2019-06-04 14:30

Following the testimony of news channel ANN7’s former editor Rajesh Sundaram, the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture heard evidence from an ex-SABC staffer who said there was no way of telling if ANN7 used more SABC archive footage than they declared.

WATCH LIVE: State Capture Inquiry 

(Courtesy of SABC) 

Former ANN7 editor Rajesh Sundaram at the judicial


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Scott’s testimony hasn’t really helped establish whether or not there was any undeclared usage of SABC archive footage by ANN7, as Scott confirmed that there were no mechanisms in place to monitor the use of footage. 

Scott is excused and thanked for his time. 

Zondo suggests that maybe the commission’s legal team could investigate with other TV stations, including international TV stations, as to what measures they have in place. 

There are no further witnesses today, and Zondo adjourns proceedings for the day.

Proceedings will resume at 10:00 tomorrow morning.

Zondo is currently going back and forth with Scott, trying to establish what measures were in place, or could be put in place, to determine how many times a client, such as ANN7, had used archived footage from the SABC. 

Scott essentially says there is no way to really establish how many minutes of footage had been used, and they depended on the honesty of their clients in declaring how much footage they had used. 

Proceedings resume after the lunch adjournment, with Advocate Norman still leading Scott’s evidence. 

SABC sold 100 hours of footage to ANN7 for ‘peanuts’, Zondo commission hears

Former ANN7 editor Rajesh Sundaram, who was tasked with kick-starting the channel, has told the Zondo commission that the station obtained 100 hours of archived footage from the SABC at a “throwaway price”.

Sundaram was testifying for a second day at the commission of inquiry into state capture on Tuesday.  

He told inquiry chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that, when he helped set up the station, he had concerns that a new station needed footage.

He claimed that Infinity Media shareholder Laxmi Goel had told him that the Gupta brothers and former CEO of Oakbay Investments, Nazeem Howa, had a “very sweet” deal with the SABC. 

Zondo and Norman agree to take the lunch break. Zondo calls for the adjournment. Back at 14:00.

Zondo raises the fact that Howa, on behalf of ANN7, did not request a discount. 

Scott says they gave them a discount anyway, because they’d rather do that, than lose the business.

Scott says in the case of ANN7, the SABC charges “R2 000 per 30 seconds, copyright”. 

Norman: “So these are your competitors?”

Scott: “That is our competitors.”

Scott talks about being contacted by Nazeem Howa, regarding archival material for ANN7, and eventually meeting with him. Scott goes into much detail about the nature of selling archival and stock footage. 

Scott says he left the SABC at the end of April last year, after his contract was not renewed (after 25 years with the public broadcaster).

Scott’s evidence will also be led by Advocate Norman. She confirms with Norman that the statement before him was written and signed by him. 

The next witness, former SABC employee Josias Johannes Scott, is now being sworn in ahead of his testimony.

Sundaram is now excused by Zondo, who thanks him for taking the time to come and testify at the commission. 

Sundaram, in turn, thanks Zondo for allowing him to come and testify about the things he has been trying say for the past six years. 

The legal team will now prepare for the next witness, and a five-minute adjournment is called.

Sundaram says he is willing to stay an extra day to testify at the commission to allow Williams to cross-examine him, if he wants to. 

Williams has submitted an affidavit but doesn’t wish to testify or cross-examine Sundaram.

Sundaram says Moegsien Williams’ “affidavit is a bunch of half-truths and lies”. He says the meetings which happened in July and August have records, CCTV footage. He stands by his position.

In the affidavit referred to by Advocate Norman, Williams, the former editorial director of ANN7, denied most of the allegations in Sundaram’s affidavit to the commission.

Zondo reads the excerpt from the book: “Atul Gupta said, ‘President Zuma is on our side, he knows our family and we helped him when he was down and out. He will help us through this as well. You know, top ministers of the Zuma cabinet attended the wedding, this is a direct endorsement for us. The personnel against whom action has been taken will be reinstated very soon. We are an influential family here, and no one can point fingers at us,’ Atul boasted…”

Zondo seeks clarification from Sundaram, asks if Atul Gupta said this to him, word-for-word. Sundaram says it’s not word-for-word, but it’s something that he told him many times during their interactions over the months he was working at ANN7.

Back from the break, Zondo once again draws attention to something in Sundaram’s book.

Zondo calls for the short, morning adjournment. Back in 15mins.

Sundaram says that Laxmi Goel was paying the workers, who were constructing the look and feel of the station, in cash right in front of him, and this is a violation of both South African and Indian law.

Sundaram: “Also, I was told on multiple occasions that they would use the president’s office to pressure DStv to give them the slot that they wanted, which was 404. This was something that I was told repeatedly. And we had multiple meetings with DStv at their office, and at every time the level of progress, of the installation technology, the information that we were giving them, was all wrong, and we were many many days, many weeks, behind schedule.”

Sundaram brings his testimony back to the day of ANN7’s launch, about how some technical equipment was still being installed on the day of the launch. “So there was a whole lot of lying which we were required to do when we went to the DStv meetings,” says Sundaram. 

Sundaram says they were forced to go to technical meetings with DStv and “with a straight face” would have to tell them lies about how they were at a very “advanced stage” and they were already doing 24-hour news bulletins. 

Sundaram reads from an email from September 2013 that spoke of a “cover-up” operation by the Guptas and others to hide the tracks of the visa fraud.

Sundaram: “I was told later that Ashu Chawla, through the offices of the president, could give any number of visas, to any number of people. So if it works out cheaper for them to fly people down by the plane load from India, to construct here, that’s what they would do, rather than pay salaries here.”

Sundaram: “Mr Gupta also had a lot of uncharitable things to say about workers here – he said they were lazy, they would work a certain number of hours, if he asked them to work overnight, they wouldn’t do that. They wouldn’t stay at the site and work. So just get people from India and let them stay at the site, give them very basic facilities, give them a sack of rice to cook onsite, supply them some meals from the guesthouse and put them in…I would call them sub-human conditions in which they were working.”

Sundaram says that’s when he found out that these kinds of violations were taking place in South Africa. 

Sundaram: “There was very basic facilities for toilets and washrooms… this Nepali national would cook for them, and the drivers would ferry the food to those people. And also, I remember Ajay Gupta and others complaining about how those people have, a large number of them, were coming to The New Age office to use the washrooms.”

Sundaram: “So, on the one hand, you don’t provide them enough washrooms at site, and when they come to the office, there is a total amount of disgust that he would talk about…”

Sundaram: “So they would sleep at site, they would work at site, they would be working 24 hours, there were no labour laws that were applicable to those people. And in my view, why when there is abundant supply of skilled and unskilled labour for construction in South Africa, why would they get these people from there?”

Sundaram again mentions the Nepali national working at the Gupta-owned guesthouse where he stayed when he first came to SA. The Nepali national would not get paid, but would have to do housework and cook for dozens of people. 

Sundaram says the Nepali national told him about the working conditions he and other labourers were put in, that were “sub-human”…

“The labourers would come from India on tourist visas,” Sundaram says, and they were staying at the studio while they were constructing it.

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