MultiChoice CEO emails staff to 'not be distracted' by testimony at Zondo Inquiry


The CEO of the MultiChoice Group, Calvo Mawela, has written an internal message to staff, instructing them to "not be distracted" by allegations which may be aired at the state capture inquiry on Tuesday.

The inquiry has been investigating allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud since August 2018.

The inquiry heard evidence from former communications minister Yunus Carrim about the South African Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday. The message was sent before Carrim testified. The former minister told the inquiry that 2013 deal between national broadcaster SABC and MultiChoice was irregular and amounted to "policy capture".  

Mawela did not say in his message what the allegations were about, but said MultiChoice "emphatically deny" them. "We have noted with disappointment the baseless allegations made by these [two] witnesses in their affidavits," he said, without naming the witnesses.

The affidavits of the witnesses are not yet publicly available.  

On Tuesday afternoon, after Carrim testified, MultiChoice Group Executive for Corporate Affairs Joe Heshu released the following statement: 

“MultiChoice has noted that Yunus Carrim confirmed under oath in his submission to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry today that he cannot attest to having personal knowledge of any fraud or corruption in respect of the SABC/MultiChoice agreement. Carrim’s allegations concerning MultiChoice and some of its officials are baseless.

"MultiChoice and its officials deny these allegations. We have informed the Zondo Commission that we will respond to the allegations made against us in due course and reserve all of our rights.”

'Don't be distracted' 

Mawela, in his message sent to staff ahead of the start of Tuesday's hearing, asked that employees not be "distracted by the reports in these allegations and any associated commentary and instead continue to deliver world-class service in order to delight our customers".

In late 2017 News24 reported that MultiChoice had made a payment of R25m to the now defunct ANN7 channel, which was owned by the Guptas. The article was based on revelations included in the #GuptaLeaks.

In addition, MultiChoice increased its annual payment to ANN7 from R50m to R141m, News24 reported at the time.

"The payments came after the family (Guptas) seemingly assisted former communications minister Faith Muthambi in getting President Jacob Zuma to transfer certain broadcasting powers to her, something MultiChoice was lobbying the minister for," News24 reported.

"Following the transfer of powers, Muthambi controversially pushed through a decision in favour of unencrypted set-top boxes, which benefitted MultiChoice."

MultiChoice, at the time, denied to News24 that there was any relationship between the policy outcome in its favour and payments made to ANN7. "MultiChoice rejects your insinuations in the strongest possible terms," it said.

On Wednesday, in the message to staff, Mawela said that MultiChoice complied with the law, regulations and best practices in all its markets, including South Africa.

Naspers, the parent company of MultiChoice until an unbundling took place in March of 2019, said in a separate statement on Tuesday that the commission had notified it of allegations made by Carrim in his affidavit.

"Having considered the allegations to the extent that they mention Naspers, it was concluded that there was no suggestion of illegality attributed to Naspers; we accordingly notified the Commission that Naspers did not intend to exercise its rights to give evidence, to call witnesses or to cross-examine witnesses in response to the notice received from the Commission. In the process Naspers conveyed its respect for the Commission and its appreciation for the valuable work that the Commission is doing," it said. 

* The MultiChoice Group listed on the JSE and was unbundled from Naspers on March 4, 2019. Fin24 is part of Media24, a subsidiary of Naspers. 

* This article was amended at 13:37 on Tuesday to reflect that the email was sent on Tuesday. According to an earlier version, it was sent on Wednesday.

* This article was updated at 17:48 on Tuesday to include comment from MultiChoice Group Executive for Corporate Affairs Joe Heshu, and link to an article giving an overview of some of the evidence that Carrim provided on Tuesday. This article was also updated to include a statement from Naspers. 

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