What Mpofu cost SABC

FORMER SABC boss Dali Mpofu has confirmed that he has been paid an exit package of about R14.1 million but according to reports he cost the broadcaster well over R100 million during his two year tenure.

Analysts and opposition parties say Mpofu must be held accountable for a projected R1 billion loss for the 2008/09 financial year.

They add that Mpofu’s golden handshake in the middle of an internal audit into the widespread looting of the broadcaster’s coffers flies in the face of efforts to arrest the rot at the SABC.

Mpofu yesterday joked that he would become a “full-time house husband”.

“This was the best decision the board took – the most sensible thing they did,” he said. “All they really did was to clean up the mess left by the shortlived (Kanyi) Mkonza board, which violated my rights and took the fight to the streets by leaking that memorandum to the newspapers in a desperate effort to tarnish my name and get me tried in the court of public opinion.”

Mpofu was referring to an internal SABC memorandum about rifts between the board and himself which was leaked to the press.

He added: “I do not think there was anything I did or didn’t do because the board pounced on me barely two months after they had arrived. It is unfortunate that this mess they created has cost this much. It’s a lesson for all of us in the future.”

Mpofu said it had taken three weeks of “subtle, sensible” negotiations for him to get his handsome payout. He said the payout was actually R12 million and only the addition of his legal costs of about R2.1 million had raised it to about R14.1 million.

“After prioritising the (SABC) strike, they then needed to ensure that the SABC moved on and I moved on, bringing stability to the organisation,” he said.

Mpofu drew parallels between his case and that of embattled former prosecutions boss Vusi Pikoli, who has taken President Jacob Zuma to court to stop the appointment of a new man while he contests his sacking.

“My case for reinstatement was made stronger by the appeal court ruling that confirmed my suspension had been unlawful. It was stronger than the Pikoli case.”

He said if the SABC had not settled for a payout the case would have gone on for more than two years.

“It would have cost more to the SABC in terms of time and they would also not have been able to fill the chief executive’s position until the matter was resolved.

“It helped that I was negotiating with a new group of people, not the hostile Mkonza board. Now we can all move on with our lives.”

Mpofu said in terms of the agreement he would be paid all monies due to him by October. The previous board had already paid him R6.7 million for the remainder of his contract, which would have ended next July.

A further R4.4 million to be funded by the communications department is to cover an 18-month restraint of trade agreement in terms of which Mpofu must not engage in any activity that might put him in competition with the SABC.

Mpofu said he would not accept any blame for the SABC’s financial crisis. “It was not my mess. I had nothing to do with any of that. Operationally I wouldn’t have done things differently,” he said.

“We never reported a loss during my time. There was no crisis prior to my suspension. I take full responsibility for all the decisions I made.

“I believe that if the board had not changed we wouldn’t have had any of this. I last worked there in March 2008, a month after they leaked that memorandum.

“Control of the place fell apart after I was suspended. There was no proper leadership. The economic crisis set in and even companies that had chief executives were battered by the global crunch. So you can imagine how worse it would have been for a CEO-less SABC.”

Mpofu defended the 2007 launch of SABC News International, which cost R240 million.

“We had a five-year strategy to roll it out. If there was no crisis with the board we would have launched it on DSTV first before e-news International, which launched in June last year. I was on the verge of sealing the deal. But in those crucial six months when I was made to fight for my life everything crumbled.”

Mpofu warned that the next chief executive had to “someone with sufficient political gravitas”.

“They need someone who will not be bullied by the politicians, someone independent. And once the economy stabilises and advertising revenues grow the SABC will bounce back.”

The Congress of the People (COPE) said it hoped the settlement would not exonerate Mpofu “from executive responsibility for the financial and managerial crisis that he leaves behind”.

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