Lives of SABC execs 'at risk' as they try to clean up rot, says chair

There is a fightback against the South African Broadcasting Corporation's new leadership, who are working to clean up the maladministration and corruption they inherited, the public broadcaster's chairperson has said. 

SABC executives on Tuesday briefed Parliament's oversight committee on communications on the status of the broadcaster's turnaround strategy. The SABC is in a dire financial position, and will not be broadcasting any of the games from the forthcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan. 

Board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini told the committee that executives were under threat and their lives at risk because of their efforts to root out corruption.

He noted a failed assassination attempt on the corporation's Chief Audit Executive Thami Zikode in June, adding that a security risk assessment had found that executives at the forefront of the corporation's renewal efforts were at risk of losing their lives.

"They [new leadership] sacrificed a lot to come and help, and they have been doing a good job."

'Lots of attacks'  

"There have been a lot of attacks, especially on executives we attracted to come and assist us. They are being attacked for driving renewal. They are holding people to account, based on what has happened on past," Makhathini said.

He told the committee the group's leadership has been working to implement remedial actions contained in former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's 2014 report on its failing governance structures. They are also implementing recommendations from a parliamentary ad hoc committee which held an inquiry into the public broadcaster in 2016.

The corporation has also appointed internal forensic investigators who, in one financial year, have thus far compiled 108 forensic reports which highlight the extent of the rot at the broadcaster. 

"Of course as we drive renewal, some people will try fight back," said Makhathini. 

He said the corporation's leadership would not be deterred. "There is no amount of intimidation or push-back to stop us from doing what is responsible and what is in the best interest of the SABC."

SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe echoed Makhathini's views, saying executives had inherited an organisation which had experienced a collapse of both its finances and governance.

He told MPs that internal forensic findings, some dating back to 2012, were also being looked at again. He said it appeared that some of the cases had deliberately been set aside.  

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