By Rhoda Kadalie (Business Day)
Where to now SABC?
When the African National Congress (ANC) took control of what it promised would be a “new”, “transformed” SABC in 1995, the broadcaster was showing an annual profit of R180m.
Now, like the Land Bank, Eskom, South African Airways and other institutions, it has been turned into a licence to steal and has been looted by the party’s deployed parasites to such an extent that it is chaotically bankrupt and demanding a bailout.
How did it all start? The SABC’s decay began in the late 1990s when the ANC was indebted to Saudi interests that had contributed 60m to the party. In return, the Saudis were promised that their Cell C consortium would get the lucrative third cellphone licence in SA.
As detailed in RW Johnson’s book, South Africa’s Brave New World — The Beloved Country since the End of Apartheid, in Noseweek (issue 33) and on the Helen Suzman Foundation website, a brave and ethical man, Nape Maepa, then chairman of the Independent South African Telecommunications Authority ), opposed this. An utterly corrupt but successful ANC campaign was accordingly mounted to drive him out.
As part of this campaign, Snuki Zikalala was promoted from a junior to a senior position at the SABC and immediately started to broadcast blatant lies alleging that a forensic audit had found Maepa guilty of corruption and mismanagement, confirmed by a subsequent Broadcasting Complaints Commission finding.
That was the beginning of the end of the SABC. Zikalala and his cohorts within the SABC went on to purge it of ethical reporting staff, and destroyed its news credibility. Encouraged by the board and senior executives such as Dali Mpofu , Zikalala crippled the SABC financially by spending half a billion rand establishing SABC News International. This never earned a cent from advertising revenue or programme sales because nobody was prepared to spend thousands of rand buying the required decoder in order to receive programming so inferior even MultiChoice declined to broadcast it.
In a breach of fiduciary duty, the board ignored clear warning signs. In 2001 Thaninga Shope and Molefe Mokgatle were allowed to leave the SABC, in their own time and without charges being laid, after a KPMG audit found that they had — for undisclosed reasons — purchased or commissioned programming costing R350m that was never used. Seven years later, Matilda Gaboo used a similar modus operandi to cause losses of more than R49m . She too was allowed to leave the SABC without sanction or any attempt to recover the money.
In December 2005, board member Noluthando Gosa, a lawyer, resigned, citing board corruption and sent her report to Mbeki, Parliament and the auditor general. Unsurprisingly, we heard nothing further. No initial concern was expressed when, in a clear conflict of interest, CEO Mpofu brought his Elephant Consortium and Melisitshaba Mining pal Mafika Sihlali into the SABC — and no attempt has been made to recover the more than R1m lost as a consequence. According to trade union reports recently handed to Parliament, SABC corruption is systemic and the Portfolio Committee said these reports revealed “unrestrained overexpenditure”.
For closure, we need disclosure. All the reports must be made public and, if the SABC is to be saved and healed, those who have brought it to this lamentable pass must be replaced by credible, experienced people of acknowledged ethical standing.
Two words, “Zero Propaganda”, explain why e.tv, without a cent of taxpayer’s money, is not only profitable but has almost doubled its news bulletin viewers vis-a-vis their SABC equivalent.
This makes it imperative for the remaining members of Zikalala’s cabal to be removed from any position of influence. They have abused their power to suppress news inimical to Mbeki’s ANC through a policy of censorship by omission, and to campaign on behalf of Mbeki against Jacob Zuma . If the brazen manipulation of the SABC during the Mbeki era is replicated by the Zuma administration then there is really no hope for SA.
The one thing the ANC needs to understand is that these institutions exist for the nation and not for the ephemeral vanities of the ruling party.
- Kadalie is a human rights activist.
Friday, July 03, 2009
By Rhoda Kadalie (Business Day)