Restoring integrity to the SABC, clean up begins – Ed Herbst

CAPE TOWN — Finally, after many false throws of the prosecutorial net, we have new fisher-folk with solid intent who are hauling in the fatter SABC barracudas with astonishingly easy accuracy. Easy accuracy because most of the spotting work is done and the miscreant predatory species identified. It’s just that those who pulled the strings of the throw nets were reluctant to draw them in because they too strongly identify with the feeding patterns and greedy patrolling on the fiscal fringes. Exit Shaun the Sheep types at the National Prosecuting Authority and suddenly we have haul after glistening haul of SABC predator fish in what seems, at last, to be the clean up we’d all come to hope for, but hardly expected – so numbed had we become to the prevailing predation. Here Ed Herbst, an ex SABC veteran with solid sources within the organisation gathers the latest evidence of the clean-up and expresses optimism that the arrogance and blatant corruption that took root is about to become a thing of the past. We’ll hardly know ourselves. Imagine ex SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng campaigning to be prisoner-representative for Block D in Pollsmoor! – Chris Bateman

What is being attempted at the SABC deserves Ramaphosa’s backing. These are his people so to speak; the sort of foot soldiers he will need across all spheres if his self-proclaimed campaign for clean and accountable governance is to succeed. And if the SABC project does succeed, it could be a blueprint on how to tackle the other parastatals in dire situations. – Barney Mthombothi Sunday Times 16/12/2018

There have so far been eight civil litigations, six criminal referrals and 23 disciplinary referrals emanating from the SIU including Motsoeneng’s R11.5 million “success fee” for the controversial Multichoice/SABC deal and further claims originally raised by then public protector Thuli Madonsela.

But this is nowhere near the full picture. Impeccable sources at the embattled public broadcaster have confirmed that there have been over a hundred disciplinary hearings and that 30 so-called “Hlaudi enforcers” have left the organisation – of these 20 were fired and there were ten whose contracts came to an end or who resigned. – Inside the SABC crash City Press 23/12/2018

In an article posted on this website on 2 November and headlined SABC retrenchments a telling redemptive opportunity, I suggested that the impending retrenchments of close on a thousand SABC employees, provided the ideal opportunity to rid the morally and financially bankrupt broadcaster of the ‘Enforcers’ named and shamed in a written submission to parliament by the late Suna Venter.

Ed Herbst

It would be a boost to public morale and the morale of loyal and ethical SABC staff members if it transpires that some of the people she names no longer work at Auckland Park.

Judging by the recent City Press article, that is now happening – something that seemed impossible a year ago. The City Press article reveals the astonishing scale of the looting that has taken place at the SABC – what I call the ANC’s ‘Pillage the Village’ approach – and, after two decades of blatant and brazen corruption, the international rating agencies have reduced us to junk status and we are derided as yet another African kleptocracy.

Poised to strike

In September, advocate Andy Mothibi, the head of the Special Investigation Unit – motto ‘Poised to Strike against Corruption’ – complained that the unit’s work was being stymied and stifled by the NPA which was then headed by a Zuma  stooge, Shaun the Somnolent Sheep, who is not held in high regard by Paul O’Sullivan.

In a confirmation of the ‘Green Shoots’ turnaround promised by Cyril Ramaphosa at Davos, the baton has now been passed to Shamila Batohi in a commendably open and transparent process. My request is that she resuscitate the long-dormant  SABC case of Matilda Gaboo  which involved the SABC losing R170 million through a double-invoicing, television programme-requisitioning scam.   In August 2012 the SIU recommended criminal prosecution, a recommendation that was ignored given the prevailing political ethos within the ANC at the time.

Gaboo was appointed by and allegedly protected by then SABC CEO, Dali Mpofu who was CEO when the SABC was bankrupted for the first time during a period of astonishing but typical managerial and administrative chaos.

Mpofu went to court in a bizarre attempt to force in the Sunday Times to return a leaked report on the matter to the SABC. It was an extraordinary example of the callous wasteful expenditure to which we have become accustomed under the ANC.

If Shamila Batohi needs background information, she can find the judgment here.

The SIU report implicating Gaboo and calling for her prosecution, is publicly available.

Here, in essence, are the findings of the SIU investigation – commissioned by the then interim SABC board of Irene Charnley and Suzanne Vos:

Matilda Gaboo – International Acquisitions

Findings:

  • The role of content buyers became obsolete after the formation of Internal Acquisitions unit as Ms Gaboo played a significant role in the acquisition of content.
  • The acquisition process became secretive and acquisitions were made without communication of channel’s needs.
  • As a result of acquisitions made by Ms Gaboo, SABC ended up with high volumes of redundant inventory and impairment losses of about R170m.
  • SABC suffered revenue and reputational losses.

Investigation Status:

Allegations of kickbacks are still under investigation.

SIU is finalising the docket, however, the matter has been referred to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). SIU criminal law practitioners drafted a charge sheet and made it available to the investigating officer.

The captured state broadcaster, for obvious reasons, never laid charges or attempted to recover the R170 million lost during the tenure of Matilda Gaboo – the Dali Mpofu appointee.  This is how the ANC rolls, but for how long will that mindset endure?

All the necessary investigative work has been done. What now remains is for Shamila Batohi to authorise the prosecution recommended by the SIU.

Increasing rate of attrition

The Motsoeneng cabal at Auckland Park is suffering an increasing rate of attrition if the City Press article is anything to go by.

To emphasise the point, Sully Motsweni, a Motsoeneng appointee who was earning an annual salary of R2.5 million at the time of her arrest, is facing fraud charges.

Alywn Kloppers, one of Motsoeneng’s most fervent acolytes and the main witness at his farcical internal  ‘disciplinary hearing’, has retired after enjoying, colleagues say, a financially-beneficial extension of contract courtesy of the man who regards himself as South Africa’s last hope for salvation.

I hope I live long enough to see a handcuffed Motsoeneng being led down the stairs towards the holding cells in the well of the court, there to exchange  his refulgent purple suit (too vivid even for our recently–retired onanistic poppinjay)  for an orange overall.

My schadenfreude – which I am sure will be shared by the nation at large – will be all the greater if he is accompanied by James Aguma.

After a hiatus of close on two years, a suddenly-energised NPA has announced that Marius Fransman is to be prosecuted for sexual assault.

I see this as another example of a change in mindset within the ANC after the Nasrec victory of Ramaphosa.

Hopefully that energy can be maintained to the extent that it follows up on the SIU’s call for the prosecution of Matilda Gaboo, the very, very, very close friend of Mathews Phosa – or so she told SABC colleagues.

The auguries for a slew of prosecutions and jail terms in 2019 seem positive.

John Block is in jail, Rubben Mahlolago awaits sentencing two months from now and Sully Motsweni is currently on trial – so hopefully more SABC-related prosecutions will follow.

As Branko Brkic wrote in declaring President Cyril Ramaphosa (and his team) the Daily Maverick Person of the Year: What a difference 179 votes makes.

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