Muthambi 'misled' SABC inquiry, MPs say

2016-12-15 16:20
SABC office. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

SABC office. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Members of Parliament's ad hoc committee looking into the SABC board's fitness to hold office have said Communications Minister Faith Muthambi misled Parliament when she appeared before the committee on Wednesday.

Various MPs raised the issue of Muthambi's testimony after former board member Rachel Kalidass testified on Thursday. The board member's testimony seemed to contradict Muthambi's assertions.

Some of the MPs unease arose from Muthambi's insistence that no board members had raised concerns with her over the appointment of former SABC chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng to permanent COO in July 2014.

Kalidass informed the committee on Thursday that Krish Naidoo had written directly to the minister to point out the legal issues around Motsoeneng's appointment.

The board's minutes were also furnished to Muthambi, and Kalidass had made a point to implore then company secretary Theresa Geldenhuys to include her dissatisfaction in the letter to Muthambi.

Muthambi had also said there had been "ambiguity" with the Public Protector's binding recommendations at the time of Motsoeneng's appointment, which is why the SABC considered another report, compiled by Mchunu Attorneys, with regards to his appointment.

Kalidass again showed through board minutes that Muthambi had expressly said she had seen the Public Protector's report, and wanted the board to expedite the process so as not to be in violation of her duties as far as the Public Protector was concerned.

'Undue pressure'

Kalidass, a chartered accountant by profession, relayed the story of how Motsoeneng was appointed as COO permanently, and what Muthambi's role was in his appointment.

She said Muthambi was at the SABC building on the night of July 7, 2014, despite the surprise meeting taking place at 18:00 and only ending at 23:00.

Kalidass revealed that then chairperson Ellen Tshabalala said the board had to vote on Motsoeneng's appointment that night, as the minister was expecting an answer before the meeting ended.

After the five-hour debate, where a minority of five board members disagreed with the appointment, Muthambi walked through the doors.

She also showed how Muthambi had used then Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's 2014 report "out of context" to justify Motsoeneng's appointment.

Muthambi said the appointment of a permanent COO was one of Madonsela's recommended remedial actions and therefore his appointment should be expedited, according to board minutes.

ANC MP Juli Kilian asked Kalidass if she considered that "undue pressure" on the board from the minister. Kalidass said she did.

'Disgust'

ANC MP Dr Makhosi Khoza said she had a strong feeling the minister had misled them and misrepresented a lot of facts before the committee on Wednesday. She said the committee would deal with the matter.

ACDP MP Steve Swart said he shared Khoza's concerns as Kalidass' testimony conflicted with the minister's.

He said it was clear from Kalidass' testimony that Muthambi actually played a much greater role during that meeting in July 2014 than she had led the committee to believe.

UDM MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa implored chairperson Vincent Smith to ensure that the matter of Parliament being allegedly misled was addressed.

He said the party was disgusted and disappointed with some of the individuals who had apparently misled them.

Looting the end game?

Kwankwa said, in light of the testimonies, Muthambi, Motsoeneng and other SABC executives were part of a "clear strategy" to loot the SABC over time.

He tracked how the minister amended the company's Memorandum of Incorporation in October 2014 so that the group chief executives could purge other executive staff, and then amended the Delegation of Authority Framework in 2015 so they could control the processes of procurement.

Afterwards, irregular expenditure had risen to R673m, according to the Auditor General's report, he said.

"It is a clear strategy to loot state resources at the SABC. Would you agree?" he asked Kalidass. She agreed.

He also asked if she thought Muthambi was partly to blame for the board's most recent failures. Kalidass agreed again.

He finally asked if there was a change in behaviour in Motsoeneng when former communications minister Yunus Carrim was replaced by Muthambi in May that year. Kalidass said "definitely", agreeing he was more emboldened.

"We've caught you," Kwankwa said cheekily in Xhosa before ending, referring to the minister, Motsoeneng and the SABC.

The room laughed.

Thursday was the last day of witnesses testimonies before the Christmas break. SABC acting political editor Sophie Mokoena was also due to appear, but did not. Her absence was not explained publicly by committee chairperson Vincent Smith.

The inquiry will resume its work on January 10, with possibly one more day of witness testimonies and deliberations thereafter.

Read more on:    sabc  |  faith muthambi  |  hlaudi motsoeneng  |  thuli madonsela

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