Former SABC board member complains of Motsoeneng-related purge

CAPE TOWN - Axed SABC board member Hope Zinde sent a series of letters to Communications Minister Faith Muthambi protesting her removal, in which she reiterated her objections to the conduct of the broadcaster’s chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the sale of its archives to Multichoice.

Zinde complained that she was purged, along with two other board members because they opposed the Multichoice deal and the manner in which Motsoeneng was running the SABC in general.

In a subsequent letter to Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications, sent after she failed to get a formal response from the minister, Zinde said that Muthambi had told her to co-operate with Motsoeneng because he had the backing of President Jacob Zuma.

In the letter to committee chairwoman Joyce Moloi-Moropa, dated March 9, Zinde said she had told Muthambi at a meeting that Motsoeneng was “a stumbling block to the board’s ability to perform its duties”.

At that meeting. Zinde said she also told the minister that she objected to the manner in which Motsoeneng was appointed.

She quoted Muthambi as replying: “But Baba loves Hlaudi, he loves him so much, we must support him.”

Zinde said the minister never made good on an undertaking to arrange a meeting with Motsoeneng to discuss the board’s concerns, but instead sent her “threatening” letters demanding reasons she should not be removed from the board.

Zinde also said she believed she had received a threatening letter from the then acting chairman of the SABC board, Obert Maghuve, in March because of her vocal objection to the sale of the company’s archives to Multichoice.

“I saw his letter as a move to not only muscle me but to silence me permanently from the board due to my firm and unwavering argument against the Multichoice agreement.”

In an earlier letter to Muthambi, she had written: “This is not only a travesty against the intellectual property of the public of South Africa through the public broadcaster but a huge disservice to the SABC.

"Especially in lieu of digital migration and the need for content, the potential good use of these archive materials for recycling and use for many generations to come. In my view, for what I believe is a pittance.”

The opposition has called for the reinstatement of Zinde, Rachel Kalidass and Ronnie Lubisi to the board since Parliament has obtained a legal opinion from its law advisers that the correct process was not followed in their removal.

In late May, a legal adviser told the committee that in terms of the Broadcasting Act board members could only be removed by the president. But Muthambi appeared before the committee a few weeks later and rubbished this opinion, stating that the Companies Act allowed for other avenues of removal.

The debate took another turn on Tuesday, when it emerged that her legal adviser was struck off the roll in 2007. The Democratic Alliance said the fact that Muthambi was relying on the advice of an attorney who was not deemed fit to practice, further undermined her position.

But her office noted that he was re-admitted in 2011 and said she was happy with his services.

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