running a good campaign under the Siyancoba banner. The Committee had written to all the PSL clubs to invite them to attend the meeting but most had other responsibilities. An important issue was the role of supporters. There were some diehard Bafana Bafana supporters, but there was a feeling that the supporters clubs of PSL clubs should be hijacked. The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Orlando Pirates was supposed to be coming to the meeting. The whole nation must enjoy the World Cup in 2010. The SABC would be providing a very important platform. The programme must generate a good vibe. The question to be addressed was how to develop club fans into Bafana Bafana fans.
Mr Mbebe said that it would be much better if the South African Football Association (SAFA) were present. They would be a critical part of the campaign. The club PROs would play a critical role. The issued of converting club fans to Bafana fans had been raised with SAFA. An environment had to be created, such as team jerseys and other paraphernalia. Concrete partnerships were needed. The question was one of creating a national supporters club. The SABC could then drive the process.
Mr Mbebe said that the Siyancoba campaign should not just be promoted when South Africa were playing. The SABC would keep the spirit going as people might only relate to it when South Africa was playing. The PROs would be critical players in the campaign. There was club involvement with a public viewing site in Welkom. This was a discussion on its own. The PSL had its own communications department.
He said that there was a question of how people would access tickets to the World Cup. A comprehensive discussion was needed which should result in an equally comprehensive plan. Such a discussion needed to be attended by all PSL clubs and SAFA. Every rugby fan supported both his own province and the national team. The same should be the case with football fans at one stage. A joint presentation should be given.
Mr Boebie Schloss, PRO: Santos Football Club, said that those present had caucused during the lunch break. They felt that the discussion would go in circles without SAFA’s presence.
The Chairperson said Mr Sello Nduna, the PRO for Bloemfontein Celtic Football Club, had been going from door to door in the Free State. He wanted to see at least one Bloemfontein Celtic jersey in each house. He had been met by the club’s management at the airport on one of his constituency visits, and the club’s organisation was very efficient.
Mr Nduna agreed with Mr Mbebe. It was a disgrace that the national football jersey had not been popularised. Rugby and cricket were very organised in this regard. A campaign should be launched throughout the country, but it was not a one-man issue. Local knowledge was needed and hence the call had been made for all clubs to be involved.
The Chairperson said that a good attempt was being made. This should be exploited through the SABC. The campaign belonged to the whole country, not just the SABC. He would attempt to set up another meeting although this would be after the upcoming recess. A valuable point had been made about getting other stakeholders involved. The Committee needed to meet with them. People would follow a winning team. If South Africa were not to progress in the World Cup, a fun atmosphere should be created. Some commitment would be needed.
Mr Masango stressed the need for language proficiency.
The meeting was adjourned.
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