State capture inquiry to hear testimony from SABC bosses

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JOHANNESBURG, September 2 – The state capture commission of inquiry sitting in Johannesburg will on Monday hear evidence from SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) bosses regarding the massive archive footage sold cheaply to the fugitive Gupta family.

Board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini, CEO Madoda Mxakwe and head of news  Phathiswa Magopeni will appear before the commission chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Their testimonies follow ANN7 news channel’s former consulting editor Rajesh Sundaram’s explosive evidence in June on how the SABC’s invaluable archive footage was sold to the now-defunct Gupta’s television news channel for a song.

Sundaram gave evidence on his experience at the news channel, a job he was headhunted for and arrived in South Africa from India in 2013 to establish the channel. He said he was concerned about the lack of broadcast material ahead of the launch, and was told not to worry because one of the Gupta brothers and ex-CEO of the Gupta family’s Oakbay Investments, Nazeem Howa, had arranged to obtain historical archive footage from the SABC at “throw away prices.”

Sundaram told the commission that Howa even bragged about the deal, saying that “someone stupid at the SABC agreed to that.”

He further testified that former president Jacob Zuma, who was very close with the controversial family, played a major role in the establishment of ANN7 to be a pro-African National Congress (ANC) government news channel. Zuma was the de facto editor-in-chief, holding meetings at his Pretoria residence in the run-up to the launch of ANN7. So secret was Zuma’s role that the Guptas forbade any of the team members from mentioning his name.

Testifying after Sundaram, the former senior sales executive at SABC’s archive department, Sias Scott, told a shocked Zondo that not only were the archives sold very cheaply, the controversial family was given an unsolicited discount. Scott, though, insisted there was nothing sinister about the deal, despite the SABC having suffered a serious loss on a deal worth millions of rands in the broadcast industry.

Most of Sundaram’s evidence at the commission was based on his tell-all book titled “Indentured: Behind the Scenes at Gupta TV” published in 2018.

The then SABC board promised to investigate the ANN7 deal in March last year following the publication of the explosive book. It is not yet known what happened to that probe.

– African News Agency (ANA)