We need to unlearn our ideas of corruption (and who fits the profile) in our thinking and understand where there are vested interests and where there is money to be made and more importantly lost, a convergence of interests will ultimately decide on policy and legislation which affects us all.
It has become clear in the past few weeks the role Naspers head honcho Koos Bekker has played in monopolising the digital television space and the lengths he has gone to and will go to defend his stranglehold.
Naspers is the parent company of MultiChoice, which has millions of subscribers in South Africa and across the African continent.
While the noise around State Capture has focused solely on one family, Bekker’s alleged actions – intimidation, threats and even coercion – have given pause for thought around how many others may be guilty of influencing policy and legislation.
Former communications minister Yunus Carrim was quoted in the media saying “that Bekker actively lobbied him to change government policy on digital migration to help ensure MultiChoice remained the only player in the pay television sector”.
Then there’s the relationship between former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and former MultiChoice chief executive officer Imtiaz Patel. Motsoeneng may have been a political appointment, but his corporate handlers clearly had more influence and sway in his decision-making processes and more so in the process of South Africa’s migration to digital television.
Naspers stands accused of paying the SABC R500-million and ANN7 millions to secure influence over the digital migration plan.
The widely publicised SABC board minutes dated 6 June 2013 “(suggested) that MultiChoice sought to pay the SABC R100-million for its 24-hour news channel in exchange for the public broadcaster’s political influence over digital migration”.
The minutes form part of hundreds of documents provided by the SABC in December 2016 to the ad hoc committee on the SABC Inquiry, and support allegations in media reports last week that Multichoice paid Gupta-owned ANN7 millions in exchange for similar influence over government’s position on set-top boxes.
The minutes reveal a “clandestine” meeting attended by former SABC board members and executives, including Ellen Tshabalala, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, Lulama Makhobo and Jimi Matthews, with the then CEO of Multichoice, Imtiaz Patel.
For several years the government had been trumpeting that every household in South Africa will have a set-top box which will enable the entire television watching population access to digital television and a wider choice of viewing options.
Recently, newly appointed Minister of Communications Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane sought to assure the South African public of the government’s commitment to digital migration.
“The reduction of the digital divide globally and especially in the African continent means that more and more people have access to information. The Department of Communications plays a leading role in the roll out of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), which is the migration of the country from analogue to digital broadcasting. The DTT will further help to narrow the digital divide. With increased number of people able to access information it should be easy for people to gain a greater understanding of science and health threats in their environment.”
This kind of nation-building talk by the minister does not interest the likes of Koos Bekker, whom Carrim in one interview described as someone who was starting to believe his own hype. An untouchable of sorts who did not want anyone playing in his digital television sandbox.
Said Carrim in a statement: “Mr Bekker conveniently forgets the meeting we had in Cape Town within a month of my appointment which he requested and MultiChoice CEO, Patel several times urged. Bekker’s main purpose was to persuade me about the folly of set top box encryption, and seemed irritated that I would not agree with him and chose instead to refer the conflicts about it to a mediation process to seek a compromise.
“Because Mr Bekker served on major government ICT panels and had done very well in media industry, he almost saw himself as an adviser to me as somebody new to the sector. And yet because of his vested profit and other interests in the pay-TV sector he obviously couldn’t play any such role. He seemed annoyed that I couldn’t see how brilliant he is.”
What (white) monopoly capital, right?
We need to unlearn our ideas of corruption (and who fits the profile) in our thinking and understand where there are vested interests and where there is money to be made and more importantly lost, a convergence of interests will ultimately decide on policy and legislation which affects us all. And not for the benefit of the many but for the few.
Long before the Mzi Kumalos, the Motsepses or the Guptas, the Bekkers, Ruperts, Wiese’s, et al of the world were wielding influence over government policy with their very wide pockets and veneer of accomplishment and status.
Their goal is not nation building, it is being disrupters, but in the worst possible way. They have been allowed to run roughshod over process and policy and continue to get away with it, using their wealth to pay off those with weak constitutions and weaker values.
They have to be stopped in their tracks if we are to imagine and realise a prosperous country, one we all share the same vision for and not just where the few continue to live large (sadly white) while the majority of our country stand at the shop window waiting for the crumbs (sadly black).
We have to take on these corporate behemoths and make them toe the line or we will continue to be unwitting victims to some of the greatest crimes to be perpetrated upon us as a society. DM
Matuba Meokgo is Secretary General of the ANC Women’s League