South Africa: SABC 8 Outraged Over Bosasa Funding Allegation

The so-called SABC 8 has outright rejected claims that it benefited from a R100 000 donation by state capture-implicated Bosasa to cover their living expenses while suspended by former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

"The SABC 8 has learnt with dismay and disgust, the attempts to associate us with the Bosasa affair," the remaining journalists said in a statement.

The statement is in response to a report by Times Live late on Tuesday stating that Bosasa allegedly donated R100 000 toward a crowdfunding campaign to assist the SABC 8 journalists in 2016.

This reportedly emerged in an email in which a senior Bosasa official instructs other officials to make the payment.

At the time, Vuyo Mvoko, Thandeka Gqubule, Suna Venter, Krivani Pillay, Lukhanyo Calata, Foeta Krige, Jacques Steenkamp and Busisiwe Ntuli, had been suspended by the SABC with no pay for speaking out against censorship of protest footage.

In June 2017, Venter died, reportedly from "broken heart disease". Her family believed this had been caused by trauma and prolonged periods of unnatural stress.

'We are anti-corruption'

"Let us outline our cause again," the remaining members said.

"We are anti-corruption; We believe in section 1 (a) of the Constitution of South Africa and thus, consequently, we believe in an independent public broadcaster that is free of corruption; Further, we are professionals, principled and we are reluctant to dignify such patent falsehood."

Times Live reported that two sources close to Bosasa had confirmed that the company paid the money but could not independently verify whether it had indeed been paid.

But sources reportedly claimed money was paid after then COO Angelo Agrizzi - who has been testifying before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture this week - applied pressure on officials to make the payment to a crowdfunding campaign initiated by News24 editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson.

In to the email dated July 22, 2016, Agrizzi reportedly wrote that the contribution would be the "best [return on investment] we've ever had with donations".

In a statement on Tuesday, on behalf of Basson, the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) denied that money from Bosasa was accepted.

"The [crowdfunding] campaign called on members of the public to support the SABC8 with their rands and cents and no individual donors were approached.

Basson serves as Sanef's treasurer.

'Some donations were anonymous'

"South Africans opened their hearts and wallets and we managed to raise almost R400 000 from individual donations. Most of the donations were small amounts made by hundreds of supporters of the cause (donors had the option to remain anonymous or state their names)."Two large donations were made, none by Bosasa or any person linked to the Bosasa group."Sanef nor its executive ever approached Bosasa for donations," the statement read.

When approached for comment by Times Live, Krige reportedly said he was not aware of [the donation]. "...the only person you should ask is Adriaan Basson on this. Basson created the crowdfunding. I honestly got no idea where the money was from."

"We have never had any dealings with Bosasa collectively or individually," the SABC 8 said.

"We do not know who the donors were in the crowdfunding initiative; some identified themselves and some remained anonymous. After the reinstatement of some of us, we decided to share some of the money with people who had causes similar to ours. We continue to support others who fight causes like ours such as those in Burundi, Myanmar and others on the continent and abroad.

"It is interesting to note that the same Bosasa that apparently funded us is the same one that paid the legal costs for... Motsoeneng, against whom we fought to save a public asset from further capture," the SABC 8 pointed out.

In September 2018, Motsoeneng reportedly admitted to the Sunday Times that R1.2m of his legal bill incurred over the wrongful dismissal of the eight SABC employees, had been paid by Bosasa.

"In the end, we remain steadfast and committed and we will not be swayed by the purveyors of fake news and lies. In addition, we note with concern, the rise in fake news against noble journalists. We call upon all truth-loving and democracy-minded South Africans to stand by the profession of journalism," the SABC 8 said.

'SABC 8 were not aware of the donors'

According to Sanef, the crowdfunding campaign, called "Friends of SABC journalists", was started by Basson and was supported by the organisation."It was started in July 2016 for eight of our colleagues at the SABC who were dismissed for standing up for journalistic principles and truth."These colleagues had families and medical expenses to pay and were left in financial jeopardy at the end of the month. The crowdfunding campaign was started through the US-based platform Givengain," Sanef said.

According to Sanef, the final amount was paid over to an attorney who distributed it in equal amounts between the eight.

"The SABC 8 were not aware of the donors to the crowdfunding campaign."

Times Live quotes from Agrizzi's email as follows: "Strategically Andries [van Tonder - former chief financial officer] has come up with a brilliant idea to sponsor the journalist fund that was started to assist the SABC journalists who were fired - Bosasa will contribute an amount of R100 000. I am not sure what the account details are, I will forward them to you once I've found it - please once its processed for immediate payment send me a copy thereof.

"If you are able to get the account details before me - please proceed with the donation of R100 000. I know we are under pressure - trust me this is probably going to be the best ROI [return on investment] we've ever had with donations."

Bosasa, now known as African Global, would not comment.

Source: News24

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