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Former SABC CEO tells state capture inquiry she was pushed out of SABC

Johannesburg - Former SABC CEO Lulama Mokhobo has told the Zondo commission that she was effectively pushed out of her prime job at the public broadcaster because of her unwillingness to agree with former board chairperson Ellen Tshabalala. 

Mokhobo was testifying at the commission on Wednesday as part of the inquiry’s investigation of state capture allegations at the public broadcaster. 

She told the commission that her departure from the SABC in 2015 was not by choice even though she had effectively resigned. She was appointed in 2012. 

Mokhobo said she was pushed out of the organisation and forced to leave because she often disagreed with decisions taken by Tshabalala. 

The biggest disagreement between the two was over the Multi-Choice deal with the SABC. Mokhobo said she disagreed with various aspects of the draft deal and spoke out. 

The deal between the pay-tv operator Multi-Choice and the SABC was seen as largely controversial and was challenged in court proceedings. The deal was worth about R500 million and gave Multi-Choice the rights to the SABC’s archives for a channel on its service, SABC Encore, and it also allowed it to air the SABC’s 24-hour news channel. 

She said controversial former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Tshabalala were intent on pushing the deal through. The two were so determined that when Mokhoba took leave in 2014, to care for her sick grandchild, Tshabalala and Motsoeneng took the opportunity to sign the deal with Multi-Choice. 

“There was a level of desperation from the chair (Tshabalala) of the board for me to go because I had challenged a lot of her decision very vigorously and she was very angry at me. Locked horns over the multichoice contract.  But the chair of the board decided that Mr Motsoeneng and should go ahead and sign the contract, she was very abrasive. They met with Multichoice and decided to finish off with the process was which was fundamentally flawed. I did not agree with the process. There were clauses that were totally improper,” Mokhobo said. 

Earlier, Mokhobo told the commission how she was unaware that the Guptas were benefiting financially from the SABC broadcasting the family’s The New Age (TNA) business breakfasts. The events were hosted on SABC 2 Morning Live programme. 

She said in her understanding the breakfast shows appeared to be beneficial for the SABC because it was content that was relevant to its mandate and that is the reason why she supported the initiative. 

Mokhobo said she only realised that the SABC had spent millions covering the TNA breakfasts when the commission’s investigators approached her. She was blindsided on those issues. 

She was not even aware that the Guptas had been charging government departments and SOEs to host the events. 

“Through the investigators from the commission, I found out that the outside broadcasts for the TNA breakfast had cost R20 million. I asked why there were so many breakfasts (when there was an increase from two monthly) suddenly and I was told that they were important and many people in government were interested in the event.  At no stage during my tenure was I informed that TNA Media was charging handsome fees from the various state-owned enterprises, I was never made aware,” she said.

Two more SABC related witnesses are expected to testify on Thursday. 

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