Will parliament or the SABC board take action and implement the recommendations offered by public protector Thuli Madonsela in the case of abuse and maladministration at the public broadcaster? If history is anything to go by, probably not.
“The word “pathological”, which describes something caused by a physical or mental disease, is an unusual adjective to use in the context of a discussion of corporate governance. But even a superficial perusal of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s scathing report on the state of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), entitled When Governance and Ethics Fail, reveals that it is entirely apt in this instance. The SABC really is a sick place.”
Business Day editorial 19/2/2014
“She has revealed the difficult conditions under which the SABC workers have been struggling to produce quality programmes. These workers deserve the maximum credit for the good work they have continued to perform and the programmes they have produced in spite of being led by corrupt and incompetent managers and directors.”
Patrick Craven – COSATU 19/2/2014
I was assailed by a variety of emotions when I read the public protector’s report on the pervasive rot at every level of the SABC. They ranged from a euphoric “Justice, at last!” to “Ma’am, you don’t know the half of it!”
The vicious purges of those who did not support Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s cabal – his “toxic cocktail”, his faction of the ANC – and his way of censoring and slanting the news and the millions of rands which have been wasted as a consequence – simply replicate what happened under the previous toxic reigns of Snuki Zikalala, Christine Qunta, Thami Mazwai, Eddie Funde and Dali Mpofu. The only difference is that the state broadcaster on their watch was abused to promote the Mbeki faction of the ANC and the state broadcaster is now being abused to promote the Zuma faction of the ANC.
Having virtually complete control through its deployed cadres in the police and the justice systems means the ANC simply declines to prosecute those responsible for such abuses and the Motsoenengs of the world are secure in their impunity, in their sense of entitlement. They simply resign and are allocated another, hopefully even more lucrative, sinecure.
Therefore, even though there is an abundance of evidence that Ebrahim Rasool and various cohorts bribed Cape Argus reporters Ashley Smith and Joseph Aranes – the brown envelope scandal – and even though the initial complaint came from within the ANC itself and the party’s own Nel report found conclusive evidence of the bribes, there will be no prosecution because the political fallout will be immense.
Special Investigation Unit
In this context we have just learned that the risibly named Special Investigation Unit, which has spent years and millions of rands investigating the deployed parasites whose looting and wasteful expenditure led to the state broadcaster acknowledging bankruptcy in May 2009 – can come to no conclusion and nothing will happen.
But the SABC is not just Auckland Park.
Two major reports about corruption, abuse of staff and the news bias of the Cape Town news office under regional editor Jeffrey Twala were given by trade union BEMAWU to then chief executive Peter Matlare in 2001 and as a submission to the Sisulu/Marcus commission of inquiry – commissioned by then chief executive Dali Mpofu – in 2006. Nothing was done. An SABC-commissioned 2003 forensic audit by a Deloitte & Touche team, then headed by Advocate Steven Powell, investigated what was happening in the Sea Point news office and strongly recommended Twala’s dismissal. The report was ignored.
These abuses have, for years, been given a lot of publicity which clearly brings the Corporation into disrepute.
For example, on 14 July 2009 Die Burger devoted almost a full page to Twala’s abuses – it did not even cause a ripple and the SABC’ s spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago told Die Burger that Twala had, unsurprisingly, the full support of the Corporation’s management.
Submission to parliament
Another example: On 30 April 2008, IFP MP Suzanne Vos, a member of the Parliamentary Communications Portfolio Committee, had this to say in parliament to the full board of the SABC and CEO Dali Mpofu:
“What I wish to ask the new board and obviously members who were re-appointed who had served on the old board, whether to date, having raised this issue several times with the previous board and now the new board, whether to date, board members have visited the Sea Point office – have they spoken to staff, including contract workers – given the very serious nature of the complaints and the allegations made to the Sisulu commission under oath. And also as members of this committee did point out, that we are also in receipt of other information, which is why we are consistently raising these issues.
“Now it’s clear that this committee is taking the allegations of mismanagement, corruption, racism and the abuse of human rights of staff members in the Sea Point office extremely seriously. And it is clear that we expected a thorough investigation. And it is clear that we are wanting to hear it today.
“And so that is why – just a few crisp questions I am going to ask now – is, has the board initiated an investigation and an analysis into the political coverage emanating from the Sea Point office in relation to numerous allegations that the head of the Sea Point office, Mr Jeffrey Twala, personally orders coverage of ANC leader Mr Mcebisi Skwatsha and is supportive of an internal Western Cape ANC power struggle to oust premier Ebrahim Rasool. I have, in my possession, an analysis, done by others, of various reportage coming from the Sea Point office which does appear to identify very, very serious problems.
“Now does the board and management not find it unacceptable that there is a constant flight of staff from the Sea Point office and news staff have left the office at the rate of one in every four and five months for the last six years. Has it come to the attention of management and the board that Mr Jeffrey Twala openly tells white staff members that they are standing in the way of transformation and openly tells contract workers who apply for work: “Why should I re-employ you – you’re white.”
“So it would appear clear when you talk, if you have, to the Sea Point office staff and contract workers that things have been bad for a very, very long time. And when the SABC implemented its whistle blower programme, evidence was presented to the Deloitte & Touche investigative (team) and a forensic audit, as you know, was undertaken. Now staff were subsequently told that the Deloitte & Touche report recommended to the SABC that Mr Twala be dismissed – and nothing happened and we need to know why. Because, obviously any person who holds a position of authority is obliged by law to act and a manager who fails to act on the report of a whistle blower could be exposed to prosecution if the evidence placed before them was such that they could reasonably have been aware that corrupt practices were undertaken…”
At no stage during Suzanne Vos’ submission did Qunta, Mpofu or the then chair, Khanyisile Mkonza – all of whom were present and all of whom had known about Twala’s abuses since the last board was appointed five years previously – object to, deny or rebut what she said because they could not. They had all had access to the BEMAWU submission to the Sisulu/Marcus commission report for close on two years and they had not acted upon the Commission’s recommendations that the Sea Point situation be investigated as a matter of urgency.
Was parliament misled?
Sea Point staff members were told that, as a result of the Vos statement, two members of the board, Fadiela Lagadien and Bheki Khumalo (a previously a spokesman for President Thabo Mbeki) were delegated to investigate her concerns. The perception of the affected SABC staff members is that they made no effort to do so. They did not approach BEMAWU or any newsroom personnel at the SABC’s Sea Point office, either individually or collectively. They thus seemed to have deliberately misled parliament when they subsequently submitted to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communication that no evidence whatsoever could be found to substantiate the allegations made by Vos – this despite the fact that they also had access to the Deloitte & Touche report recommending Twala’s dismissal given to the SABC by advocate Stephen Powell in 2003 and the 2006 BEMAWU submission to the Sisulu Marcus Commission of Inquiry.
Furthermore, parliament was defied by the SABC and the then board because the Deloitte & Touche report was never handed over – shades of the “spy tapes” and the missing Kamphepe report …
Here is what the late Zwelakhe Sisulu and Advocate Gilbert Marcus said about the Sea Point office in their 2006 report on the blacklisting scandal, a report which the SABC tried to suppress.
8.9 “The commission was presented with a considerable amount of documentary evidence emanating from the Sea Point SABC news office. We took the view that the evidence, in the main, was beyond the terms of reference of our inquiry because it related to employment issues. We accordingly did not hear oral evidence on these issues. Nevertheless, we feel it important to state that there appear to be serious problems at the Sea Point office which, if true, are concerned with issues of political partisanship. Although beyond our terms of reference, we strongly recommend to the GCEO that these issues be fully investigated.”
For obvious reasons this never happened.
This week’s report by the Public Protector is simply a tragic but predictable echo of what Zwelakhe Sisulu and Gilbert Marcus found seven years ago.
Both inquiries manifest the “pathologies” to which Advocate Thuli Madonsela refers …
Want to continue this conversation on The Media Online platforms? Comment on Twitter @MediaTMO or on our Facebook page. Send us your suggestions, comments, contributions or tip-offs via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.