Not only were Multichoice staff forewarned of Yunus Carrim’s testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, but they were also instructed to not be distracted by the reports about the allegations and any associated commentary.
Fin24 reports that Calvo Mawela, CEO of the MultiChoice Group, issued the internal memo ahead of Tuesday’s proceedings.
The memo did not detail what the allegations were about but he told staff that the organisation preemptively and emphatically denies them.
“We have noted with disappointment the baseless allegations made by these [two] witnesses in their affidavits,” read part of the memo in reference to witnesses, who at the time were not identified to staff and affidavits that were not yet publicly available.
Staff were instead asked to “continue to deliver world-class service in order to delight our customers”.
Carrim, who is the former minister of communications, has since testified and called the 2013 merger between MultiChoice and the SABC “regulatory and policy capture”.
He told the commission that the agreement between the SABC and MultiChoice was signed about a week before he was appointed as minister of communications, a position he served in for 10 months between 2013 to 2014.
Carrim told Zondo that the encryption of set-top boxes in terms of the broadcasting digital migration policy was government policy first introduced and adopted by cabinet in 2008.
Through the policy, the government wanted to diversify, encourage competition, bring in African entrants and transform the pay-TV sector, which was monopolised by MultiChoice and Naspers, Carrim said.
However, he told the commission that stakeholders could not reach an agreement on the encryption of set-top boxes in terms of the broadcasting digital migration policy.
Carrim said that on the one side, e-tv had threatened to take the government to court if it did not proceed with encryption, while on the other side MultiChoice and other stakeholders threatened similar action if the government did.
Carrim took issue with an advertisement MultiChoice ran at the time which he said targeted him on the policy of encryption, saying the newspaper advertisements implied that the policy was solely his and that he represented e-TV’s interests.
Carrim said certain terms within the agreement between the public broadcaster and MultiChoice crippled the former.
He said he had gone through voluminous minutes to SABC board meetings and could not find a thing on where the board took a decision on signing the agreement with MultiChoice.
Carrim told the commission about rumours of his removal which started circulating months before he was actually removed as minister.
He told the commission that during a trip to Davos in January 2014, a businessman approached him to tell him that he would be removed because he was taking on a large corporation, Naspers, and its chair, Koos Bekker.
He said a number of people had conveyed to him that the then COO at SABC, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, had said that he would get rid of him, Carrim, as he had done with the board at the time.
Carrim told the commission that two weeks before he was removed as a minister, Motsoeneng and others allegedly held a party to celebrate the fact that he would not be reappointed.
Carrim said another issue with the agreement between the SABC and MultiChoice was that the latter was granted access to the archives of the public broadcaster with no apparent benefit to the corporation.
He said it was not only stunning that a decision was taken to forgo encryption without the board’s approval but that MultiChoice was granted access to the SABC’s archives.
Carrim said MultiChoice substantially reduced the monetary value of the SABC’s archives.
He said the problem was that a private corporation was deciding for the government and the SABC on forgoing policy on encryption, which he said amounts to “regulatory and policy capture”.
“This for me … is a very clear example of regulatory policy capture, whereby through irregular means you shape government policy,” said Carrim.
He said MultiChoice has never been able to give a clear answer on why encryption should be foregone.
(Compiled by Kaunda Selisho, additional reporting by Makhosandile Zulu)