File picture: Karen Sandison/Independent Media

Johannesburg - The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Board on Wednesday said it has "noted the publication" of various internal minutes dealing with the controversial MultiChoice agreement and said the contents were the reason it referred the matter to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

Hours after the Democratic Alliance (DA) alleged that minutes of an SABC board meeting show that MultiChoice sought to pay the public broadcaster R100 million for its 24-hour news channel in exchange for its political influence over digital migration, the new board distanced itself from the unfolding scandal.

The DA said minutes from the meeting held in June 2013 support media reports that MultiChoice paid Gupta-owned ANN7 millions of rand in exchange for similar influence over government's position on set-top boxes.

The wealthy Gupta brothers, who have close ties with President Jacob Zuma, face accusations of state capture in which they allegedly used their proximity to power to exert undue influence on state enterprises in order to win lucrative state tenders. 

Sacked SABC board members and executives, including Ellen Tshabalala, bosses Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Jimi Matthews, have been fingered as having participated in secret meetings regarding the MultiChoice deal. During their tenure, the former big guns also allegedly demanded access to the correspondence related to the controversial deal.

In a statement late Wednesday, the SABC said: "The content of these minutes and the reported statements of the various individuals identified underlines why the Multichoice agreement and its related documentation was referred to the SIU for an urgent investigation."

The statement issued by the chairperson of the SABC board, Bongumusa Makhathini, added: "The SABC Board distances itself from the alleged unlawful behaviour and reiterates its commitment to independence from both political and commercial interests. 

"As required by the Broadcasting Act and our competition laws, the SABC cannot allow any competitor or commercial operator to interfere with and to unduly influence SABC policy and commercial strategy." 

The new SABC board, appointed in October, said it and management will continue to cooperate with any investigation into the alleged wrongdoing that led up to the signing of the Multichoice agreement.
 
African News Agency