Zondo: Mokhobo, Motsoeneng must be probed for irregular SABC, 'TNA' deal

The commission’s report tears apart the irregular contract between the SABC and _TNA_, which it said unlawfully benefitted the Gupta-owned business.

FILE: Former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng at state capture commission on 10 September 2019. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - The state capture commission says that law enforcement agencies should conduct investigations with a view of possible criminal prosecution against former SABC group CEO Lulama Mokhobo and former chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

The fifth report of the inquiry into corruption and fraud in the public sector has found that the two possibly contravened sections of the Public Finance Management Act when concluding the agreement between the SABC and the now-defunct Gupta-owned The New Age newspaper breakfast briefings.

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The public broadcaster entered into a deal with TNA in 2011, which required government departments, including ministers, to pay either the SABC or TNA newspaper to appear on SABC for purposes of communicating with the nation.

The arrangement cost the SABC millions of rands which the commission said should be recovered from any of the assets belonging to TNA or those held by members of the Gupta family.

The commission’s report tears apart the irregular contract between the SABC and TNA, which it said unlawfully benefitted the Gupta-owned business.

It stated that the contract, which was signed by Mokhobo shortly after being appointed in 2012, was created for the benefit of TNA and members of the Gupta family to the detriment of the mandate that the SABC has towards the public.

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Information dissemination is one of the mandates of the SABC and the service should not carry a cost for government entities.

Although Mokhobo testified before the inquiry that the amount spent by the public broadcaster to facilitate the events was in the region of R20.3 million, the commission said that the SABC should recover R4.2 million from the Guptas for costs incurred by the public broadcaster.

It also recommended that civil proceedings should be instituted against _TNA _media and its directors.

On the MultiChoice and SABC encryption of the latter’s free-to-air channels, the commission found that Hlaudi Motsoeneng and two others forced the SABC to support the pay-TV service’s quest by arbitrarily taking a far-reaching decision to declare the set-top box encryption mechanism as wholly unjustifiable.

While it said that this had a detrimental impact on the total digital transformation trajectory of the country and was in violation of the Broadcasting Act, there was no evidence that MultiChoice acted improperly, unlawfully, fraudulently, or in a corrupt manner.

Motsoeneng was paid R11 million for concluding the deal, but a court decision has ordered him to pay back the money.

In 2018, the channel-supply agreement that was signed in 2013 was found to have constituted a merger by the Competition Commission, which said that the two companies contravened competition laws.