A leaked letter looks set to throw a spanner in the works for former SABC chief executive Lulama Mokhobo who claimed in her submission at the Zondo commission that she had lost her job for opposing the public broadcaster’s deal with MultiChoice.
Signed by Mokhobo on June 19, 2013, and sent to MultiChoice’s group chief executive Imtiaz Patel, the letter gave an impression that the SABC had agreed to proposals of the pay-TV group to air a 24-hour news channel.
“The board and executive management has duly considered MultiChoice’s proposal regarding the SABC’s 24-hour news channel and the entertainment channel, and we are pleased to inform you of the decision to proceed in accordance with the proposal on the terms that will be agreed between the SABC and MultiChoice.
“We look forward to a mutually rewarding relationship for the coming five-year period,” said Mokhobo’s letter.
Mokhobo copied the email to then SABC board chairperson Ellen Tshabalala.
She told the state capture inquiry this week that Tshabalala had led the group of SABC executives who wanted her out of her prime job for challenging the MultiChoice deal.
“There was a level of desperation from the chair of the board (Tshabalala) for me to go because I had challenged a lot of her decision very vigorously and she was very angry at me,” said Mokhobo at the commission.
“The chair of the board decided that (then chief operations officer Hlaudi) Motsoeneng should go ahead and sign the contract. She was very abrasive.
“They met MultiChoice and decided to finish off with the process which was fundamentally flawed.
“I did not agree with the process. There were clauses that were totally improper,” Mokhobo had added.
On Thursday, she said whoever had leaked the letter was being mischievous.
“She stood by her submission before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that she was opposed to the R550million deal till the end.
“This is a pushback,” Mokhobo told The Star.
“The letter is very self-explanatory. It’s not a letter saying the contract is approved.
“It was saying the proposal is agreed on, but we must discuss and agree on the terms.
“That letter goes on and says: ‘We’re pleased to inform you of the decision to proceed in accordance with the proposal on the terms that will be agreed between the SABC and MultiChoice.’ This is a very material sentence.
“But then they came with terms that were completely unacceptable, in that they then wanted to dictate the SABC’s agreed position on set-top boxes.
“They said they would be happy to proceed only if the SABC agreed to abandon a major policy position of control (of set-top boxes),” said Mokhobo.
She added that her troubles had started at this point and she had been finally forced out of her job.
Motsoeneng, one of former executives Mokhobo blamed for the “flawed” deal, said the former chief executive had never opposed the MultiChoice move.
“Lulama was part of the decision. But I will deal with these issues at the right platform. The same platform that they are using to clarify all this hullabaloo.
“The MultiChoice deal is very clean. That’s why they still have that MultiChoice contract,” Motsoeneng added.
MultiChoice would not be drawn on Mokhobo’s submission. “We take note of the submissions at the commission and won’t comment at this stage,” spokesperson Joe Heshu said.