Motsoeneng took ex-SABC group CEO to Gupta compound to be 'congratulated' on her appointment - Zondo commission hears

Former SABC group CEO Lulama Mokhobo. (Jan Gerber, Netwerk24)
Former SABC group CEO Lulama Mokhobo. (Jan Gerber, Netwerk24)

A week after Lulama Mokhobo was appointed SABC group CEO, embattled former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng took her to the Gupta residence in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, to be congratulated, the state capture inquiry heard on Wednesday.   

Mokhobo was appointed as the first woman CEO of the SABC in 2012 but resigned from the position in February 2014.

She told inquiry chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo: "Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who was acting COO, came to my office and said, 'I have to take you somewhere very quickly'. 

"He couldn't tell me where it was. It was something very hush-hush. We arrived at this massive house and I saw on the wall Sahara Computers. He said: 'We are here because these people want to congratulate you'." 

Mokhobo said when they went in, her phone was taken, adding the Gupta brothers - Ajay and Atul - Duduzane Zuma, former president Jacob Zuma's son, and Ace Magashule's son, whom she did not identify, were present at the meeting.

She said the Guptas told her they wanted to play a role in the SABC's digital terrestrial television future because they were interested in starting a news channel, and they "hope that I would allow them or enable them to get access to the channel". 

READ: I found the SABC in a state of decay - head of news tells state capture commission

Mokhobo added she told them there would have to be a proper tender process.

She told the commission she saw the meeting as some "lobbying of some sort" for the Guptas to be afforded an opportunity on the SABC platform at that time.

Justice Zondo said he found this strange. 

"Here is the group CEO of the SABC, somebody is saying to her: 'Please come, I want to take you somewhere' and doesn't want to tell her where [they] were going. How come didn't you insist to Mr Motsoeneng that you can't just go anywhere just because you think I should go there?"

Mokhobo said Motsoeneng was "persuasive" when she asked him where they were going, adding he was a "trusted" member of the SABC executive.

"He was very well-loved. I had no real reason to be suspicious."

Mokhobo also told the commission about the SABC and The New Age (TNA) breakfast briefings, saying when she arrived at the public broadcaster she found there was no contract in place. 

ALSO READ: SABC board chair tells state capture inquiry of continued struggles at the organisation

"The reasons were compelling for me to accept that the programme played a critical role. The purpose of the TNA breakfast was to bring the government to the people," she said.

Mokhobo testified she was "shocked" when she learned the SABC had paid about R900 000 for TNA newspapers that were distributed to the organisation. 

"My understanding was that the newspapers were being distributed to the SABC for free," she said.

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