Former SABC CEO James Aguma, right, and Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Picture: THE TIMES
Former SABC CEO James Aguma, right, and Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Picture: THE TIMES

The SABC interim board has commenced legal action to recover money from ousted executives Hlaudi Motsoeneng and James Aguma, Parliament heard on Tuesday.

Delivering a progress report to MPs on the recommendations of the ad hoc committee that investigated the crisis at the SABC, interim board chairwoman Khanyisile Kweyama said the broadcaster was looking to withhold pension payments due to Aguma and Motsoeneng.

"Proceedings have commenced to exercise a lien over pension payments due to Aguma and Motsoeneng, and arrangements are under way to institute urgent legal action if necessary," Kweyama said.

The pensions would be withheld pending the conclusion of any legal processes.

The two former executives and other senior managers have been blamed for the enormous losses incurred by the SABC in recent years. Motsoeneng’s 90% local music policy had cost the public broadcaster R212m, according to unaudited figures, Kweyama said.

She said that although there was no evidence that Aguma had received irregular payments from the SABC, the board was seeking legal advice on whether he, former board members and other executives could be held liable for "knowingly participating in the making of decisions which are contrary to the policies of the SABC and principles of corporate governance".

Motsoeneng had received irregular bonus payments and the interim board sought to recover the money.

The R11m bonus payment he received for orchestrating the controversial deal with pay TV company MultiChoice had been referred to the Special Investigating Unit, Kweyama said.

The R533m deal with MultiChoice, which was signed in 2013, gave the private broadcaster access to the SABC’s entire archive. Under the deal, the SABC agreed to supply two new channels to MultiChoice: a 24-hour news channel and an entertainment channel called SABC Encore.

A condition of the deal was that the SABC support MultiChoice’s proposal to have set-top boxes, meant to be introduced as part of the government’s digital migration programme, encryption-free.

Kweyama said the deal was being reviewed "on the grounds that the important aspects of it are a disadvantage to the SABC and are not in public interests".

She also said the SABC was expecting a decision on its government guarantee request to the Treasury within the next few days. The SABC needed a government guarantee of about R1bn to stay afloat.

The portfolio committee on communications is to begin the processes of short-listing candidates for the 12 permanent positions on the SABC board next week. The interim board’s term ends in September. Committee chairman Humphrey Maxegwana said 362 applications had been received.

DA MP and communications spokeswoman Phumzile van Damme said the high number of applications showed that the interim board was doing a good job of cleaning up the SABC.

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