Guptas tried to take control of SABC news, inquiry hears

Cape Town - The Gupta family's TNA media group tried to take control of the SABC's news production, before it launched ANN7 in 2013, a parliamentary inquiry heard on Monday.

The New Age’s former CEO Nazeem Howa proposed that the media group take over news production for the SABC's 24-hour news channel, for free, former SABC chief technology officer Sipho Masinga testified under oath before the ad hoc committee looking into the SABC board.

This happened during a “surprise meeting” at SABC headquarters, Masinga told MPs via a statement.

“We had had a power failure that day, so I was managing another crisis. Then I got a phone call to attend a meeting on the 27th floor.”

This was the floor where then acting COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng's office was. Masinga said he bumped into Howa in the service lift on the way to the meeting.

Motsoeneng introduced Howa to Masinga and left, leaving Masinga to handle the proposed deal, which he was not aware of at the time. He was given a three-page document, which he scanned.

“It was talking about rebranding SABC News, that TNA will not pay any rental, that the SABC will provide resources and journalists, TNA will retain advertising revenue. That right there was enough to understand the context of the meeting.

“Just that itself was enough for me to send him back. I had to be nice and find a way to say, 'go back and find a way to make it more appealing’.”

In contrast, he said the SABC's own proposal to launch its news channel was 60 pages long. The SABC launched its own channel in August 2013. ANN7 started broadcasting in the same month.

He said the New Age breakfasts, which the SABC hosted in the mornings, came after the proposed deal, and were an unrelated venture.

 

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