MultiChoice South Africa CEO Calvo Mawela has refuted allegations they lobbied for the Department of Communications under Faith Muthambi to have sole oversight on broadcasting matters.
This follows reports based on emails from the Gupta Leaks in which MultiChoice made recommendations to Muthambi regarding her powers as minister.
Mawela said that after President Jacob Zuma split the Ministry of Communications in two, with certain functions moved to the Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services, everyone in the industry was confused.
“It was like trying to unscramble a scrambled egg,” he said.
“We are in a converged industry, so everyone thought – what now?”
Support for unencrypted TV
When responsibility for the broadcasting sector was transferred to Muthambi, she fought against including encryption in government-subsidised digital TV set-top boxes.
MultiChoice had also campaigned against encryption, with Etv its arch rival in the battle.
Under Muthambi’s predecessor Dina Pule, the SABC had signed a deal with MultiChoice in which it pledged not to encrypt its digital signals.
According to reports, former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng signed the deal for a R33-million bonus.
Given MultiChoice’s anti-encryption stance, the revelations in the Gupta Leaks fueled speculation the company lobbied for Muthambi’s responsibilities so that she would champion its cause.
Mawela denied this, however.
Compounding matters was that after MultiChoice sent recommendations on policy to Muthambi, she reportedly forwarded them to known Gupta associate Ashu Chawla.
Chawla then forwarded them to Tony Gupta.
The exchange appeared to culminate in Muthambi sending through a new presidential proclamation in August 2014 with the message “See attached Proclamation that President must sign”.
Muthambi would reportedly send her messages to Chawla, who would forward them to Tony Gupta and President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane.
MultiChoice said it did not have any say in who Muthambi forwarded its recommendations to, and denied any involvement in the process.