Dr Jack & Curtis cartoon on Radio 702's EyewitnessNews (EWN)
Jackson Mthembu, the ANC political party's chief whip on Tuesday called for an urgent parliamentary investigation into media conglom Naspers and its pay-TV unit MultiChoice amidst a growing scandal of allegations regarding improper corporate influence by the pay-TV company on South Africa's digital TV process.
Naspers and MultiChoice are increasingly mired in a barrage of damaging news headlines and revelations regarding MultiChoice's alleged undue corporate influence on the controversial Gupta family's ANN7 (DStv 405) channel and the SABC to allegedly help influence the South African government's policy on digital TV in MultiChoice's favour.
Jackson Mthembu, the ANC communications committee chairperson, addressed journalist at the ANC's Luthuli House headquarters on Tuesday afternoon ahead of the political party’s 54th national elective conference.
"The matter should be investigated and all those who might have done things not in accordance with our stated objectives must be called to account after a proper investigation," Jackson Mthembu said.
"Now if we want to call that state capture, I have no problem."
"If you want to benefit and you then want to influence government policy towards your benefit as a private citizen or corporate citizen, indeed you might be trying to capture the state for your benefit," Jackson Mthembu said.
At issue is whether the media conglom's lucrative pay-TV unit is or was involved in undue pressure to get the controversial Gupta family through their ANN7 channel, and the SABC, to exercise pressure in return for getting their TV news channels carried on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform.
Explosive, leaked meeting transcripts between MultiChoice and the South African public broadcaster the SABC, as well as #GuptaLeaks contracts between MultiChoice and the controversial ANN7 D(Stv 405) channel showing massive payments from DStv to the Guptas, have raised multiple serious questions over corporate impropriety.
MultiChoice told the SABC it would pay the broadcaster R100 million for the SABC News channel but but only on the strict must-have contract clause condition that the SABC must support MultiChoice's stance on conditional access (CA) for digital television.
MultiChoice also dramatically upped its payments from R50 million per year to R100 million per year and then R141 million per year, as well as a questionable, additional R25 million payment to the Guptas for the low-rated, bad quality, mistake-filled and often criticised ANN7.
MultiChoice is paying ANN7 more despite its barely there low ratings than eNCA (DStv 403) that has more than 50% of the overall TV news audience share.
It's all created the perception that MultiChoice has paid kickbacks to both the SABC and ANN7 to use its influence to get set-top box (STB) encryption dropped from government-subsidised STBs in the switch to digital terrestrial television (DTT).
MultiChoice and Naspers that have denied the kickbacks allegations and have been very slow to respond to the growing avalanche of criticism and calls for parent company Naspers and its chairperson Koos Bekker and CEO Bob van Dijk - not MultiChoice - to launch an independent investigation into the shocking allegations.
On Tuesday Naspers shares tumbled 4% on news that the United States law firm, Pomerantz - specialising in class action securities law suits - has started its own investigation into possible Naspers securities fraud and other unlawful business practices.