6 February 2018

South Africa: Communications Committee Will Look Into Muthambi, Multichoice

MultiChoice's internal investigation that cleared the company of wrongdoing in its dealings with the Gupta-aligned ANN7 won't be the end of scrutiny on the matter.

Former communications minister Faith Muthambi, currently Minister of public service and administration, is also not off the hook, as the Portfolio Committee on Communications on Tuesday undertook to finalise the implementation of recommendations of the ad hoc committee on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

The portfolio committee agreed that the matter was serious and should be finalised urgently.

"The committee resolved to write to the Speaker in this regard to seek clarity on legal parameters and further bring to her attention our resolve to urgently deal with the matter in the public domain, involving payments of money between MultiChoice and the ANN7 television channel," said committee chairperson Humphrey Maxegwana, in a statement released after the committee's meeting.

The ad hoc committee found Muthambi "incompetent" and said it appears that she might have contravened legislation, including the Constitution.

Among the "questionable contracts" the ad hoc committee recommended for further investigation was MultiChoice's deal with the SABC and the SABC's deal with ANN7.

In November last year, it emerged that MultiChoice made payments to ANN7 at the same time it was lobbying the department of communication to implement a policy on set-top box encryption that would favour MultiChoice.

After the SABC's deal with MultiChoice then SABC COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, also supported the MultiChoice-favoured policy on set-top boxes. Muthambi also pursued this policy direction, even though it clashed with the ANC's stated policy on the matter.

These are not the only matters the portfolio committee will investigate this year.

Matters dealt with in a 'dubious way'

At Tuesday's meeting, the committee expressed disappointment with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) and the Film and Publications Board (FPB) for their handling of the exits of their former CEOs, Pakamile Pongwana and Themba Wakashe, respectively, in light of the numerous charges of misconduct and serious allegations of sexual harassment levelled against them.

Both CEO's received settlements before disciplinary proceedings against them were concluded.

Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane told the committee in November last year that Pongwana received almost R1m, or R500 000 after taxes.

"In our view, the Icasa council and FPB board dealt with these matters in a dubious way. The committee will deliberate further and reach a conclusion that will pave a way forward," said Maxegwana in the statement.

The committee decided to reflect on the matter and decide at a later meeting on a way forward. EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said Icasa should reinstate disciplinary proceedings against Pongwana.

The committee will also look into allegations of mismanagement at the Media Diversity and Development Agency, as well as the position of its new board chairperson Ronald Lamola, who was elected to the ANC's NEC in December.

DA MP Phumzile van Damme pointed out that this was a conflict of interests as prohibited by legislation.

- News24 is published by Media24. Both Media24 and MultiChoice are Naspers companies.

Source: News24

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