Former employee sues SABC for R262 million

Former employee sues SABC for R262 million

Former head of legal affairs Mafika Sihlali is suing the SABC, as well as three former senior executives, for R262 million in damages, reports City Press.

The suit is in relation to a 12-year criminal trial incurred by Sihlali, which he claims has reduced his capacity to make an income.

Sihlali alleges that ex-CEO Robin Nicholson, former head of internal audits Elsje Oosthuizen, and ex-company secretary Ramani Naidoo launched a smear campaign against him after he investigated an irregular contract worth R32 million that was awarded to Tata Consulting in 2006.

SABC group executive of corporate affairs and marketing Gugu Ntuli confirmed that the SABC received a summons from Sihlali.

Gugu Ntuli, SABC group executive of corporate affairs and marketing

Sihlali alleges that Nicholson, Oosthuizen, and Naidoo “maliciously colluded with the members of the SA Police Service and the members of the National Prosecuting Authority based on the incomplete investigation report and without the authority of the audit sub-committee of the first defendant [SABC].”

He claims this was done “to commence malicious and irregular criminal proceedings against the plaintiff [Sihlali], despite the fact that there was no authority given by the board of the SABC to lay any charges against him, and there was no criminal complaint lodged by a duly authorised agent and/or by any official or representative of the SABC at any police station.”

The R262 million that Sihlali has claimed comprises the following expenses:

  • R250,000 – Past medical expenses.
  • R500,000 – Future medical expenses.
  • R150 million – Future loss of earning capacity.
  • R500,000 – Unlawful arrest and detention:.
  • R30 million – General damages for trauma, pain and suffering.
  • R50 million – Loss of the enjoyment of the amenities of life.
  • R31 million – Consequential damages.

SABC turns a corner

Earlier this month, the SABC told MyBroadband that a reworking of its advertising sales was a key reason it was able to turn its first monthly profit in five years.

The SABC’s financial woes have been well-publicised, and have even seen it become the beneficiary of government bailouts in the past.

For example, the public broadcaster reported a R511-million loss in the 2019/2020 financial year.

However, following its first monthly profit in years, the SABC is optimistic about the future.

Ntuli told MyBroadband the success was due to an extended period of hard work, as well as sticking to the SABC’s 3-year turnaround plan.

“We have been focusing on four key areas — financial sustainability and governance, content, HR, and digitisation,” said Ntuli.

“Activities in these key areas have culminated into revenue generation and profit made in April.”

The SABC has publicly predicted that it will achieve its first yearly profit in 2023.

TV licences still a problem

Despite this good financial progress, the SABC continues to push for new legislation aimed at increasing compliance with TV licence collections.

SABC CFO Yolande van Biljon told Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications last month that the TV licence fee “evasion rate” is 76%.

The SABC therefore wants South Africans to pay TV licences for laptops, tablets, and DStv decoders, while it has also considered the option of forcing MultiChoice to collect TV licence fees.

Another idea that has been met with resistance is that the current TV licence system be replaced with a tech-neutral household levy for public broadcasting.

“The household levy is founded on the fact that every single South African household has the realistic ability to access public broadcasting content,” the SABC argued.