A series of explosive letters, written by sacked SABC board member, Hope Zinde, to communications minister Faith Muthambi and to the head of parliament’s portfolio committee on communications, Joyce Moloi-Moropa, have revealed the dire state of the public broadcaster’s board, and the role played by chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Glenda Nevill reports.
Zinde makes it clear she believes she was “muscled” out of the SABC board due to her opposition to the MultiChoice agreement between the pay-TV operator and the SABC, about which she said she had “dire concerns”, and to Motsoeneng, whom she says is a “stumbling block” to the board’s ability to carry out its duties. She also says Muthambi wrote her “threatening letters” as did chairperson of the board, Professor Obert Maguvhe.
The letters [seen by The Media Online], clearly show Zinde, and two other board members, Rachel Kalidass and Ronnie Lubisi, were illegally removed, says DA shadow communications minister, Gavin Davis.
“This evidence rubbishes the argument made by Minister Muthambi’s legal advisor, Daniel Mantsha, at the Portfolio Committee on 23 June. At that meeting, Mr Mantsha claimed that the Committee had no legal basis to act against the removal of Rachel Kalidass, Hope Zinde and Ronnie Lubisi because the three former board members had never lodged a formal complaint to Parliament and that ‘silence meant consent’ and Minister Muthambi had not received any complaints from the three former board members”.
Zinde was removed from the board on 12 March. Prior to that she wrote a series of complaints to Muthambi and Moloi-Moropa, all of which were ignored.
In a letter dated 15 January, Zinde asks Muthambi to clarify claims she [Zinde] had breached her fiduciary duties, saying she was “in shock” after receiving letters from the minister saying she should be removed as a non-executive director of the board. “Honourable Mama Faith, I hate to say this but I must. It seems to me that your good office’s understanding of the Company’s Act and the Broadcasting Act differs from mine. I am not only disappointed and saddened by these letters but really concerned,” Zinde wrote.
She says she met Muthambi in October 2014 to discuss her concerns, and that they had “shared Nando’s together” and that the meeting was “frank” and “cordial”. She says she received an SMS from Muthambi, saying, “I love you so much”.
The following day, Zinde wrote to Moloi-Moropa complaining about the “threatening” letters she and other board members had received from Muthambi. In it, she says, “… only the members who did not support the appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng received these threatening letters and are as such targeted”.
She wrote to Muthambi again on 2 March, saying, “I await my fate as per your last correspondence: reasons why you should not recommend my removal as a non-executive director of the board of the SABC”. This letter was followed up with Moloi-Moropa on 9 March. She asks that Moloi-Moropa institute an enquiry into the behaviour of acting chairperson, Professor Maghuve. “From where I sit, Professor Maghuve does not represent the Board. He is representing Mr Motsoeneng’s interests,” she wrote. She also says when she raised her concerns about Motsoeneng, Muthambi told her: “But baba (President Zuma) loves Hlaudi, he loves him so much, we must support him.”
Zinde added that she made Moloi-Moropa aware that she hadn’t received a copy of the MultiChoice agreement from the company secretary, as she had requested when she met Muthambi. “I told her I could not support something I didn’t know as indicated in numerous board meetings. She promised to get Hlaudi to make sure I get a copy as we need to support it as stressed in her first address to us at the Magaliesburg Mount Grace Workshop. To date I have never seen that Agreement which I asked for numerous times. All I know from my common sense is we cannot get into agreements that disempower the SABC,” Zinde writes.
She also said she was concerned by the “inertia” showed by the board chaiperson when it came to acting on critically important issues, such as the MultiChoice agreement and DTT.
Three days later, Zinde was fired from the board.
She wrote to Moloi-Moropa again on 14 March, raising a number of issues she had complained about. She said her correspondence had been ignored; the SABC board meeting held to fire her was a “kangaroo court” and that only Parliament could remove board members; that the meeting was not quorate; that board members had been forced to hand in their electronic devices before going in to the meeting; that she was not allowed to respond to allegations against her and that no evidence was produced that she had said “something bad about the SABC at an ANC Lekgotla”, which was a key allegation against her.
Davis says evidence is mounting by the day that the three board members were removed illegally. He says not only did Parliament’s own lawyers indicate the process used was illegal as the Broadcasting Act was ignored, but also that the board was not quorate, which means that in terms of the Companies Act – used by Muthambi to justify her actions – the actions were illegal too. “Minister Muthambi overturned Parliament’s legal opinion on the advice of an attorney [Mantsha] who was struck off the roll in 2007 for deceitfulness and unprofessional conduct,” he says.
“It is quite clear that, contrary to the assertions of Minister Muthambi’s legal advisor, Zinde lodged several complaints to the Minister and the Committee Chairperson regarding her removal. Reports in the public domain indicate that one of the other axed Board Members, Ronnie Lubisi, also lodged a complaint with Moloi-Moropa, but that this too was not tabled before the Portfolio Committee,” Davis says.
“It is not clear why Joyce Moloi-Moropa ignored the correspondence that Hope Zinde and Ronnie Lubisi sent her regarding their removal. What is important now is for the Portfolio Committee, under the leadership of Joyce Moloi-Moropa, to re-assess the evidence regarding these removals and take the appropriate action.”
He said the portfolio committee should demand the “immediate reinstatement” of Zinde, Lubisi and Kalidass, that action be taken against the board should it not do so and launch an enquiry into the behaviour of Mugavhe into the manner in which they were removed.