Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES
Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES

Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications says it will consider the DA’s call for an inquiry into state capture and the role of former communications minster Faith Muthambi once the request has been formally tabled.

Following weekend revelations that pay television operator MultiChoice, the owners of DStv and M-Net, made a suspicious payment of R25m to the Gupta-controlled ANN7 channel, DA MP and communications spokeswoman Phumzile van Damme said she would be writing to communications portfolio committee chairman Humphrey Maxegwana requesting that the inquiry be scheduled as the first item on the committee’s agenda in 2018.

According to the Gupta leaks, MultiChoice also increased its annual payment to ANN7 from R50m to R141m. The payments are said to have occurred soon after the Gupta family had lobbied President Jacob Zuma to transfer certain broadcasting powers to Muthambi.

Shortly thereafter, Muthambi, who is now public service and administration minister, insisted the country opt for unencrypted set-top boxes for the digital migration process, a position that benefited MultiChoice. Muthambi’s stance angered the ANC and its allies, the South African Communist Party and Cosatu, because it was in defiance of the governing party’s policy.

Maxegwana said on Monday he had not yet received the DA’s letter, but the party’s request would be considered.

"The committee is meeting tomorrow and I am sure they [the DA] will raise the issue … we will consider that when it is tabled," said Maxegwana.

Parliament’s public enterprises portfolio committee is holding its own inquiry into allegations of state capture, focusing on Eskom, Transnet and Denel.

Van Damme said the communications portfolio committee received a letter in August from deputy speaker of Parliament, Lechesa Tsenoli, requesting the committee investigate state capture, and in particular allegations pertaining to Muthambi. She said the latest revelations in the Gupta leaks were an indication that the matter could no longer be delayed.

The DA also called on MultiChoice to publicly release the full contracts it entered into with ANN7, as well as the record of prior negotiations.

"If there is indeed nothing untoward about the nature of its dealings with the Gupta family, MultiChoice will have no issue publishing the requested documents for public scrutiny. Should it fail to do so within 48 hours, the DA will request that the Independent Communications Authority of SA force it to do so," said Van Damme.

MultiChoice has denied allegations of a corrupt relationship with Muthambi and said the fee structure for its ANN7 contract was "in line with the costs of developing and running such a channel‚ and ANN7 is definitely not the highest-paid local news channel on the DStv platform".

The Guptas sold their shares in ANN7 and The New Age newspaper earlier in 2017 to Lodidox, a company owned by former government spokesman Mzwanele Manyi, in a vendor-financed deal.

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