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Opinion

Focus on Africa: Guptas named in SABC mess

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Did South Africa's Gupta Brothers also "capture" the bankrupt SABC?

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The names of the powerful Guptas at the center of the State Capture scandal which caused the downfall of ousted President Jacob Zuma have emerged in the list of businessmen who fed fat on the bankrupt public SABC broadcaster.

City Press says the footprints of the Guptas appear in a trove of documents gathered during an audit carried out by the company’s board in 2017.

According to the newspaper, investigators are in possession of e-mails showing that the Gupta family had a substantial interest in the controversial 62 million-rand (3.7 million euros) Lornavision contract, awarded by the SABC without a tender in 2015.

Marianne Thamm is deputy editor of the South African Maverick newspaper based in Johannesburg. She told RFI that the rot at the embattled public broadcaster dates back to Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s time as CEO. “Motsoeneng left behind a deep financial hole which has forced the bankrupt SABC to shed almost 900 permanent jobs, while thousands working as freelance with the company haven’t been paid, Thamm said.

BusinessDay noted in an earlier report that the broadcaster, which recorded yet another staggering loss of R622m in the financial year, spends about R3bn a year to pay the salaries of just more than 3,000 employees.

 

Bankruptcy

Several South African media outlets blame flagrant spending on vanity projects, during Motsoeneng’s time for tipping the company over its assets by R1.8 billion.

The SABC is currently facing civil claims worth some 366 million rand (21 million euros) following its inability to settle its short-term obligations.

Even the Gupta’s Lornavision company was reportedly preparing to launch a counterclaim of R500 million (30 million euros), for lost income, defamation and theft of its intellectual property.

City Press says the company’s finances were in such shambles that the board had written to Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba to ask if they can partially pay their electricity bill so they can keep the lights on.

Earlier this month, Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams confirmed that the SABC’s new managers had applied for a R3 billion government guarantee and a R1.2 billion loan facility from Treasury.

The SABC’s new management informed the government early this month that they needed about R600 million to run the place until January when the board is due to vote on a new budget.

“Organic” intellectual

Meanwhile, in a damning editorial, Mail and Guardian holds that when Hlaudi Motsoeneng branded as an organic intellectual was ejected as the SABC’s CEO a decade ago, many though it was the signal that the company had turned the corner.

But as the publication puts it, what the country has witnessed since then is an experience in continued encroachment and total capture of the public broadcaster by corporate and political elite, a trend that has all but brought the SABC to its knees.

Santa Zuma

Another story trending in South Africa is about ex-President Jacob Zuma criticized by “Times Live” for not putting a damper on Nkandla festivals as his supporters scramble to raise funds to pay the massive legal bills of his graft trial.

Zuma hosted Christmas bashes near his KwaDakwadunuse private homestead in the village of KwaNxamala, including a party for senior citizens, followed by a “shindig” for children.

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