Johannesburg - Controversial former SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng on Wednesday came out guns blazing to defend the R500 million deal the public broadcaster signed with pay television provider MultiChoice, which is accused of paying kickbacks.
Motsoeneng told Independent Media that the five-year deal, which included the SABC 24-hour news channel and entertainment classics rerun channel SABC Encore, was his innovation, his project and had made the public broadcaster money.
Motsoeneng was awarded an R11.5million bonus for negotiating the deal. The payout is now the subject of litigation at the high court in Johannesburg, with the SABC describing the bonus as an unlawful success fee.
The former SABC chief operations officer also issued a warning that the contract the public broadcaster signed with MultiChoice was renewable for another five years after its expiry next year.
Motsoeneng said the deal helped fund the SABC’s news operations when he was still the public broadcaster’s head.
“We paid salaries using MultiChoice money. There’s nothing wrong with the deal MultiChoice has done very well to fund the SABC,” he said.
Motsoeneng dismissed DA MP Phumzile van Damme’s revelation that MultiChoice sought to pay the SABC R100m for its 24-hour news channel in exchange for the public broadcaster’s political influence over digital migration.
Van Damme also released a transcript of a high-level meeting held at the SABC’s head office in Auckland Park in June 2013, saying it supported allegations that MultiChoice also paid Gupta-owned ANN7 millions in exchange for similar influence over the government’s position on set-top boxes.
But Motsoeneng said allegations of kickbacks were “nonsensical”.
“We approached MultiChoice, not the other way around All South Africans should applaud MultiChoice for funding a public broadcaster,” he said.
Motsoeneng added that the launch of the 24-hour news channel in August 2013 followed numerous failures over 12 years.
“Many people tried to have that channel but could not manage,” he said.
According to Motsoeneng, at least two SABC board chairpersons, several communications ministers and chief executive officers could not create the 24-hour-channel.
He said former chairperson Ben Ngubane almost signed a R50m deal with the pay TV provider but the board under him rejected it.
Motsoeneng said he had many discussions with MultiChoice chief executive Imtiaz Patel and told him the company had a duty to assist the public broadcaster.
“I was pushing it because we needed to compete with other content providers,” he said.
Van Damme said the implications of MultiChoice allegedly paying kickbacks were serious.
In the transcripts of the meeting released by Van Damme, Patel is quoted as saying: “We need to justify to our board to say why would we pay you R100m a year, which is a lot of money. Okay, it’s after-tax money. To make R100m net you have to make R150m or R200m, R300m in turnover. We are looking for the excuse and the excuse for us is to be able to justify to our board that you are giving us something in return. What are you giving us in return for the R100m?”
Alongside Motsoeneng, the meeting included former SABC chief executive Lulama Mokhobo, who chaired it, then interim board chairperson Zandile Tshabalala and Nolo Letele, then-MultiChoice chairperson.
MultiChoice’s Jackie Rakitla did not respond to messages on Wednesday.