How black can things get at SABC? ANC directs sinister methods in ‘SA microcosm’

It’s hard to believe that ANC-directed forces could be behind attempts to murder SABC journalists going about their work, because this is the party that has fought for right – and won – against wrong. It’s less difficult to grasp that ANC-linked individuals have taken advantage of the system to milk millions of rands out of the public broadcaster because this pattern is evident elsewhere. The SABC is in a mess in all ways – financially, operationally and editorially – and there is no turning point in sight. In this piece, veteran journalist Ed Herbst highlights key events that show the SABC for what it is: an organisation being run by crooks and propagandists. TV licence fees are compulsory and the inspectors can create huge stress in TV-owners’ lives when they come calling to check on whether this form of tax is paid up. Effectively TV licence-fee payers are propping up an entity that looks a lot like an organised crime business that occasionally doubles up as an ANC publicity machine. This won’t change, predicts Herbst. Look at the SABC as a microcosm of South Africa: it’s on an unstoppable path to destruction, even though well-meaning opposition politicians have put their all into cleaning up the ship. Nobody is likely to go to jail. The SA state feeding trough has so many mouths in it, it would be hard for the honourable police officers and prosecutors who are left in the system to know where to begin their work. – Jackie Cameron

By Ed Herbst*

It’s unlikely to happen, Comrade Smith

 “Somebody has misled Parliament, somebody has not taken us seriously and they will pay the price for it. There can’t be such grave contradictions, it’s just too scary for us not to take it up.”

“Everyone who spoke here spoke under oath and I think somebody must go to jail”. – Vincent Smith (ANC) on 13 January  2017 as chairman of the parliamentary ad hoc committee investigating pervasive SABC-related sleaze.

As with many South Africans, a firm opinion was forming in our heads that this committee was a shining example of what parliamentarians should do – put their ideological differences aside and serve the interests of the public.

It would appear that we were hasty in arriving at that conclusion. In a few short sentences, chairperson Smith planted a seed of doubt in the very heads that were beginning to hail him as a hero and hold him up as a model public servant. – Don Makatile IOL 29/1/2017

Veteran journalist Ed Herbst

The suggestion in parliament by Vincent Smith on 13 January that somebody from the SABC should go to jail as a result of perjured evidence at the inquiry he is chairing is unlikely to become a reality. Proof of that was posted on this website on 26 November last year in the form of a report on SABC malfeasance and wasteful expenditure by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the SAPS. Nothing came of it because it was, predictably, ignored.

In August 2012 the SIU handed its report to the SABC board.

It is titled: Report on SIU investigations – Submission to Turnaround Sub-Committee of the Board 16 August 2012.

Here’s a timeline:

3 July 2009 – ICT personality Irene Charnley and former MP Suzanne Vos are appointed as non-executive directors to the SA Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC’s) interim board by Parliament. They call for an investigation by the SAPS Special Investigation Unit (SIU) into the pervasive corruption by the ANC’s deployed cadres which had seen the Corporation needing a R1.4 billion bailout.

4 November 2010 – President Jacob Zuma gives the SIU the green light to investigate massive fraud and corruption at the SABC. There is evidence that some of the stolen millions have been placed in foreign bank accounts. This gives the SIU the right to access the accounts and documents of staff and companies suspected of a crime, and to seize assets where necessary.

Two years later and after an expenditure of R20 million the SIU delivers its report – which is again provided (below) on this website for perusal by the ad hoc committee chaired by Vincent Smith.

As I pointed out in a previous article, the SIU report recommended the criminal prosecution of Matilda Gaboo and the civil prosecution of Dali Mpofu on whose catastrophic watch as CEO the SABC was bankrupted and had its news credibility destroyed. For this he was rewarded with the usual multi-million rand golden handshake – standard practice and all part of the ANC’s ‘Good Story to Tell’. The report also suggest that Mafika Sihlali face civil proceedings in addition to the criminal prosecution he was then facing. The 2012 report mentions that Sihlali was, at that time, out on bail. Four years later he is still out on bail because the NPA and the police don’t seem particularly keen to find him.

More magic available at www.jerm.co.za.

Nothing has been done by the Zupta-captured NPA to implement those SIU findings so the chance of anyone now going to jail – as Vincent Smith threatened on 13 January – is minimal if not non-existent.

Any investigation into corruption by the ANC’s deployed cadres would, however, be wasteful expenditure – ask Baleka Mbete, she’ll tell you.

So, too, would be any investigation into multi-million rand ‘turnaround strategies’.

Here’s a timeline to prove the latter point:

15 October 2012 – Sunday World reveals that:

Deloitte Consulting, wholly owned subsidiary of multinational professional services firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu of Japan, wined and dined SABC executives including former chief financial officer Lerato Nage to allegedly lobby them to pay the outstanding R9m owed to it by the public broadcaster.

The payment was part of millions paid by SABC to Deloitte for help with its turnaround strategy.

The frontman for the dining and wining was Deloitte executive Sandile Gwala.

By yesterday, Deloitte had not responded to questions e-mailed to them on Wednesday morning.

16 December 2012 – Sunday World reveals that:

Sandile Gwala’s R50 million ‘turnaround strategy’ was predicated on his belief that the SABC’s deployed cadres are so corrupt and/or incompetent that it would be necessary for an outsider to be employed for the strategy to be successful. This was revealed in his letter to then and current Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan.

Fifty million rand squandered…

Nobody denied those Sunday World reports and there has, predictably, been no follow up. It was simply Tsunami of Sleaze business-as-usual and four years later we have the ad hoc committee – with the exception of its DA members – desperately backpedalling and saying it must now make no recommendations based on the frightening accounts of those who testified before it.

The Democratic Alliance has every reason to feel betrayed.

As its Shadow Minister on Communication, Phumzile van Damme, put it:

Over the last two years, the DA has spent millions and gone in and out of court in an attempt to bring stability to the SABC.

In stark contrast, the African National Congress has not spent a cent in this regard. Indeed, until recently, it has done everything in its power to keep the SABC under Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s malevolent control because he was withholding from millions of South African’s the hourly reality of pervasive ANC corruption which has seen the Beloved Country drop two places in its ranking on The Economist’s latest democracy index.

But wait, there’s more – there’s always more when it comes to the ANC’s Tsunami of Sleaze.

Going to black

In broadcasting terms, going to black – when the television programme you are viewing is abruptly terminated and the screen goes dark – is normally the television equivalent of Chernobyl, a meltdown of your technical systems. Given the fact that preventative maintenance at the SABC stopped more than a decade ago – as it has in the rest of the country – it came as no surprise when there were complete programme black outs in April and October 2014.

There is, however, a big difference between system failure and television screens going to black intentionally as an act of censorship.

Last week Thinus Ferreira provided irrefutable proof of the SABC deliberately going to black to cut short a live feed when Julius Malema started criticising Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

This was the first time that the SABC has deliberately gone to black since television started in 1976 and this was done in an extraordinarily brazen act of political censorship – even more brazen than its manipulation of the booing of President Jacob Zuma at the Nelson Mandela memorial service in Soweto on 10 December 2013.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng

This is what happens in state-controlled television news broadcasts.

On 21 December 1989 Romania’s state broadcaster abruptly terminated its live coverage of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s speech when it became obvious that the crowd had turned against him. (A few days later he was executed at the behest of an oppressed populace that he had ruthlessly exploited for decades – that’s how it goes in a typical Dionysian socialist paradise.)

But wait, there’s more

The SABC carried the news about Suna Venter being shot in the face at 11 minutes past ten last Friday morning on its web site but although eNCA headlined the story on its six thirty and seven pm television news bulletins that evening the SABC did not mention it on the equivalent bulletins at all. This, in other words, was its usual self-censorship by omission.

Fears for her life

Venter is lucky not to have lost an eye and justifiably fears for her life.

Dali Mpofu

What is relevant here is that SABC news personnel never experienced anything like this during the apartheid era but this was hardly an isolated incident. In February 2008 the SABC hired four bodyguards to protect Elsje Oosthuizen, head of internal audits. It was felt that her life was in danger after she started investigating, among other cases, the activities of Dali Mpofu’s Elephant Consortium crony Mafika Sihlali. Oosthuizen’s home was fire-bombed and the case seems to have subsequently and conveniently vanished from the court rolls.

Also without precedent during the apartheid era was an MP’s life being threatened because of an investigation into SABC-related corruption. Ask Ben Turok – he’ll tell you

All the indications are that the SABC’s Auckland Park ‘Enforcers’ have, with the usual contempt, paid no heed to what is happening in parliament and that Zupta TV proceeds apace. They are clearly not intimidated by Vincent Smith’s threat.

Furthermore…

  • On 29 January the Sunday Times revealed that the Sobbing Sage of the #Saxonwold Shebeen looks likely to join the ANC’s Travelgate criminals in parliament and is tipped to be our next Finance Minister. You couldn’t make this stuff up but the ANC specialises in nasty surprises.
  • On 30 January Business Day revealed that Dr Ben Ngubane – the man who, with the help of Hlaudi Motsoeneng, ‘saved’ the SABC – has been withholding from public scrutiny a damning report by US law firm Denton’s on Eskom, which became an ANC trough two decades ago. The newspaper indicated that the suppressed report might well implicate Ngubane, the man against whom the ANC members of the parliamentary SABC ad hoc committee, chaired by Vincent Smith are, at the moment, refusing to make any recommendations.
  • In the meantime, the ANC is executing multiple backward somersaults about a ‘Paid twitter’ news campaign led by someone called Shaka Sisulu who, as far as I can make out, is more Mr Bean than James Bond. Or, as Tony Leon put it in a Sunday Times column, more Groucho than Karl Marx. I don’t think M will be calling him anytime soon.

Humorous quote

Let me leave you, first, with a humorous 2013 YouTube quote on the SABC by Julius Malema:

“The SABC is run from Luthuli House, in Jackson … oh … Jack Daniels Mthembu’s (laughter) office er.. Luthuli House, Sauer Street, that’s where the SABC is ran (sic).   And when I came here I didn’t expect them because I know how we used to run them when we still there.

“And they can’t tell me it’s wrong, I’m lying -we used to do it. (laughter)

“They will be called to Luthuli House, they will be told which story to cover and which story not to cover.

“Comrades in the SABC operate like it’s the eighties, scared they are going to be fired.”

And then with a retrospectively-ironic 1992 quote by Cyril Ramaphosa on the National Party-era SABC and how the ANC would improve matters thereafter:

The ANC believes that unquestioning loyalty by a public broadcaster to a ruling party is incompatible with democracy – whether or not the ruling party enjoys the support of the majority of the population.

When the ANC wins the electoral support of the majority of South Africans, it will not seek to replace the National Party as the subject of the SABC’s slavish loyalty. And we want to establish both the principle and practice of that independence now.

The ANC is committed to public broadcasting which is independent of the government of the day, and which owes its loyalty not to any party, but to the population as a whole. In other words, we propose a broadcast service committed to providing full and accurate information to all South Africans, and one which is protected from interference by any special interests – be they political, economic or cultural.

If the SABC is to play a constructive role ahead of our country’s first experience with democracy, informing the electorate rather than attempting to persuade them to vote for a particular political party, it is necessary to replace those who currently control the SABC with others who are committed to democracy and to an electorate empowered by accurate and impartial information.

I have always said that the SABC is South Africa in microcosm.

Fifty million rand derived from advertisers, television viewers and the taxpayer invested by the SABC in Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu for a ‘turnaround strategy’ produces the normal ANC blend of chaos and corruption, fear and decay, an attempted hijacking by the Guptas and R5 billion in irregular expenditure.

Stephen Mulholland was not exaggerating.

If two decades of ANC governance is anything to go by, nobody will go to jail as a consequence – unless, like Cynthia Maropeng, they steal from the ANC itself.

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