Johannesburg - The SABC is concerned that delays by President Jacob Zuma to sign a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) proclamation to probe the rot at the cash-strapped public broadcaster could see its disgraced former boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng cashing in on his pension millions.
This would mean it would be difficult for the broadcaster to recoup the money if Motsoeneng is found to have benefited illegally from transactions at the SABC during his turbulent tenure, in which he hiked his own pay from R1.5 million to R2.4m in one year.
He also got paid R11.4m for negotiating the controversial R533m deal with MultiChoice, which gave the private broadcaster access to the SABC’s entire archive.
Motsoeneng, who was axed following a disciplinary hearing, has until Wednesday to appeal the sanction. If he does not appeal, he will have access to his pension and may walk away with millions before the SIU can probe the irregularities.
Alleged delays by Zuma to sign a proclamation for an SIU probe into the SABC is causing consternation within and outside the public broadcaster.
Executives at the SABC and other interested parties have raised concerns about the “apparent delays” in signing the proclamation, which they hope would help fast-track the process to stabilise the ailing corporation before the SABC interim board’s term ends in September.
“For us the key is, if you are going to unlock the problem, you need to get to the root of the fraud, irregularities, and wasteful and fruitless expenditure.
“We have contacted the SIU to do that, including the scope and all other things that have to go to the Justice Department, and the minister (Michael Masutha) has signed,” said a source at the SABC.
“It (SIU proclamation request) has been sitting on the president’s desk for more than two months.
“And we don’t know when it will be signed. But every day that passes, for us is time lost. That’s crucial for JZ (Jacob Zuma) to sign. Why he doesn’t sign, we don’t know.”
Earlier this year, the National Assembly adopted a report by the ad hoc committee that investigated the SABC, which laid bare the widespread mismanagement at the public broadcaster, among them the alleged dodgy and questionable contracts.
These included those involving the Gupta-owned newspaper The New Age, MultiChoice, Infonomics, Vision View, SekelaXabiso and Foxton.
Two weeks ago, Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo met the SABC's interim board, Parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) and the SIU for an update on the probe.
Concerns were also raised about the non-co-operation by some SABC executives. “A major hurdle to dealing with corruption is the delay by JZ to sign the SIU proclamation, as every day lost means the SIU can't start (the probe), and we have just over two months left,” said another source.
Two weeks ago, the SIU told Parliament's standing committee on public accounts that it was expecting Zuma to issue the proclamation by the end of June.
SIU head advocate Lekhoa Mothibi said the five areas of focus identified for a probe included the bonus paid to Motsoeneng.
On Friday, the EFF ratcheted up the pressure on Zuma to sign the proclamation. Spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said: “The EFF condemns this delaying as tantamount to defeating the ends of justice. The failure to sign the proclamation further delays much-needed stability and progress at the SABC.”
On Sunday, SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the interim board was concerned about the delays. “They (board members) say it would be good in terms of process for the president to sign urgently, but it’s not up to them.
“They want to emphasise that from their side, they have tried to do everything they could, but they can’t dictate to the president.”
Presidential spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga denied that Zuma was delaying the signing of the proclamation.
“The president receives many requests from departments, which are processed by the Presidency and are then concluded. All are regarded as important and warranting attention.
“The Department of Justice will be notified of the outcome as soon as the matter is finalised,” he said.
SIU spokesperson Nazreen Pandor said they would comment tomorrow “after checking and verifying (the issue) with the team”.
Dlodlo said she had not briefed the president on the matter yet, but that relevant documents had been sent. “The SIU will get my support and co-operation,” she told The Star from the US on Saturday.
With Motsoeneng not likely to appeal his dismissal, there are concerns that he might access his pension.
A source at the SABC said: “He (Motsoeneng) isn’t going to appeal the disciplinary hearing ruling, which means he is capable of accessing his pension.
On Sunday, Motsoeneng referred enquiries to his legal representative, Zola Majavu, who said: “There’s no appeal. The matter will be referred to the CCMA. From there it will be the Labour Court.”
The source said: “What if we approve (the pension payout), and the SIU finds so many irregularities (against him) and we have paid it?
“We need to find a way to withhold his pension, and the only way is if he faces a criminal case. So we need the SIU to work fast. If the SIU find there’s a prima facie case they will be able to go to the National Prosecuting Authority and get the case moving. That will give us an opening to withhold the pension.”