It’s bizarre to suggest that Koos Bekker was hands-off from MultiChoice’s “vigorous campaign” to change government policy on encryption, former Communications minister Yunus Carrim said on Friday.
Carrim has hit back at claims from Naspers, as contained in a statement issued hours earlier on Friday morning, that the chairperson had only met with the then-minister once to discuss encryption. Carrim told the Mail & Guardian Bekker had conveniently forgotten about another meeting as well as telephonic exchanges.
In recent days media reports citing leaked documents have put MultiChoice – a Naspers subsidiary – at the center of fresh state capture claims. Leaked emails, as well as meeting minutes, suggest the pay-TV provider had exerted its power to unduly influence a policy decision, which ultimately was made in its favour. Fees it paid to both the Gupta-owned news channel ANN7 and the SABC have raised questions.
Naspers had said that any breaches of governance needed to be handled at a MultiChoice level. The Mail & Guardian, however, reported how Naspers could not wash its hands of the matter, especially as it appeared Bekker was actively involved in lobbying Carrim.
In its statement on Friday, Naspers said Bekker had met with Carrim once. “This meeting took place in Pretoria and was for the full duration also attended by Minister Pravin Gordhan, whom we greatly respect. Minister Gordhan can attest to the content of the meeting and whether any Gupta-related or any other illegal matter was discussed.”
Responding to the statement on Friday afternoon, Carrim said: “Mr Bekker conveniently forgets the meeting we had in Cape Town within a month of my appointment which he requested and MultiChoice CEO, Imtiaz Patel several times urged. Bekker’s main purpose was to persuade me about the folly of set-top box encryption, and seemed irritated that I would not agree with him and chose instead to refer the conflicts about it to a mediation process to seek a compromise … He forgets too our telephonic exchanges,” Carrim said.
Because Bekker served on major government ICT panels and had done very well in media industry, he viewed saw himself as an advisor to the minister who was new to the sector, Carrim said. “And yet because of his vested profit and other interests in the pay-tv sector he obviously couldn’t play any such role. He seemed annoyed that I couldn’t see how brilliant he is.”
The Naspers statement also noted that neither Bekker, nor the previous Naspers chair, nor its current chief executive have ever interacted with the Gupta family. Naspers, however, said it would not be baited to force MutiChoice to remove ANN7 from the air, which is not conducive to an open democracy.
Carrim said that for Naspers to link his comments to those calling for the removal of ANN7 from DSTV was disingenuous.
Naspers was not immediately able to comment.