Former South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board chairperson Ben Ngubane went to great lengths on Friday to defend controversial SABC executive Hlaudi Motsoeneng and condemn former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s work.
Testifying in the parliamentary inquiry into the affairs of the SABC, Ngubane first took issue with the ad-hoc committee conducting the probe.
“My head was shaved in this House in my absence. You allowed people to comment on me without letting me know I should be here or send representatives.”
Ngubane told MPs he reserved the right to take legal action, should they make adverse findings against him.
Committee chairperson Vincent Smith told Ngubane that the inquiry was not focused on individuals, but on fixing the mess at the SABC.
“You’ve just sworn that you will answer all questions legally put to you, notwithstanding the reservations you have,” said Smith.
Turning to the public protector’s report, which made scathing findings against both Ngubane, questioning his leadership, and Motsoeneng, who was found to have lied about his matric qualifications, the former SABC board chairperson said Thuli Madonsela’s findings were not based on fact.
“This report is created out of statements I was not asked to corroborate,” he said
“If she [Madonsela] chooses to condemn me, that’s her choice … it’s not informed by fact.
“My view is this country is in trouble. People hate each other. They group people into camps, you are in the wrong camp, so I take you out, that’s how I view the public protector’s report.”
On the rise of Motsoeneng from producer of a current affairs show in the Free State to the position of chief operating officer, Ngubane said that despite his lack of formal qualifications, he was a skilled person.
“On the issue of matric, Hlaudi was appointed at SABC in 1995, Hlaudi had been street kid without parents, without a home. He reached level of matric, but he couldn’t finish that,” he said, adding that Motsoeneng’s information provided to the local radio station, Lesedi FM, had led to the news ratings improving dramatically.
“We took this person because of his skills and incorporated him into SABC.”
Ngubane contradicted the testimony of former acting chief executive, Phil Molefe, who told MPs Motsoeneng attended board meetings even though he was not a member, and that his salary was irregularly adjusted several times.
“He [Molefe] said some things that are not true at all.”
He insisted that Motsoeneng had been appointed as the board’s stakeholder relations and public relations officer, and defended several salary increases given to Motsoeneng. As acting chief operating officer, Motsoeneng’s salary had increased by 63%, something found to be irregular by the public protector.
“The SABC is audited by independent auditors and the Auditor General also came … none of the audit findings point to that as irregular as improper, wasteful and fruitless expenditure.”
Asked why he did not challenge the public protector’s report, Ngubane said it was not his responsibility but the SABC’s to take her report on review.
He was further asked whether it was because he did not care about the SABC and was in fact guilty of damaging the corporation.
“I did not cause damage at SABC. I saved the SABC. It was bankrupt when we [former board] came,” he said angrily.
“It was in a mess. We sat around trying to stop the haemorrhaging of money. There was huge theft going on, so don’t accuse me falsely of destroying the SABC.”
During his grilling session before the special parliamentary committee, Twitter users showed no mercy to Ngubane particularly his defiant stance.
Perhaps when Sis Faith said "uBaba loves him" she was talking about uBaba uBen Ngubane ????#SABCinquiry
— Prince Charles (@Prince_Tshalz) January 13, 2017
Vele was it necessary for a song that praised Hlaudi to be composed? At the expense of tax payers? #SABCinquiry
— Neo_Semoko (@Neo_Semoko) January 13, 2017
#SABCInquiry Dr Ngubane is emotional, I'm reminded by his outburst when Brian was accused of being captured.
— Fenna Senkhane (@Big_Feesh) January 13, 2017
— Cyber Malcolm (@Malcolm__Good) January 13, 2017
— Jack Devnarain (@JackD157) January 13, 2017
When asked about the Hlaudi praise song, Ben Ngubane starts rambling about "local content" ???????????? #SABCinquiry
— Public Protester (@Pasco_e) January 13, 2017