SABC told to pay up

The Paris-based agent for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has served a summons on the cash-strapped South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) for money it claims it is owed for a R1-billion contract it signed with the broadcaster.

The contract was raised in Parliament last month by interim board member and advocate Leslie Sedibe, who described it as “shocking”. Attempts are being made to renegotiate the contract, but CAF agent SportFive is now understood to have served a summons on the SABC.

SportFive is understood to be taking the broadcaster to court in Paris.

SABC interim board chairman Irene Charnley referred the Mail & Guardian‘s questions to Sedibe, who said he could not comment on the negotiations or on any legal dispute the SABC might face over the contract.

At the end of last year Mvuzo Mbebe, the group executive for content enterprises, signed a R1-billion deal for the TV rights to all CAF games in the next eight years. The corporation’s interim board has since suspended Mbebe.

The extraordinary price paid for the contract was allegedly not authorised by the former SABC board, which was aware of the crippling funding crisis gripping the broadcaster.
Mbebe signed the contract at a time of mounting SABC debt, when senior executives had already been briefed on two occasions about the broadcaster’s financial crisis.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the SABC did not wish to comment on the CAF contract or on legal issues surrounding it until negotiations between the parties had been concluded. “A press statement will be issued as soon as the discussions are concluded,” said Kganyago.

SABC sources told the M&G the corporation’s chief financial officer, Robin Nicholson, had repudiated the deal. Mbebe and Nicholson flew to Paris in February this year to renegotiate the contract. It is understood that the guarantee was dropped and the terms of payment renegotiated.

Meanwhile, in a bizarre move, Nicholson is understood to be have been suspended again after his earlier suspension was lifted for three days last week to sort out creditors and accounts.

It is believed that three people have been offered the chance to step into his shoes until his internal disciplinary hearing is concluded. With the SABC’s losses standing at R910-million last month, nobody has yet jumped into the hot seat.

Although the treasury has extended a lifeline to the SABC by approving its application for a government bank guarantee of R1,47-billion, revenue targets and cost-cutting measures will have to be implemented as part of the deal.

Hannes du Buisson, president of the Broadcast, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers’ Union, has said that there are concerns that job cuts could be looming at the corporation.

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill has been in journalism for more years than she cares to remember. She loves a good story as much now as she did when she first started. The only difference is today she hopes she is giving something back to the country. Read more from Glynnis Underhill

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