Speech in Parliament Tuesday by the Chairperson of the DA’s Federal Executive, James Selfe MP, during the discussion on the adoption of the Final Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the SABC Board Inquiry.
I want to commend the Ad Hoc Committee for the rigorous way in which it conducted its enquiry into the affairs of the SABC.
The report reads like a horror story. It is a story of maladministration and corruption; of fear and intimidation; of nepotism and of abuse of power. At the centre of this story sit two malignant individuals: Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the Minister of Communications.
Like so many public institutions, the SABC has failed the public. Viewed cumulatively, the report portrays a SABC that is indistinguishable from that which existed under apartheid: biased, partisan, irresponsible, profligate, and unaccountable.
As members of Parliament, to whom this institution reported, we need to introspect about how we allowed it to happen.
Ultimately it was left to the Public Protector to expose the rotten state of the SABC in her Report, When Governance and Ethics Fail. This report was released in February 2014.
When we realised that the government and Parliament would not implement the Public Protector’s remedial action about him, the DA approached the Courts in a two-part application: first, to suspend Mr Motsoeneng and subject him to a disciplinary hearing, which had been ordered by the Public Protector; and secondly, to declare that his appointment as COO was irrational and therefore illegal.
On 24 October 2014, we got an order compelling the SABC to suspend Mr Motsoeneng and to subject him to a disciplinary hearing. He and the SABC sought leave to appeal. On 23 April 2015, Motsoeneng was granted leave to appeal, but the SABC was ordered to implement the disciplinary hearing pending the appeal. He and the SABC appealed again. The case was adjudicated by the Supreme Court of Appeal on 8 October 2015, and the appeal was dismissed.
On 27 November 2015, the Western Cape High Court reviewed and set aside the appointment of Mr Motsoeneng as COO. He and the SABC appealed. On 23 May 2016, leave to appeal was dismissed. The SABC and Motsoeneng petitioned the SCA for leave to appeal. In September 2016, these petitions were dismissed by the SCA.
The SABC convened a sham disciplinary hearing against Mr Motsoeneng in December 2015, which predictably exonerated him, as key witnesses were not called. The DA again approached the courts to review and set aside this disciplinary hearing. The SABC, in turn, applied for a stay of these proceedings. That application for a stay was dismissed on 14 June 2016.
Judgment in the DA’s case was delivered on 12 December 2016. The disciplinary hearing of December 2015 was set aside and a new one ordered, and Mr Motsoeneng’s appointment as Group Executive: Corporate Affairs was set aside, and the court ordered that he could not occupy any senior position in the SABC until after his disciplinary hearing. Mr Motsoeneng and Mr Aguma were ordered to pay our costs personally to demonstrate the courts’ displeasure.
Guess what? The SABC and Mr Motsoeneng applied for leave to appeal. On 7 February 2017, this application was dismissed.
At every stage, the SABC and/or its Executive Directors were ordered to pay the DA’s costs, which run to millions of Rand. We hope that the new Board will root out this culture of impunity.
From the speech by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance, Mike Waters MP
… The 82-page report has all the ingredients of a Shakespeare tragedy from treachery, corruption, deceit, intimidation, abuse of power, trickery and sheer greed.
The main characters in this tragedy are the Minister of Communications, Hon Faith Muthambi and Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng, likened to Lady Mac Beth and Lord Mac Beth. With the journalists and staff being the victims.
Both the Minister and Mr Motsoeneng believed that the SABC was their own fiefdom to do with as they pleased to further a broader political agenda. This reign of terror was aided and abetted by some not all of the board members, the company Secretary and by the majority of the MP’s serving on the Communications Portfolio Committee. I am proud to state that DA MP’s did everything in their power to expose the Minister’s blatant abuse of power.
In addition, she committed perjury by giving the committee false evidence while under oath. This, Madam Speaker, is of such a serious nature that criminal charges must be brought against the Minister.
But let’s start at the beginning of the Minister’s term of office, back in 2014 where on 26 September the Minister signed a Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI) of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. This MOI, as Hon Davis pointed out on the 8 February in a letter to the then board Chairperson Professor Maghuve, would, amongst other things, destroy the independence of the public broadcaster by giving the Minister overarching control of the running of the SABC, in contravention of section 11 of the Broadcasting Act and giving herself new powers to waive the requirement for the board to advertise and shortlist candidates who apply for the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Operations Officer.
Paragraph 9.1.2 states, “During her evidence the Minister insisted that amendments to the MOI were effected in accordance with both the Broadcasting Act and the Companies Act. She stated that although legislation did not require her to do so, the Ministry had consulted the Board on the amendments as a courtesy before they were submitted to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). She had also briefed the Portfolio Committee on the MOI in June 2015. According to the Minister, neither the Board, nor the Portfolio Committee had raised any reservations about the impact of the amendments or the manner in which they were processed.”
Let us unpack the paragraph. No, I repeat no MOI was ever submitted to the Minister. The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission, the ad-hoc committee asked CIPC for proof of a submission by the Minister which they could not find.
With regards to the Minister’s statement that neither the Board nor the Portfolio Committee had raised any reservations about the impact of the amended MOI again, the facts speak a different truth, Minister. The minutes of the board meeting clearly show that some board members did have reservations and with regards to the Portfolio Committee meetings minutes the DA’s Hon Davis as well as COPE and the EFF all raised reservations.
So why lie Minister?
I can answer that for you.
You knew that the amendments to the MOI, probably assisted by Mr Motsoeneng, were a transgression of the Broadcasting Act.
Paragraph 23.1.7 states, “The MOI signed in October 2014 as well as the proposed amendments to the Broadcasting Act, demonstrate efforts to concentrate power in the Ministry by curtailing and removing the powers of both the Board as the accounting authority, and Parliament’s role in the appointment and removal of non-executive
Board members. It also strips the Board of its role in the appointment of the executives.”
In addition, paragraph 23.2.2, the Committee also notes from Board minutes of a meeting that took place on 7 July 2014, that the Minister may have, directly or indirectly, pressurised the Board to appoint Mr Motsoeneng in the COO position. Was it coincidental, Minister, that you just happened to be lurking outside the board meeting at 11 pm the night that it was decided to appoint Mr Motsoeneng as the COO?
Despite the Public Protector having found adverse findings against Mr Motsoeneng, you found it fit not to advertise the COO position and to appoint him into that position.
Madam Speaker, the ad-hoc committee found that the Minister displayed incompetence in carrying out her responsibilities. In addition, the Minister interfered in some of the Board’s decision-making and processes.
The report recommends that, given the Ministers violations, Parliament must refer any violations of the Constitution, Privileges Act, the Executive Code of Ethics and/or the Broadcasting Act to the Ethics Committee and/or the Presidency for processing.
As the Executive Members Ethics Act dictates that Public Protector investigates any violations and the fact the ad-hoc committee felt no need to refer the Minister to the Public Protector, the DA will be writing to the Public Protector to conduct such an investigation…