‘Drawn into a scandal where none exists’

In the spirited articles that the Mail & Guardian has published on me since 2007, facts and my side of the story have always been insufficiently consulted, however eloquently I have argued. This was again the case in the article published on September 25, “SABC: Sihlali’s dodgy deals”.

Firstly, it was incorrect for the M&G to state that I could not be contacted for comment as I have always been in contact with the paper and have corresponded, via email, on a consistent basis.

Secondly, the headline refers to “deals”. This is borne out by the story’s single reference to the Siemens “deal” which was the substance of the article and was the only material that was not covered in previous articles.

For the record the Directorate of Public Prosecutions refused to prosecute at the insistence of one bitter individual at the SABC and dismissed the allegations previously published by the M&G on the basis of a draft leaked report and which I had not seen. This was in 2007. The individual who leaked that draft and incomplete report to the M&G was subsequently dismissed by the SABC for maliciously leaking the report, and she failed in legal proceedings to overturn her dismissal.

We are now left with the Auditor General’s single allegation that I co-signed a contact worth a “staggering R326-million”. On reading the Auditor General’s report, it is clear that I am the only person who was never contacted nor afforded the opportunity to be heard on the allegations before they were presented to Parliament and published on the Auditor General’s website and newspapers.

This is despite the Auditor General knowing where I could be contacted directly or via my lawyers. I suspect that the reason the Auditor General has removed this report from its website is because of both its procedural and substantive defects which have already tainted its integrity, motives and legality.

The Siemens contract was signed by three individuals on behalf of the SABC, and it is curious that the Auditor General does not mention the third signatory. The originator of the contract, the head of technology, is not even mentioned, nor for that matter are the reasons for her hasty departure from the SABC.

In any event these are the facts:

  • Siemens was long working on the supposed “deal” months before I joined the SABC, without any contract in place;
  • I joined the SABC in August 2006; the Siemens contract was effective as at May 2006;
  • I was advised, in writing, by the SABC’s technology department that the board had given its approval to the Siemens contract;
  • The SABC appointed a law firm, Cliffe Dekker & Todd, early in 2006 to give legal advice on the Siemens contract some months before I joined the SABC;
  • I have never met with any person from Siemens since 2001;
  • The Director of Public Prosecutions refused, after I had made representations to him, to prosecute on the basis of the allegations of the 2007 report;
  • The Auditor General and the statements by the interim board have already tainted the atmosphere and the fairness of the garbled report, just by affording hearings on a selective basis;
  • I obtained an interdict against the M&G but it published in contempt of the court’s decision; and I did not ask for the confirmation of the interdict because the matter was already in the public domain;

The M&G is still enraged that I took it to court and won. The article published two weeks ago has been less about clarifying the alleged deal and more about how to bring me into the middle of the mess that is going on in the SABC.

The curious development, though, is that despite the SABC being bankrupt, no one who is in charge of its finances has been written about for financial mismanagement or sheer incompetence. Instead, a very peripheral issue relating to Siemens was inflated by both the Auditor General and the M&G just so that the inference could be drawn that there is a scandal where none exists.

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