Mpofu backs inquiry into SABC

Axed South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) chief executive Dali Mpofu on Tuesday backed a call for a judicial inquiry into the financial affairs of the public broadcaster.

Mpofu told Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications there had to be closure on the mismanagement at the SABC.

“Proper process needs to be followed so that people can be brought to book or cleared,” said Mpofu.

He suggested that the inquiry be chaired by a judge and a forensic auditor with broadcasting knowledge.

Earlier, a 14-page memorandum from the Communications Workers’ Union and the Media Workers’ Association of South Africa, alleging that “money has been wasted with impunity” at the SABC, was handed to the committee.

The unions called for an immediate independent forensic audit into the SABC, which reported a financial loss of R839-million for the 2008/09 financial year. The broadcaster has asked the government for a R2-billion bailout.

“We demand full accountability and complete answers from the SABC board and management on the way that the SABC has been mismanaged, bringing it to the point of collapse, which endangers all of our livelihoods,” the memorandum stated.

SABC chief financial officer Rob Nicholson, before giving a financial presentation on the broadcaster, said the allegations had been “very painful”.

“We don’t know who the people are who are making the allegations. They should treat people with dignity and respect and give them the benefit of the doubt.”

The SABC’s acting chief executive, Gab Mampone, told the committee the broadcaster has its share of “rotten apples”.

“We have our fair share of rotten apples who are trying to infect us with a deadly virus—incompetence,” Mampone said.

Last week the committee released a report concluding the SABC was “dysfunctional” and no longer able to fulfil its statutory duties.
It would recommend that the National Assembly adopt a resolution recommending to the appointing authority the dissolution of the SABC board.

The report said losses at the broadcaster in the past year were due to declining revenue and “unrestrained over expenditure”.

There was evidence of serious lapses in sound operational management of the SABC by the executive management that warranted further urgent attention, the report read.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, who is a member of the committee, said he wanted allegations by the unions to be investigated before continuing with the hearing.

Committee chairperson Ismail Vadi said the committee did not have the tools to hold a full investigation into the SABC.

“The allegations are coming fast and furious these days,” Vadi said.

“There are other arms of state, such as the prosecuting authority, that can be given the responsibility to respond to the allegations. We do not have the resources.

“We don’t want to sweep anything under the carpet,” he added.—Sapa

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