Suspended SABC acting CEO James Aguma has resigned – a move which saw the public broadcaster drop all charges against him. By NEWS24
Chairperson of the disciplinary hearings into Aguma’s conduct, Taki Madima announced the resignation during the fifth day of his disciplinary hearings in Sandton, north of Johannesburg, on Wednesday.
Aguma was facing 10 charges, namely breaching his contract, dishonesty and frustrating the disciplinary hearings of axed SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng. The charges would be dropped once he tendered his resignation.
Aguma’s lawyer, Osborne Molatudi‚ said his client had tendered his resignation and the SABC would withdraw all charges against him.
On Tuesday Aguma lost his application to have the hearings set aside.
Aguma was suspended in May from the public broadcaster for allegedly lying to the interim board about Motsoeneng’s disciplinary hearing for misconduct over a fiery press conference in April.
Aguma allegedly provided an affidavit in Motsoeneng’s misconduct case that said that the board did not take a resolution to discipline Motsoeneng – yet he was believed to have attended the board meeting where the decision was taken. He apparently supported the decision at the time.
The second reason for Aguma’s suspension was because he said he gave Motsoeneng permission to hold the press conference. He, however, denied giving permission when he was asked by the board and Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications.
Motsoeneng was found guilty of bringing the SABC into disrepute and causing irreparable damage to his employer by an internal disciplinary hearing in June and was subsequently fired.
The standing committee on public accounts has labelled Aguma’s resignation as an “admission of guilt”.
Scopa chairperson Themba Godi said the committee was “shocked” by Aguma’s resignation on Wednesday, before his disciplinary proceedings concluded.
“Scopa takes this as admission of guilt for the financial mess that the SABC finds itself in,” Godi said in a statement.
“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.”
Godi said the committee believed some officials, including Aguma, have a further case to answer following an internal audit report on “evergreen contracts” at the broadcaster.
The committee called on the internal forensic audit unit of the SABC and the Special Investigating Unit (SUI) to expedite their processes so that those who are liable can be held to account for the irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
Godi also congratulated the SABC interim board for its relentless effort to “clean the SABC and to end the impunity that wrongdoers like Mr Aguma have enjoyed for so long”.
Communications portfolio committee chairperson Humphrey Maxegwana, however, said earlier on Wednesday that the committee “would have loved for Mr Aguma to stay in order for the disciplinary process to continue so that he can have an opportunity to clear his name”.
“The committee will await the reasons of Mr Aguma’s resignation from the SABC interim board,” he said, calling it “untimely”.
Commenting on the development, the DA said Aguma’s “convenient exit” reiterates the urgent need for the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to table the report into those who lied during Parliament’s SABC Inquiry.
“The report, compiled by Parliament’s Legal Services Unit, identifies ‘the persons who misled the inquiry or provided false information or false testimony with the aim of criminal charges being laid’. (National Assembly speaker Baleka) Mbete has steadfastly refused to table the report, which she received on 5 June 2017; instead, she has ‘(written) to individuals cited on the list, inviting them to make submissions by the end of July on the serious allegations they face’,” the DA said, adding that they were in doubt that Aguma was named in the report. DM
Photo: James Aguma, SABC’s Chief Financial Officer and acting Chief Executive Officer. (Ugandan Diaspora)