[STORY UPDATED] The newly appointed SABC board has dubbed member Rachel Kalidass’ letter of resignation as having a “number of inaccuracies” and accused her of mischaracterising her actions.
Kalidass resigned on Thursday afternoon. She cited sidelining and victimisation as reasons for her departure. She said she’d voiced concerns over a potential candidate for the position of group chief executive officer (GCEO).
In an early evening, hastily convened press conference held at the SABC in Johannesburg, chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini said Kalidass’ “self-characterisation as a victimised whistleblower is incorrect”. He said she had been part of the interviewing process in the board’s search for new executive management and had not raised her concerns about a particular candidate, later named as current South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) CEO and former chief executive of the Land Bank, Alan Mukoki.
In her letter Kalidass said, “Despite the GCEO candidate having allegations of fraud and corruption levelled against him during his previous employment, as well as a conflict of interest with a significant SABC content service provider, the majority of board members were in favour of having him appointed as the SABC GCEO.”
She added that she had requested her dissenting view to be recorded during the meeting, which she said “was received with great hostility by some of the board members”.
But Makhathini said several members expressed reservations about one candidate. “All members were aware of some allegations, but required that as a matter of good governance and fairness, we check these thoroughly, in view of known cases where people have been falsely maligned,” he said.
The ‘cleaning up committee’
Kalidass alleged that during that same meeting the board agreed to set up a “cleaning up committee” comprising board members with media experience, which would respond to the anticipated bad publicity that would surely follow the appointment.
In light of all this, Kalidass decided to bring it to the attention of parliament and/or the portfolio committee on communications. She described it as, “hindering the restoration of stability and integrity at the SABC”. Kalidass approached MP Mondli Gungubele with her concerns, as he was recommended to her by a former SABC board member.
At a joint meeting, on 6 November, of the SABC’s governance and nominations and human resources sub-committee, Kalidass said she was verbally attacked by other board members and accused of “leaking board information to parliament” including the board’s confidential processes. She was told such an action should have first been authorised by the board and as such, constituted a breach of confidentiality and fiduciary responsibility.
“Given this fundamental difference of opinion between me and many of the board members, I feel that it would be best to resign with immediate effect, as opposed to being side-lined and victimised, which I feel is now occurring,” said Kalidass.
The board said in doing so, Kalidass had flouted board regulations. “The board had, correctly in our view, agreed to maintain confidentiality while the process was under way,” the board said in a statement after the presser. “This is critical in respecting the privacy and integrity of candidates who are still working elsewhere. What Ms. Kalidass has not disclosed is that it was not only to parliament that she has breached board confidentiality, but also to several media outfits.”
And, it added, “When asked in a subsequent joint governance and human resources committee meeting to explain why she had leaked information during a process that was not completed, she admitted calling MPs, admitted she had shown bad judgement, apologised and offered to resign. No allegation of wrongdoing by the board was suggested”.
The DA’s take on the situation
Democratic Alliance national spokesperson, Phumzile van Damme, said while Mukoki was “eminently qualified” his history in the public sector made him an inappropriate choice. “A 2007 Deloitte & Touche forensic audit commissioned by the then minister of agriculture, Lulama Xingwana, found that Mukoki and his executives had without board approval, diverted almost R2 billion meant for emerging farmers towards projects that had nothing to do with agriculture, including luxury golf estates, a sugar mill, equestrian estates and residential developments,” she pointed out.
“Some of the beneficiaries of irregular loans were Mukoki’s business associates; and high ranking ANC politicians and benefactors. Mukoki resigned and was given a R4.5 million golden handshake. A few months later, the Land Bank was placed under administration and transferred to the National Treasury. The then finance minister, Pravin Gordhan described it as being ‘in ICU’. Given this history, it is absolutely unfathomable why anyone in their right mind would think Mukoki suitable to be the GCEO of the SABC,” she added.
‘I have never been offered an SABC position’
But there’s a twist in the tail. In a statement, Mukoki said he had not been offered a position by the SABC board, or anybody else. “Additionally, it would, also, with respect, be inappropriate of me to respond to questions about another organisation, when I am employed elsewhere”, he said.
Mukoki was the subject of an amaBhungane investigation in 2011 looking into the plundering and mismanagement of the Land Bank between 2006 and 2008, including R1 billion worth of allegedly dodgy loans made under his watch. In terms of the conflict of interest, Mukoki is married to businesswoman Johanna Mukoki, who is the sister of Basetsana Kumalo. Both sisters have produced television for the SABC, with Khumalo’s company, Tswelopele Productions, still providing core content to the broadcaster.
In the statement, Mukoki clarified the outcome of these allegations, but did not address the conflict of interest part:
- I as then Land Bank CEO with the executives did not issue any loans without board or shareholder approval. That allegation was patently untrue and false.
- The so-called Deloitte Forensic Report was found to be flawed and it was also irregularly procured. Precisely because of the aforementioned reasons the Deloitte report was itself rescinded by cabinet at its cabinet meeting of the 5th December 2007. This is a matter of public record.
- Former Minister Xingwana herself had told Parliament in 2008 that she was advised by her lawyers not to release that Deloitte report, as the report would attract civil damages claims from those mentioned therein, due to the irregularities in that report. I am sure whoever is interested in the facts can check the parliamentary records in this regard.
Kalidass’ history with the SABC board
Kalidass, who served on a previous board of the SABC during the reign of former COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, was removed along with fellow board member, Ronnie Lubisi, for speaking out against his permanent appointment.
Then, she accused the board and former minister, Faith Muthambi, of removing her unlawfully, ultimately giving evidence at last year’s ad hoc inquiry into the SABC’s board. This time, Kalidass resigned.
She said part of the reason that she spoke out so soon into her term on the new board was because during her parliamentary interview, she was warned to speak up sooner if she saw any questionable activity. “During my interview for appointment to the SABC board I undertook to raise concerns around the SABC with honourable members of the portfolio committee on communications, and depending on the severity of the matters, elevate these concerns to Parliament and the deputy president,” she said.
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