The SABC's head of strategy, Sipho Sithole, faces allegations that his
private interests in the music and film industries conflict with his
role at the public broadcaster, writes Lloyd Gedye in the Mail & Guardian.

This follows the memorandum by "organised labour" addressed to acting SABC chief executive Gab Mampone that queried an alleged R42,6-million paid by the broadcaster to Sithole and an entity called Gemini Con­sulting. The unions also allege that the SABC paid Sithole's R18 000 cellphone bill, alleging he uses the phone for "personal business".

Sithole, a former deputy chief executive of Gallo Records, left to form Native Rhythms Records in 2005. He signed up award-winning artists, such as Siphokazi and Zuluboy, as well as focusing on films, documentaries, events and music publishing. When he became head of strategy and risk management at the SABC at the behest of then-chief executive Dali Mpofu, Sithole announced that Native Rhythms would be restructured to ensure that he gave up his share­holding and operational role.

But he is still listed as an active director of Native Rhythms, alongside his wife, Gabisile Sithole, the only other director. Both are shareholders.

In her representations to Parliament this month former SABC chairperson Khanyi Mkonza complained that members of the SABC executive had been blatant about using the corporation for their "own private benefit".

She referred to "a senior manager, who has business interests in the music industry and his influence on the music policy of the SABC and his role in the various music awards organised by the SABC — in particular the Metro Awards".

She said that "the pressure for board members to resign now could be linked to people inside and outside the SABC not wanting the board to deal with these acts of possible corruption".

As a senior manager at the SABC, Sithole was active in calling for the board to step down and for Mpofu's reinstatement. In June last year he read a statement to the media endorsing a memorandum signed by senior executives that called on the board to step down immediately, because it had lost its "moral authority and integrity to lead the SABC".

Approached this week, Sithole said there was no conflict of interest between his shareholding in Native Rhythms and his SABC position. He had declared it and said the broadcaster had not asked him to resign or sell his shares.

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