Former SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng turned to corruption-accused company Bosasa when he needed cash to pay his lawyers after he was axed from the public broadcaster last year.
Motsoeneng, once the SABC’s chief operating officer, racked up a R1.1 million legal bill in his failed defence of a disciplinary hearing last year, and new evidence shows Bosasa may have picked up the tab.
The latest revelations over Bosasa’s alleged largesse involving senior public servants and politicians are contained in a sworn affidavit by Petrus Venter, an auditor employed by a company contracted by Bosasa.
Venter, a former SA Revenue Service (Sars) official, works for a small accounting and audit firm, D’Arcy-Herrman & Co. He read, but did not respond to, text messages sent on Friday seeking comment.
His affidavit, deposed to in December, shows he had grown uncomfortable with possibly illegal requests made of him by Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson.
News24 understands that the affidavit forms part of a dossier compiled by various former Bosasa employees and associates under the Protected Disclosures Act.
“During the middle of August 2017, Gavin Watson approached me to assist him to pay the legal costs of Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng,” the affidavit reads.
Annexures to Venter’s statement show that invoices were sent to him on August 17 by an employee of Majavu Inc, a firm belonging to Motsoeneng’s lawyer Zola Majavu.
The detailed invoices for Majavu and other advocate and attorney fees for Motsoeneng’s disciplinary hearing are also attached, along with documents from FNB, dated 20 and 21 August 2017, showing two payments totalling R1 187 656.82.
“It must be noted that I could not question Gavin Watson as he would get upset with me, so I made the payments even though I knew that this was not correct,” Venter said in the affidavit related to another transaction.
“Watson just kept on making illegal demands and I just couldn’t take it any more.”
Majavu confirmed his client gave him an email address to which he was instructed to forward the invoices. He told News24 on Friday that the fees had indeed been paid.
“We had sent him the invoice as we usually did, but, because he was having financial difficulties at the time, he asked us to send his invoice to someone with whom he was making an arrangement for a loan,” Majavu said.
“So we wouldn’t know from our side who was going to be making the payment.”
News24 understands that Motsoeneng hopes to cover his numerous legal bills when his pension funds are released if he wins in court.
“As to who he would have spoken to to make the payment on his behalf, I wouldn’t know. It’s not something that we as lawyers typically get involved in,” Majavu added.
“Besides, such issues are covered by attorney-client privilege and it’s truly not my place to comment about such, and I hope my client’s rights as a private citizen are respected.”
Last year, Motsoeneng was charged with bringing the SABC into disrepute and bringing irreparable harm to it following comments at a press briefing in April.
He was ultimately shown the door, but racked up legal costs totalling R22m by March this year while litigating numerous issues in 15 different cases.
This amount is likely to increase as some cases are still not complete.
Motsoeneng’s highest legal bill was R5.3m, accrued during a fight with the DA over former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s 2014 report that found that he had lied about having a matric certificate.
The SABC has now notified the DA that it cannot pay the R1.7m costs order the party was awarded by the court.
Motsoeneng also drove a decision to introduce a 90% local content mandate that reportedly cost the SABC more than R200m in lost advertising revenue.
In August last year, the then interim SABC board announced it would take Motsoeneng to court to recoup some of the funds. It is trying to access his R11.5m pension payout, but Motsoeneng is fighting the move.
News24 understands that the SABC’s insurance that previously covered Motsoeneng’s legal costs lapsed when he was fired.
As the creditors came knocking, Motsoeneng allegedly entered into a loan agreement with Bosasa, now named African Global Operations.
Motsoeneng and Bosasa refused to comment on the payment or be drawn into questions over the alleged loan agreement this week.
“Ask them [Bosasa] … I am not going to comment,” Motsoeneng said on Friday.
Bosasa said it was in the process of appointing an “independent third party” to investigate the allegations in the media surrounding the company, and accused News24 of being “in cahoots with disgruntled employees”.
News24 has in recent weeks reported that Bosasa paid at least R670 000 to a company belonging to ANC MP Vincent Smith, and paid for the installation of high-end CCTV systems and other security equipment at the homes of senior ANC leaders.
“We are aware of a sustained economic sabotage campaign by our former disgruntled employees in cahoots with News24 in an effort to destabilise African Global Operations,” spokesperson and director Papa Leshabane said on Friday.
“African Global Operations or Mr Gavin Watson are more than willing to answer any questions put to us, but we decline to participate or entertain any journalist whose agenda is a trial through public opinion,” he added.
“In the recent weeks, many allegations have been levelled against our company in the media. Having regard for the serious nature of the allegations, our board is in the process of appointing an independent party to investigate those allegations. Until the investigation is finalised, we will not be able to comment on any of the allegations.”