Johannesburg - The country’s elite investigating unit has finally handed the report of its probe into the beleaguered SABC to President Jacob Zuma – a move that could see several former bosses face criminal charges and civil claims running into millions.
The report was one of 20 finalised by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and given to the president for signing off last week, as it faces rising criticism about the time it takes to complete investigations.
The report comes after several reports that implicated at least six former SABC bosses in alleged irregular, fraudulent and corrupt deals at the public broadcaster since 2005.
But the unit’s spokesman, Boy Ndala, would not comment on the content of the final report, saying the president still needed to examine it.
However, the handover of the report comes in the same week that the unit’s dismissed deputy head, Faiek Davids, was reinstated, after he and the unit reached a settlement in their legal dispute that was dragged from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to the Johannesburg Labour Court.
In 2010, Davids was fired by former unit head Willie Hofmeyr, who cited incompatibility and a loss of trust and confidence in their relationship.
Davids had been implicated in the controversial spy tapes in conversation with former Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy that led to corruption charges against Zuma being withdrawn in 2009.
After Davids was fired, he approached the CCMA on the grounds of unfair dismissal and, despite the commission ruling in his favour, the unit decided to take the decision on review at the Labour Court.
Nearly two years later, last week Davids and the unit reconciled, deciding it was best for him to be reinstated.
Speaking to The Sunday Independent, Davids said it was “good to be back”.
The decision was taken after weighing up the pros and the cons of the review.
“Reviews, by nature, take time. It is a long, drawn-out, complex, complicated matter.
“The unit had to look at its prospects of success… how much it was going to cost the taxpayer… how long it would take, and how it was affecting the decision,” said Davids.
The appointment of Nomvula Mokhatla as acting head of the unit was a “fortunate move” in the settlement, said Davids, as she came in without bias to apprise herself of the issues.
Mokhatla was loath to discuss the costs associated with the fight against Davids, which has seen senior counsel being consulted on many occasions, saying the figures were still being finalised.
But she reiterated that the unit did not have sufficient grounds on which to base a review of the decision and – taking an indirect swipe at Hofmeyr – Mokhatla said a breakdown in a relationship between two parties did not translate into a breakdown in the relationship between the employee and the whole organisation.
Davids believes he comes back with a “fresh perspective”.
“I’ve been around for a day, but I know this organisation better than any person in it over the last 10 years. I’ve seen the highs and lows in this organisation.
“The SIU is ready for a rebooting,” said Davids.
Part of that rebooting is a mindset shift among employees, refocusing their investigations, so that the proclamations and terms of reference are no longer as wide and are instead more directed.
It also involves amendments to the Special Investigating Unit Act, which allow the unit to invoice departments for the work it does.
Aside from the 20 reports that were handed to the president last week, another 16 reports will be handed over at the end of the month.
The unit is sitting with 25 proclamations, 15 of which it hopes to finalise by April next year.
Of the 20 reports that were handed over, the one on the SABC was the most high-profile, but others include the investigation into the Department of Correctional Services, which started in 2002, the Department of Arts and Culture, the National Heritage Council and the Free State Department of Social Development.
Commenting on the controversy within the organisation, which includes race battles and the unit not having had a permanent head since 2011, Davids said: “There have been distractions over the last few years, and when you take your eye off the ball, you are bound to lose focus.
“We have enough good people to make this thing work. I don’t think that the issues that have been dominating the press on the negativity should be the focus over the next few years.
“The notion that a permanent head is going to turn things around is a mischaracterisation of where we need to be and what it takes to be successful.”
Two weeks ago, The City Press reported that Zuma was poised to appoint advocate Guido Penzhorn as the new head.
But Davids said that, while it was ideal to have a permanent appointment, it was beyond their control, as it was the president’s decision.
Mokhatla said that, while the staff were in the same boat as the general public about the pending announcement, the unit was ready to take a leader that would aspire to the aspirations of the organisation, and “not a person that believes they were bigger than the unit”.