Multichoice enquiry reveals no evidence of corruption in ANN7 deal

Though media giant MultiChoice admits it made “mistakes” and there were “procedural shortcomings” in its dealings with formerly Gupta-owned channel ANN7, its audit and risk committee concluded that “there is no evidence of corruption”, MultiChoice chief executive Calvo Mawela said during a press briefing on the findings held on Wednesday.

“We will however not be renewing our contract with ANN7, instead we are going to be hosting a new black-owned news channel and we will be calling for proposals from interested media groups very soon”, said Mawela.

“In addition we will ensure processes are put in place to highlight issues of controversy as they arise swiftly,” he told journalists.

On November 1, last year MultiChoice launched an investigation into payments made to ANN7 following reports by News24 that it paid the controversial channel R25-million upfront as part of its contract with the company.

When asked by journalists at the press conference if this was common practice, Mawela denied the payment was illegal, saying the audit and risk committee did not find any irregularities with the payment. “It is common practice for a broadcaster to pay for the content, including local new channel”, he said.

Mawela said MultiChoice paid other television channels in excess of R25-million.

He also denied reports that a R100-million payment made by MultiChoice to the SABC was an effort to lobby then-communications minister Faith Muthambi to create policies in favour of delaying digital migration.

The Democratic Alliance in November 2017 requested an inquiry into the payments between MultiChoice and ANN7 in November 2017.

“Those allegations were serious and we have taken very seriously”, said Naspers chief executive Bob Van Dijk during the press briefing.

Mawela said no evidence of corruption was found. However, Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos took to Twitter to voice his concerns commenting the upfront payment of R25-million to ANN7 “sounds like a bribe to me”, in response to Mawela’s denial of any wrongdoing.

Naspers, the largest shareholder in MultiChoice, suffered a loss in share price after allegations of corruption emerged.

“We have put a number of management controls and corrective measures in place to ensure that this does not happen again”, said Mawela.

Recommendations made by MultiChoice’s audit and risk committee chaired by Don Eriksson, including four non-executive directors and independent non-executive director, Advocate Kgomotso Moroka, suggest ensuring robust due diligence processes are followed for start-up channels and formalisation of the MultiChoice lobbying process in the absence of national guidelines on lobbying.

MultiChoice has also cleared group chief executive Imtiaz Patel of any wrongdoing in his involvement in negotiations with ANN7.

“Patel played no role in Gupta’s interest and it was agreed as a collective with members of the senior management to enter into an agreement with ANN7 and was convinced that he always acted in the best interest of MultiChoice” said Van Djik.

The MultiChoice contract with SABC did not form part of the brief given to the Audit and Risk committee, but Mawela said parliament “has referred a number of third party agreements to the special investigations unit (SIU). MultiChoice will comply”.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) will also be conducting an investigation into MultiChoice to see if the company is guilty of lobbying for a policy stance in its favour. 

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Thulebona Mhlanga
Guest Author

South Africa has been junked

Treasury says the credit ratings downgrade “could not have come at a worse time”, as country enters a 21-day Covid-19 lockdown with little money saved up

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories