Johannesburg - More trouble is brewing for the controversial Gupta family as the Hawks close in on them over allegations of state capture.
And on Sunday, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) confirmed that it will investigate MultiChoice over allegations of kickbacks of R100 million to the SABC in exchange for the public broadcaster's political influence over digital migration.
The pay-TV company that owns DStv and M-Net reportedly also allegedly made a questionable payment of R25m to the ANN7 news channel, then owned by the Guptas.
MultiChoice is also accused of increasing its annual payment to ANN7 from R50m to R141m, in exchange for influence over the government’s position on the introduction of encrypted set-top boxes.
The DA has lodged a complaint requesting that Icasa conduct an inquiry into the payments.
Icasa’s spokesperson Paseka Maleka said the broadcasting regulator’s complaints and compliance division will be investigating the matter. “Icasa’s council referred the matter to the complaints and compliance division for further investigations and to liaise with the complainant (the DA),” he said.
The DA's communications spokesperson Phumzile van Damme said on Sunday her party was pleased that Icasa had agreed that the payments needed to be investigated.
“South Africa deserves to know whether the payments were indeed above board, as MultiChoice has maintained,” Van Damme said.
The DA believes that while companies like MultiChoice should be allowed the space to do business and create much-needed employment, their conduct must at all times be within the bounds of the law, in line with business ethics and in an environment where competition is not stifled, she said.
“There is no issue with companies lobbying for policy positions through debate, but a situation where policy is bought cannot be allowed. It is tantamount to policy capture.
“The DA looks forward to further engaging with Icasa on this matter, and for clarity to be provided once and for all,” Van Damme said.
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the public broadcaster was not aware of the probe. “Obviously the investigation is on MultiChoice, but if they need anything from us we will co-operate fully with the investigation,” said Kganyago.
The New Age, which is owned by Infinity Media – the majority owner of ANN7 and TNA Holdings – is also to be probed in the pending commission of inquiry into state capture.
The terms of reference into the inquiry released by the Justice Department stated that among other allegations, the inquiry will investigate whether there were any irregularities, undue enrichment, corruption and undue influence in the awarding of government advertising in the New Age newspaper.
MultiChoice's head of corporate communication and corporate affairs Marietjie Groenewald did not respond to questions sent to her by The Star.
Mzwanele Manyi, who acquired ANN7 and The New Age from the Guptas through vendor financing over five months ago, was also not available for comment.
The Guptas and their associates are at the centre of state capture allegations, which Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was going to fight when he campaigned to be the governing party’s leader in December.
The Sunday Times reported that the three Gupta brothers Atul, Rajesh and Ajay, their associates and Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane will be charged with money laundering in the next few weeks, for their alleged involvement in the R220m theft at Estina Dairy farm in the Free State.
It is alleged that the multimillion-rand project, which was meant to benefit poor black farmers, became a channel to loot the provincial government coffers with only 1% of the money going to actual farming.
On Friday, the Hawks raided Free State Premier Ace Magashule’s office as part of their state capture probe.
On Sunday, ANC deputy president David Mabuza rallied behind Ramaphosa’s crusade against corruption and state capture.
Addressing the crowd in a packed Ephraim Mogale Stadium, Mabuza said he (Ramaphosa) “is safe next to me” in his fight against graft.
“Our people have said it loud and clear that we must stop corruption. We are going to work hard to fight corruption.
"We have agreed that we are going to fight state capture in all ways it manifests itself,” he added.
“Corruption is a cancer that can eat and destroy a nation,” Mabuza said.
The governing party had to be led by morally upright people. Many of its past leaders were religious leaders.
“That means the ANC was led by people of high moral standards… of high moral values.
“If you are a leader of the ANC, you must be respectable in society,” Mabuza said.