Disgraced Aguma quits SABC, but is not off the hook
The acting CEO leaves SA’s public broadcaster under a cloud, but the board says an SIU probe may bring him to book
Disgraced SABC acting CEO James Aguma, who resigned from the public broadcaster on Wednesday, is not off the hook yet and will be called to account should he be implicated in any dodgy deals that have been referred to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
Despite his resignation, there was still a long way to go in terms of extracting the public broadcaster from its crises, observers said on Wednesday.
Aguma’s resignation follows the recent sacking of former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Aguma, who together with Motsoeneng was blamed for the mess at the SABC, abruptly resigned on Wednesday as his disciplinary hearing resumed.
He was on suspension after being charged by the SABC for various transgressions, including breaching his work contract and his fiduciary duties, dishonesty in entering into agreements with certain service providers and frustrating the disciplinary hearings of Motsoeneng.
Aguma, who was also the permanent chief financial officer at the SABC, had faced several calls, including from MPs, to step down following the release of the damning report by Parliament’s ad hoc committee into the crisis at the broadcaster.
Aguma’s resignation "is a positive step in the right direction", Media Monitoring SA director William Bird said.
"However, we know there is still a long way to go in terms of extracting the SABC from its crises. We have to hope that he [Aguma] is still held accountable if involved in any wrongdoing."
Khanyisile Kweyama, the interim chairwoman, said on Wednesday: "In line with the recommendation of the parliamentary ad hoc committee on the SABC, certain contracts have been referred to the SIU for investigation. In the event where Mr Aguma is implicated in the outcome of such investigation a different process will unfold in that regard."
Kweyama would not discuss whether Aguma would receive any benefits following his sudden resignation.
Themba Godi, chairman of Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), said the resignation could be seen as an admission of guilt for the SABC’s financial mess.
"Mr Aguma might have avoided scrutiny on a litany of charges that he was facing – but, as Scopa, we call on the SABC interim board to pursue its investigation to ascertain criminal liability on the part of all officials and managers at the SABC, including Mr Aguma," said Godi.
Aguma was blamed for some of the dodgy deals for several million rand that the SABC entered into, including one with Infonomix, a company that was paid R5.1m to redesign seven SABC websites, and another with Lorna Vision for collecting licence fees on behalf of the SABC even though the broadcaster has its own unit for this purpose.
These deals and Motsoeneng’s 90% local music policy are said to be major reasons for the SABC’s financial woes.