Business & Finance

Secret Dealings Lead to Sacking of Top SABC Executives

The SABC has terminated the employment of COO Ian Plaatjies and Head of Video Entertainment Mervin Naicker following a disciplinary hearing. The dismissal stems from their involvement in concealing a multimillion-dollar profit-sharing deal on a digital contract.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) recently announced the termination of two senior executives, Ian Plaatjies and Mervin Naicker, following a disciplinary process. Plaatjies, who had been the Chief Operating Officer since November 2019, and Naicker, head of video entertainment, were both implicated in concealing a lucrative profit-sharing arrangement involving the public broadcaster’s digital platform.

In a statement, acting SABC executive for corporate affairs and marketing, Mmoni Seapolelo, confirmed the dismissals, stating, “The board has duly considered the findings and recommendations of the report by an independent chairperson and decided to release Mr. Plaatjies from his duties as the SABC’s COO with immediate effect. The SABC can also confirm that the group executive for video entertainment, Mr. Merlin Naicker, is also released from his duties with immediate effect after a disciplinary hearing.”

The dismissals are tied to a secret 7.5% profit-share deal with Discover Digital, the company managing SABC’s video streaming service, SABC+. Plaatjies and Naicker were suspended in February, alongside the resignation of Reginald Nxumalo, head of advertising sales. An internal audit and legal advice from Werksmans law firm revealed that the executives had failed to disclose the profit-sharing agreement, misrepresenting it to the SABC’s executive committee.

According to a City Press report, the internal audit concluded that the executives deliberately concealed the profit-sharing clause from the committee, misleading them to believe that the SABC would receive 100% of the advertising revenue from SABC+. The Werksmans report indicated a prima facie case of gross dishonesty against Plaatjies, Naicker, and Nxumalo.

The SABC holds a R35 million contract with Discover Digital, renewable for five years, for the management of SABC+. The business plan presented to the SABC’s executive committee projected an initial revenue of between R100 million and R200 million. However, the concealed agreement, which was only discovered during the contract drafting process, allocated 7.5% of the advertising revenue to Discover Digital, above their quoted fees.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) has welcomed the dismissals amidst their ongoing struggle for salary increases. Nathan Bower, CWU national bargaining coordinator, criticized the SABC for pleading financial hardship while failing to hold accountable those responsible for the concealed profit arrangement and other financial mismanagement issues.

“The plundering of the financial resources of the SABC through shady contracts and unaccounted fruitless and wasteful expenditure every financial year cannot continue and be used as an excuse,” Bower stated.

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