SABC board candidate wants to clear name at state capture inquiry

A former top official in the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Gift Buthelezi, told Parliament’s oversight committee on communications on Tuesday evening that he intended testifying before the commission of inquiry into state capture to clear his name.

Buthelezi was addressing the committee during an interview to become a member of the SABC board. He was the last candidate to be interviewed on Tuesday for one of eight open positions at the public broadcaster during a marathon sitting that began at 11:00 and ended around 21:30.

Buthelezi spoke about his extensive experience in government and broadcasting, including a a stint as deputy director-general for policy in radio. But he was not entering the interview without baggage. 

Buthelezi was axed from the department in 2015, and was the subject of a lawsuit initiated by then Telecommunications Minister Siyabonga Cwele over allegedly overspending to host a conference in 2012. 

Cwele withdrew his case against Buthelezi in 2017.

On Tuesday committee member for the DA, Phumzile van Damme, questioned Buthelezi about the testimony of Government Communications and Information System's acting CEO, Phumla Williams, before the same inquiry. 

In 2018 Williams told the commission of inquiry that former minister of communications, Faith Muthambi, had asked GCIS to arrange an office for Buthelezi without due process.

Buthelezi denied having any relationship with Muthambi.

He said his position at GCIS at the time was part of the process of dividing up the departments of telecommunications and communications. 

Van Damme, however, said Buthelezi could not have held a position at GCIS during this time as he had been dismissed. But Buthelezi maintained that he was still with the department when the move took place.

"I can say that I was presenting before a committee of Parliament during the time. I was not dismissed. Phumla Williams' testimony is incorrect and I am prepared to go before the committee to address this. She can also clarify to you what the truth is," Buthelezi said.

In light of one of Buthelezi’s main claims to fame – successfully negotiating free broadcast rights for the SABC during the 2010 FIFA World Cup – the EFF's Mbuyiseni Ndlozi asked where and how these negotiations too place.

Buthelezi said they took place at the Durban International Convention Centre when EFF chair Dali Mpofu was still SABC CEO. Mbuyiseni asked Buthelezi if he was certain, as Mpofu had no recollection of overseeing such negotiations. Buthelezi insisted they did take place.
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