Johannesburg - Secret visits to a Limpopo village, interrogations about former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and trade union influence at the SABC were some of the alleged spy activities initiated under former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the Sunday Times reported.
“I received a call to say there are people in front of the Spar liquor store near my home village in Limpopo talking to people who knew me from my village,” former head of risk at the SABC, Itani Tseisi, told the weekly newspaper.
“They were asking about my properties, my car. The invasion of privacy is what got me a little upset.”
Tseisi, along with former finance manager for television Henk Lamberts were interviewed by the newspaper about their experience of being probed by the state security agency – an investigation, apparently initiated by Motsoeneng, which they said, was “unprecedented” at the SABC.
“To go to state security for this is totally crazy. To my knowledge it has never happened before,” said Lamberts.
Wiped harddrives and polygraph tests
Lamberts and Tseisi, along with former financial manager in the chief financial officer’s office, Angus Summers, and shared financial services manager Andries van Dyk, were suspended in April 2015 – allegedly for leaking documents to the media. All were subsequently cleared. Except for Van Dyk, all have now left the national broadcaster.
The finance officials told the Sunday Times that usual practice would have been for authorisation from the board to have been obtained – something they said was not done. Then, a group internal audit must have been conducted or an investigation from the forensic department carried out.
Both men, were somewhat taken aback by certain lines of questioning which came up during SSA interrogations in May last year.
Tseisi said that he was disturbed by the agency’s interest in what he had told former public prosecutor Thuli Madonsela during her investigation into the SABC.
“What really raised my eyebrows was that Hlaudi told [the SSA agent) that I had provided the public protector with information that he was ‘connected’ and disrespectful of board members.”
Tseisi said that previously, in 2013, he had told the investigators from the protector’s office that Motsoeneng was “very influential” and that he had attended a board meeting – which he was not entitled to do, and had been verbally disparaging to them.
Tsiesi said he believed that Motsoeneng had used the investigation into the leaked documents as a pretext to get rid of him over a clash they had in terms of policy around encrypted digital television.
Lamberts said during his interrogation he was asked whether he thought the unions were influencing SABC management.
He was also asked to undergo a polygraph test, which he agreed to – but then never heard from the state security officials again.
He was later cleared and when he returned to work in January found that his entire harddrive had been wiped off his laptop.
The State Security Agency confirmed to the Sunday Times that it had received a request “at some point” from the national broadcaster to “assist with investigations”. It would not elaborate further on the matter.
Meanwhile, when contacted by the newspaper, Motsoeneng refused to comment on the allegations, saying he would respond, “when the time is right…”
“Let people talk…I’m just admiring and watching them,” he said.