Former Communications Minister Yunus Carrim was the witness at the State Capture commission in Parktown. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency(ANA)
Former Communications Minister Yunus Carrim was the witness at the State Capture commission in Parktown. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency(ANA)

State Capture Inquiry hears former minister was critical of SABC/MultiChoice deal

By Zintle Mahlati Time of article published Feb 25, 2020

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Johannesburg - The SABC's controversial 2013 broadcasting deal with pay service operator MultiChoice took centre-stage once again at the Zondo commission with the appearance of former communications minister Yunus Carrim. 

Carrim took the stand at the inquiry on Tuesday and testified about his knowledge and backlash he received for his questioning of the SABC/MultiChoice deal. 

Carrim was appointed as Communications minister in July 2013 and did not return to the role following the 2014 elections. 

He said he received hostility from individuals when he raised questions about the MultiChoice deal, which was signed two weeks before he was appointed minister in July 2013. 

The deal was signed in 2013 and was largely seen as controversial. It gave MultiChoice access to the SABC's archives and included that the SABC would broadcast a news channel on the pay television service providers DSTV platform. The deal also resulted in an entertainment channel called SABC Encore which also airs on DSTV. The SABC would be paid R553 million over five years. 

What raised Carrim concerns was that the value of the SABC archives was worth more than the offer tabled by MultiChoice. He estimated that they could have been worth about R1 billion. Carrim said even if the deal did not mean that the SABC was selling its archives and it was just offering MultiChoice exclusive access, this was still problematic. 

"It was not just the fact that MultiChoice would have access, it was also that the value of archives was substantially reduced as to what MultiChoice offered. Those archives were probably worth around an R1 billion," he said. 

Carrim said what was also of concern about the commercial deal was that it included a clause which barred the SABC from adding encryption. The former minister said this clause had no basis for forming part of a commercial deal and was an example of "regulatory capture".  

"Here is an example of regulatory capture This for me is a very clear example. Whereby irregularity means you change the policy of the SABC. There is no reason to include in a commercial agreement a policy that says the SABC will not encrypt its broadcasts. The encryption had nothing to do with the commercial deal. When you ask MultiChoice representatives of why it is there, they do not give you an answer. I was told to approach ICASA about this and someone did," he said. 

Former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng signed the deal with MultiChoice illegally without board approval. The former SABC CEO Lulama Mokhobo was not included in signing the deal as she was against certain parts of the deal. 

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