The CEO, her ‘nephew’ and the big ICT Indaba

2013-03-17 10:00

Intrigue at the SABC makes good governance difficult.

Communications Minister Dina Pule’s alleged lover is related to SABC CEO Lulama Makhobo.

Makhobo admitted that she is related to Phosane Mngqibisa and said that her son, Lefa Chakela, was hired by Mngqibisa’s company to work on the controversial ICT Indaba last year.

The family links first emerged this week during a meeting between the remaining members of the stricken SABC board and Pule.

City Press has learnt that, during a discussion about how to stem leaks to this newspaper about the scandals tearing the board and the public broadcaster apart, Makhobo spoke up.

She told the minister that she was unfairly being placed under tremendous pressure, and admitted her family links.

City Press last week questioned Makhobo about a story doing the rounds.

We asked if it was true that her son, Chakela, had been employed by Mngqibisa’s company, Khemano, to work at last year’s ICT Indaba.

Mngqibisa has been romantically linked to the minister in several news reports – and there are claims that he benefited financially from the indaba organised by Pule.

The public broadcaster signed a R3?million sponsorship deal with the indaba.

The deal was a standard SABC event barter – R2?million worth of airtime and R1?million in cash.

But irregularities regarding the R1?million are cited as one of several reasons why the SABC’s chief financial officer, Gugu Duda, was suspended last year and is currently under investigation.

City Press has learnt that Makhobo co-signed a letter of intent with Duda. But the CEO was not suspended.

This week, City Press met Makhobo in her office on the 28th floor of Radio Park.

She was visibly emotional when discussing her son’s link to the story, which she admitted was true but entirely irrelevant.

She said: “People will stop at nothing to try and tarnish my good reputation. I never declared this before because I had nothing to declare.”

She explained that Chakela (33) had worked as a TV producer before she took up the CEO position at SABC.

He had to stop his career midway to avoid a conflict of interest.

“It’s so bad that he’s even trying to work as a musician now,” she said.

“Working in events is one of the few options open to him. And this event was linked to the department of communications, not the SABC.

“What is he supposed to do? Phosane called him two days before the event because he needed help.”

She admitted that Mngqibisa is “a nephew, but a distant relative, from our grandmothers. He is not my sister’s child or anything like that”.

Makhobo gave City Press a copy of the letter approving the expenditure that she co-signed with Duda.

“I was misled by Ms Duda,” she said when asked why she is not also under investigation for the matter.

“She told me that the decision to fund the indaba had been approved in a group executive meeting. Only later did I find out that it had not been.”

Makhobo also provided copies of minutes of a meeting to prove her case.

When contacted, Duda replied with annoyance: “She is giving me too much credit, that a person in her position can be misled by a junior.

There is no truth to her statement. How could she let that happen if she is supposed to be a champion of good governance?”

Meanwhile, outgoing SABC board chairman Ben Ngubane has spoken out for the first time about why he has left the board.

“My resignation comes out of the realisation that we are actually going backwards, not forwards,” he told City Press.

“Some board members have made it untenable to continue.”

His comments come after City Press learnt that Public Protector Thuli Madonsela

has stepped up her investigation into “systemic governance failure at the level of the

board and various allegations regarding certain appointments, dismissals and salaries” at the public broadcaster.

On Wednesday, Madonsela called the non-executive SABC board to a meeting in Pretoria, which went on for the whole day.

»?For more on the crisis at the SABC and Madonsela’s investigation, see www.citypress.co.za/news

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