Snouting at the SABC trough – reprise of how inept board members got there

Ed Herbst

Dysfunctional, shady and inept, the now-defunct SABC board, led by a brazenly unapologetic minister and an incompetent, blind chairperson, didn’t get that way by chance. Here Ed Herbst, arguably the country’s most knowledgeable journalist on recent SABC history and its’ current travails, outlines the shenanigans behind original ANC board appointments. After reading this, little doubt can remain in the reader’s mind as to what criteria are most important to the ruling party when it comes to the most influential and important communications entity in the country. Faith Muthambi’s professed ignorance of SABC Group Executive Officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s brutal staff handling and tender manipulation (among a stack of red-card-worthy, off-side behaviours) is literally incredible. Almost as absurd as her testimony to Parliament’s Ad Hoc Portfolio Committee on Communications, was that of blind SABC (now resigned) chairperson, Mbulaheni Maguvhe, whose appointment was an abusive act of affirmative action. But to me the most eloquent utterings are those of the ANC Women’s League Communications Chief, Lindiwe Zulu whose Russian Journalism Master’s Degree gives her such party sway. Her justification, cited below for the ANC’s unconstitutional communications policy says it all – except for the part about the need to deploy ‘qualified, capable comrades’. That would at least have left us certain that the propagandistic modus-operandi was consciously intended. As it is this recently incompetent bunch were so ignorant, they didn’t have a prayer. Not a single Goebbels among them. Goebbels actually said it best; ‘if democracy is so stupid as to give us free tickets and salaries for this bear’s work, that is its affair”. – Chris Bateman

By Ed Herbst*

Where was parliament, for instance, when the SABC was lumbered with a blind person as chairman? The tragic figure of Mbulaheni Maguvhe innocently pleading ignorance of wrongdoings at the SABC was not only disconcerting, but an indictment of those who had appointed him and used him for nefarious ends. It amounts to an abuse of the disabled.’ – Barney Mthombothi Sunday Times 18/12/2016

“I have a strong feeling the minister misled us yesterday and misrepresented a lot of facts, and I think we will have to take action when the time comes.” – ANC MP Makhosi Khoza Business Day 15/12/2016

The SABC’s in-house and patented version of the ANC’s Tsunami of Sleaze continues to engulf us and not even the Christmas break provided any respite.

21 December 2016 Specialist TV reporter Thinus Ferreira reveals that the flagship SABC3 18:30 news bulletin has shed almost a quarter of a million viewers in a single month.

25 December 2016 – The Sunday Times reveals  more details of how the SABC spied on staff members using South Africa’s security establishment.

25 December 2016 Methodist minister Alan Storey reveals how SABC radio station, SAFM, has censored his Christmas sermon to remove references to Fezekile Kuzwayo, the woman who had accused President Jacob Zuma of rape.

The African National Congress, which denies the Dalai Lama a visa while giving safe passage to Omar al Bashir and lying to our courts in the process, oozes evil.

That much was obvious to the millions of South Africans who were riveted by the drama that played out in parliament during the multi-party investigation into the pervasive corruption and almost incomprehensible levels of incompetence which have become synonymous with the state broadcaster since the start of the Thabo Mbeki era.

Cartoon courtesy of Twitter @brandanrey

They watched as the Marie Antoinette of broadcasting, Faith (Baba loves him so much) Muthambi ducked, dived, and obfuscated her way through her testimony which evoked manifest revulsion in the Ad Hoc Committee of the Parliamentary Communications Portfolio.

I don’t recall anyone complaining about [the] conduct of Mr Motsoeneng,”

“I didn’t receive any complaint [about] Mr Motsoeneng, formally.”

“I’ve heard nothing about Mr Motsoeneng being a law unto himself.”

Twenty years of ANC plunder which have revealed us to be just another African Kleptocracy required a variety of techniques,- the capture of the SAPS and the NPA, the deployed parasite policy and the fact that you can’t jail anybody – unless like Cynthia Maropeng you steal from the ANC itself – because, when criminality and incompetence are pervasive, it is all the fault of ‘The Collective’.

Muthambi used the ‘collective’ defence when asked about the fact that the current SABC board displayed both malfunction and malfeasance from the start and eventually collapsed in chaotically corrupt ignominy.

Yeah, right.

Let me create a timeline of the appointment of this unlamented board and outline how the ANC abused its parliamentary majority and its unashamed nepotism to bring about the unedifying spectacle which we witnessed in parliament recently.

Minister of Communications Ms Faith Muthambi.

Faith Muthambi drove this process of creating the now non-existent board which was steeped in controversy throughout its benighted tenure – like two previous ANC-dominated SABC boards.

17 September 2013 The ANC nominates its own 12 members for the SABC board, rejecting the names put forward by opposition parties.  Opposition parties repudiate this SABC board that the ANC is foisting on the Corporation in what they justifiably claim is an undemocratic manner.

22 September 2013 The Sunday Times reveals how the ANC has gerrymandered the selection of the new SABC board in an article headlined ANC interns used in SABC process:

Nomvuyo Mhlakaza, wife of ANC MP Buti Manamela and a member of the national task team of the ANC Youth League, was nominated by Luthuli House. MPs said broadcast policy researcher Kate Skinner was sacrificed in favour of Mhlakaza.

Keith Khoza, ANC head of communications who reports to Zulu, nominated Krish Naidoo, a legal adviser to the ANC’s national disciplinary committee. MPs had wanted to nominate Zola Majavu, a leading lawyer and former prosecutor for the Premier Soccer League.

Rerani Netshilema, a 24-year-old intern in the communications division, nominated Bongani Khumalo, CEO of Gidani, which runs the National Lottery. Another intern, David Shabangu, nominated businesswoman Ellen Tshabalala.

Noluthando Gosa, also a businesswoman, was nominated by Cikiswa Xoswa, a personal assistant to ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu.

The outrage about the utterly corrupt, utterly undemocratic abuse of its parliamentary majority by the African National Congress – the consequences of which we live with today – was reflected in a Sunday Times editorial at the time

ANC has hijacked airwaves to gain political profit

Lindiwe Zulu reacted with outrage this week when confronted with the fact that the ANC had openly manipulated parliament in getting its preferred candidates on the SABC board. A memorandum by Zulu, dated September 4, shows how the ANC selected the candidates for whom the party’s MPs would eventually vote two weeks later. All that needs to happen now is for President Jacob Zuma to approve the names. When confronted, Zulu was unashamed about the manipulation. In fact, she expressed her disgust at the suggestion that the ANC had effectively seized control of the SABC before the general elections next year.

“That does not necessarily mean we want to interfere as the ANC. The bottom line is that we are a governing party and, being a governing party, we have a high interest and that interest needs to be served by us being able to make sure that in all the strategic areas we have our own and we can’t be apologetic about [that]. We need to have our qualified, capable comrades in strategic structures and we are not being apologetic about our deployment.”

But a closer look at the memo offers an astonishing insight into those who were chosen as selectors.

How do we believe Zulu’s competency claims when two Luthuli House interns — one a 24-year-old — and a personal assistant to spokesman Jackson Mthembu were allowed to make nominations?

How are we to believe that the ANC really does have the mandate of the public broadcaster — delivering an array of services to South Africans — as its best interests when the party deliberately rejected independent-minded candidates with experience in broadcasting in favour of someone like Krish Naidoo, a legal adviser to the ANC’s national disciplinary committee?

Or how will ANC MP Buti Manamela’s wife, Nomvuyo Mhlakaza, serve the interests of South Africans better than broadcast policy expert Kate Skinner?

This unashamed manipulation of parliamentary processes is nothing but the ruling party’s hijacking of the SABC before the elections.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Image courtesy of Twitter @TheEdgeSearch

In this context, the ridiculous policy of insisting on 70% of “happy news” by acting chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng makes perfect sense. Happy news, as defined by Motsoeneng, is about service delivery — access to water, electricity and housing. These are all issues that would aid the ANC in its election campaign.

Even if we give Zulu the benefit of the doubt — that the ANC’s candidates are competent — it is clear where their loyalties will lie, and that is to serve the ruling party.

Brazen nepotism

What was absolutely shocking but not surprising – we are talking about the ANC here – was the brazen nepotism displayed when Nomvuyo Mhlakaza the wife of ANC MP Buti Manamela was selected rather than Kate Skinner.

In a previous article, I reflected the anger about the appointment of Mhlakaza expressed at the time by the IFP representative on the Communications Portfolio Committee, Liezl van der Merwe.

Clearly angry, she pointed to Buti Kgwaredi Manamela, national secretary of the Young Communist League and ANC MP and said, “Sadly, at the last minute, the ruling party seemingly bowed to pressure to advance specific candidates, and expertise took a back seat. How else does one explain the appointment of a senior manager in the office of the NYDA, chairperson? What exceptional skills made her the best in the pool? Or was the fact that she is an ANC Youth League stalwart and is married to a senior ANC MP the overriding factor here? Only time will tell.”

Time did tell, and tellingly so.

SABC company secretary, Theresa Geldenhuys, at 29 minutes and 38 seconds of her testimony before the ad hoc committee, specifically refers to the destructive role played by Nomvuyo Mhlakaza, the deployed wife of ANC MP Buti Manamela. Of Mhlakaza’s role, Geldenhuys says: “… who has constantly referred to me in the (board) meeting as the company secretary and that I must not be allowed to speak at all.”  Later in her evidence she refers to being “browbeaten”, “bullied” and “shot down” and that Buti Manamela’s wife was at the forefront of that process. She says her guidance was not accepted and she was not given the opportunity to express concerns about what was clearly a pre-ordained strategy to keep Hlaudi Motsoeneng in control. Geldenhuys struck me as sincere.

Why was this happening? South Africa is literally being stolen blind by the Snouting Faction. This fact must, at all cost, be kept from people in the rural areas who form the bulk of the ANC voters, people who are in large measure entirely dependent on the SABC for their news.  In Hlaudi Motsoeneng the Snouting Faction had someone who would stop at nothing to ensure that any news that did not reflect well on Zuma  would be censored by omission – despite the fact that this policy  is in conflict with section 10d of the South Africa Broadcasting Act which legally compels the SABC to ‘provide significant news and public affairs programming which meets the highest standards of journalism, as well as fair and unbiased coverage, impartiality, balance and independence from government, commercial and other interests’.

Singular role

It was thus of absolute importance to Luthuli House, particularly before the 2016 municipal election, that the pervasiveness of ANC corruption not be communicated to the populace through the SABC and SABC board member, Nomvuyo Mhlakaza, played a singular role, within her sphere of influence, of keeping Motsoeneng in power for as long as possible.

Furthermore, chapter two of the Constitution contains the Bill of Rights and section 16, relating to freedom of expression, specifically refers to our right to have ‘freedom to receive or impart information or ideas’ and it is precisely that right which the likes of Hlaudi Motsoeneng, Jimi Matthews, and the supporters  on the SABC board of the Snouting Faction  sought to deny us.

With the SABC inquiry being due to start again shortly this an apposite time to reflect on the qualities which decided President Jacob Zuma to demote the honest and efficient Yunus Carrim and appoint Faith Muthambi in his place.

I have already recorded Muthambi’s typically-ANC contempt for court judgments which became obvious when she reneged on a ruling that she should pay the legal costs of the Zoutpansberger newspaper which had to defend itself against her false accusation that the newspaper had defamed her.

We are, however, indebted to Weekend Argus columnist, Andrew Donaldson, for providing more information in this regard:

In 2005, when she was municipal manager at Makhado in Limpopo, Muthambi was arrested for allegedly selling a luxury car that belonged to the council. Charges of fraud were eventually dropped after two appearances in the local district court.

She later came under renewed scrutiny following an inquiry into tender fraud and charges of nepotism. According to the Zoutpansberger newspaper, Muthambi had allegedly overpaid a construction company said to be owned by a boyfriend for a road construction project it failed to execute and had appointed a cousin as a municipal librarian without following due process.

In 2008 she was suspended with full pay and enjoyed a five month break during which time she also claimed a performance bonus of more than R80 000. She successfully challenged her suspension, returned to work for a brief spell — but then resigned when it was announced that she had been deployed to Parliament where she was inaugurated as a new MP in May 2009.

She’d always denied any wrongdoing up there in Limpopo. It was all lies, she’d said.

Gravy trains and gravy planes

What would also have endeared Muthambi to Zuma is that she Gravy Trains and Gravy Planes with the best of them and, as is normally the case with deployed cadres, she insists on a pimped-to-the-max ride paid for, obviously, by you and me.

Her latest acquisition in what Die Burger calls ‘sousmotors’ – Gravy Cars – is a million rand BMW X5, the second she has been gifted within two years. In the 2014/2015 financial year it was, yep, a BMW X5 and a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

In August last year she splurged more than half a million rand on a nine-day jolly in the USA which saw her attend a luxury goods show and a folk art festival – neither of which have even the most remote connection to her portfolio and neither of which benefited a nation  and its citizens in any way.

And, might you not ask, does she not spend your money and mine on people of similar ilk?

All this while blowing shedloads of money on the Gupta’s New Age newspaper and missing the digital migration deadline by a country mile – and counting.

Even her own party members can’t stand her – a year ago her behaviour caused the resignation of the communications portfolio chairperson, Joyce Moloi-Moropa and Muthambi has also  lashed out at Blade Nzimande for having the temerity to suggest that her policy on digital migration was in conflict with official ANC policy.

Let us also not forget that it was Muthambi’s malevolent influence which saw SABC reporter Kgaogelo Magolego lose his job. This was replay of Snuki Zikalala’s venomous campaign against another SABC reporter trying to report in an ethical manner, Mandla Zembe. This is how the ANC rolls.

Thandeka Gqubule, one of the SABC8, said in her under-oath testimony about Muthambi in parliament:

His (Magolego’s) life was destroyed, and his career unjustly lies in tatters between emails on my phone and calls to my SABC 8 colleague. Kgaogelo was fired. His clip from that fateful day in Limpopo was never aired. His case is still being heard at the CCMA.

Divine inspiration

I must say, though, that I am going to miss the man Muthambi championed, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, when he eventually slouches towards Jerusalem. ‘Pastor’ Motsoeneng will be seeking divine inspiration so that the Beloved Country can be saved – by him and him alone – from the serpentine descendants of Jan Van Riebeeck and the imperialistic  ‘Monstrous White Beast’.

Motsoeneng has provided us with priceless memories – the bare-breasted nubiles, the charismatic church elders mumbling appropriate incantations to save Thuli Madonsela from demonic forces, the Dayglo purple suits which did not shout, they shrieked. The grandiose statements. And those eyes – oh my Lord, the eyes – which seem to suggest a manic chameleon on steroids, 420 high while enduring a moerse-excruciating Jack Daniels babalas.

Nothing remotely equivalent to this occurred at the SABC during the apartheid era.

To honour his 90% local music content edict – which has virtually bankrupted Radio Lotus and was, predictably, never discussed with the SABC board or ‘the Shareholder’, I would like to suggest a musical tribute.

The song will be funded by the many people he has enriched while enriching himself and it will be a cover of one of Shirley Bassey’s most memorable hits.

It will be renamed ‘Hey Big Snouter’ and it will be adopted as an iconic anthem by the ANC’s multitudinous blessers.  They will request it every time Razzmatazz DJ’s at the Saxonwold Shebeen karaoke evenings hosted by the renowned blues aficionado, Eskom’s former ‘Back Door Man’, Brian (Howlin’ Wolf) Molefe.

But, while it is easy to mock Motsoeneng and to pity the exploited Mbulaheni Maguvhe, the truth of the matter is that they and, above all, their venal puppet masters, ‘insult the memory of the Struggle’.

  • Ed Herbst is a retired veteran journalist who writes in his own capacity.