Johannesburg - Not only did executives at the SA Broadcasting Corporation sell precious archives for a song to the Gupta's ANN7 news channel, they further gave the controversial family an unsolicited discount.
The former senior sales executive at SABC's archive department, Sias Scott, was in the hot seat at the state capture inquiry on Tuesday, following ANN7's former consulting editor Rajesh Sundaram's explosive two-day testimony. Scott was with the SABC for 25 years.
He said he received a call from ex-COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng's secretary, who said Motsoeneng wanted to see him so that he could explain how the sale of archive material worked.
"I explained the process to Hlaudi. Then [former Gupta Oakbay Investments CEO] Nazeem Howa phoned me regarding material for a new television news channel and we made an appointment. We discussed the whole process in my office, I later emailed him a quotation which he accepted."
Howa wanted a wide range of archives. Scott said he asked for specific content but Howa never listed any. Scott said he then went to consult with the now former SABC head of news, Jimi Matthews.
"I had a chat with CEO of news Matthews...I was excited because we had never sold 2000 minutes to a client before...I remember Jimi even saying this was a big job and we should waiver and sell footage at R70 per minute. I emailed Howa, and he accepted," said Scott.
The R500 standard technical charge per hour or "view and transfer" levy was also waived, translating into thousands of rands loss for the SABC. Scott testified that for competitors such as eNCA, the SABC charged R2000 per 30 seconds for historic material. MNet's investigative programme, Carte Blanche, is charged R2750 per 30 seconds because it also streams on online platforms such as You Tube.
International channels such as CNN and Al Jazeera were charged in foreign currency.
Commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, asked why ANN7 was given discounts.
"Wasn't it your job to charge according to the price guide?" Zondo asked Scott.
"It was my job...but I got permission from the person in charge of news...Matthews said let's reduce the price... he gave no reason for the waiver. I think anybody in that position would have done what Jimi did. I can work out that we didn't lose much more. That was done instead of losing the deal," said the former SABC official.
Zondo: "But was there a request from the client for that R500 to be waived?"
Scott: "No, not all. Instead of losing a deal, I regard that amount as minor really."
Zondo: "But who said you were going to lose the deal?"
Scott replied: "When Mr Howa came to see me, he talked about the fact that there was not enough money... and it was difficult times for them."
An astonished Zondo asked Scott why a discount was offered that was not asked for. Scott then conceded that the SABC dished out discounts on a trove of historic archive material to the Guptas without being asked.
Scott said the Guptas paid R140 000 for 2000 minutes, a lower rate compared to what the SABC charged other broadcasters. Zondo directed the inquiry to investigate the SABC pricing for archives and find out of whether the sale of the archives to ANN7 was justifiably priced at that time or not.
African News Agency (ANA)