31 August 2017

South Africa: Muthambi, Motsoeneng Haunts SABC Board Interviews

Former communications minister Faith Muthambi and former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng's dealings were under the spotlight on Thursday during the interviews for the broadcaster's new board.

While Motsoeneng told a press conference in Johannesburg that he is "more dangerous" outside the broadcaster, Rachel Kalidass, a chartered accountant who served on the previous SABC board, told Parliament that his appointment in 2014 played a major role in the split of the previous SABC board and its ultimate dysfunction.

Kalidass appeared before the portfolio committee on communications to be interviewed for a position on the new board.

She introduced herself to the committee as "one of the former SABC board members that was unlawfully removed".

Cope MP Willie Madisha asked her why she was removed from the board.

"Secondly, when matters started going wrong, what did you do within the board to remedy the situation? When the board did not want to take the remedial action [prescribed by the Public Protector relating to Motsoeneng], what did you do to alert stakeholders of the impending implosion of SABC? When did you blow the whistle? Could you have been more proactive?" Madisha asked.

She said, "One group wanted lawfulness to preside and the Public Protector's recommendations implemented, others not."

In February 2014 the former Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela released a report with several findings against Motsoeneng, including that he lied about having matric, purged the SABC of staff who were not in his good books and granted irregular raises.

Kalidass furthermore said some board members supported Motsoeneng's appointment as COO, and others, herself included, did not.

"That saw us come out of favour with other board members and the minister. The reason I was removed is because I dissented," she said.

She said as a professional board member she raised her views and made sure it was understood by the rest of the board, but because of "vested interests", decisions were "bulldozed through".

She raised issues with the former chairperson of the portfolio committee, Joyce Moloi-Moropa, who resigned as MP last year, but the rest of the ANC contingent in the committee did not show much interest.

She also raised matters with the Auditor-General and Treasury, and testified before the ad hoc committee that investigated the SABC board, and provided that committee with minutes.

DA MP Phumzile van Damme asked her what she would do differently.

"I was quite good keeping an audit trail, I would keep a more detailed audit trail," she answered.

She added that she could have escalated matters beyond the portfolio committee to the deputy president (who is the leader of government business) or the National Assembly.

Abandoned legal proceedings

"If we put you back on board now, will you speak out more loudly?" Van Damme asked.

"I definitely will speak out more," Kalidass answered.

After Kalidass, the committee interviewed former Icasa board member Nomvuyiso Batyi.

Madisha questioned her integrity based on reports that Muthambi offered to make her chairperson of the Icasa board in return for granting the Guptas a broadcasting licence, as reported by the Sunday Times.

Batyi said she received a letter from Muthambi stating that she was appointed as Icasa chair, but on the same day, the appointment was withdrawn. After much correspondence, she started legal proceedings against Muthambi but abandoned it because it would cost her R250 000.

She said she received the letter on the eve of the December 2015 cabinet reshuffle.

"When I received the letter, there was no condition attached," she said.

In the end, the Guptas' ANN7 did not get the broadcasting licence.

The SABC board was dissolved after the ad hoc committee's damning report, which also found Muthambi "incompetent" as communications minister.

The interviews with the 36 candidates started on Wednesday, will continue into Thursday evening and should be concluded by Friday evening.

Source: News24

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