'I'll break your legs'
“He looked at the picture on the wall and asked if I knew the artist, Joe Maseko. I said I didn’t. He then said he had broken Joe’s legs once and he was here to do the same to me.”
SABC company secretary Ramani Naidoo levels this accusation against the corporation’s legal head, Mafika Sihlali, in a letter annexed to the SABC’s internal audit report. It is cited in a section titled “Possible intimidation of SABC employees and/or witnesses”.
The report also says that more than half the witnesses and other SABC employees interviewed by the audit team were “scared to depose affidavits” against Sihlali.
“More than one witness asked how can we expect him/her to supply us with an affidavit if they had to go back and report to Mr Sihlali,” it says.
The auditors say one witness, Rirhandzu Mayiji, provided crucial information and agreed to make an affidavit. But after meeting Sihlali—it was not known what they discussed—she refused to sign it.
In her letter Naidoo says that on March 8 this year Sihlali entered her office uninvited and accused the secretariat of giving information to the DoC—presumably the communications department—relating to his division’s lack of cooperation in handing over documents.
In the presence of another employee, Ntando Simelane, he then allegedly threatened to break Naidoo’s legs.
Naidoo says she asked Sihlali if he was threatening her and he confirmed he was. Refusing to sit down and discuss the matter, he “carried on shouting at the top of his voice”.
Naidoo’s letter says she took up the matter with SABC CEO Dali Mpofu, but had received no response. In a letter to Sihlali himself, she observes: “In a country in which non-violence against women ... is high on the national agenda ... I find this behaviour from a fellow professional abhorrent.”
In a signed affidavit also appended to the report, SABC chief financial controller Linda Jarvis says she phoned Sihlali about a problem in paying his law firm, after the group management accountant, Kenneth Mokoena, told her “he was afraid to inform Mr Sihlali himself”.
Jarvis states that in their conversation, on January 17, Sihlali said she could do what she liked, told her to “fuck off” and put the phone down before she could respond. She says that in her 20 years at the SABC, she had never experienced such behaviour.
The Mail & Guardian was exposed to Sihlali’s temper outside the Johannesburg High Court on July 20, when he pushed M&G photographer Lisa Skinner against a wall when she tried to photograph him. He later apologised and offered to pose for pictures.
Beeld reported last week that the SABC reinstated two advisers in the legal department, Rosy Royeppen and Andrea Williams, whom Sihlali suspended last December for failing to send him copies of emails. The two women have since quit the corporation.
The audit report notes that the SABC’s code of conduct bans “unseemly or offensive language” and threats of violence. Intimidation is grounds for summary dismissal.
The M&G asked Sihlali and Mpofu for their reaction to the claims and whether there had been follow-up action in the months since the alleged incidents. No response has been received by the time of going to print.