SABC: The next instalment

The SABC’s new chief executive, Solly Mokoetle, went through torment at the public broadcaster because of what he describes as a “shabby” 2005 audit report.

Mokoetle said then-SABC chief executive Dali Mpofu initiated disciplinary proceedings against him more than two years after the report, by Gobodo Forensic and Investigative Accounting, was handed to the SABC board and later shelved.

Mpofu later reaped an R11-million payout authorised by the interim SABC board last year after he challenged his suspension in court. The interim board then appointed Mokoetle shortly before the new board took over this year.

Mokoetle told the Mail & Guardian this week he was in charge of content commissioning as the public broadcaster’s chief operating officer when the SABC board called in Gobodo in 2004. “We had conducted an analysis of television for 2002 and 2003 and were already in the middle of trying to fix problems we had identified.” Then the board launched an investigation, he said. “Suddenly Gobodo comes in and says ‘gotcha’. I don’t know why, but it seemed the board just wanted to get rid of [former chief executive] Peter Matlare and me.”

The Gobodo report uncovered collusive tendering in content commissioning to the tune of R56-million, the M&G has been told. But Mokoetle said the report was shelved and a waste of money. “There were no grounds for prosecution,” he said. “There was not enough substance to the report and no grounds to justify punitive measures.”

The report criticised Mokoetle for allegedly questionable corporate governance and recommended appropriate disciplinary action against those implicated.

The report also alleged nepotism involving procurement that benefited family and friends of SABC staffers. Three local TV production houses came under scrutiny.

The SABC board, chaired by Eddie Funde, asked Mpofu to assess the report and decide on the way forward when he took over, but sources claim Mpofu delayed instituting disciplinary proceedings until he had settled into his new job. Mpofu declined to comment. When Mokoetle’s contract at the SABC expired, Mpofu extended it, said the new chief executive. Shortly before the expiry of this contract, the Gobodo report was resurrected and Mpofu initiated a disciplinary hearing against him, said Mokoetle. This was more than two years after the report was first handed to the board.

Mokoetle said he was charged with exceeding his authority by signing one of the programming contracts identified in the Gobodo report for R500000. But he was acting chief executive and there was no one else to sign it, he said. Mokoetle was found guilty and he was given a final written warning seven days before his contract expired. He took his case to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, which told him to take it to the Labour Court. The court expunged his record, he said.
The M&G revealed last week that a December 2008 Labour Court judgment found the SABC victimised Mokoetle because of its “undue delay” in instituting proceedings against him based on the Gobodo report, which could not be used against him.

Meanwhile, it emerged this week that Karima Brown, politics editor at Business Day, is on the shortlist of candidates for the SABC’s head of news. So, too, is Phil Molefe, acting head of news. Analysts say Molefe, a reliable old hand, is likely to be preferred to Brown, who is seen as close to the leftist wing of the tripartite alliance. Formerly executive producer of SAfm’s Current Affairs programme and then head of SABC3 news, Brown moved to Independent Newspapers before taking her Business Day post.

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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.

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