WITH the SABC drowning in debt, the corporation's interim board is desperately trying to renegotiate a billion-rand deal signed for the TV rights to all games of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in the next eight years, writes Glynis Underhill in the Mail & Guardian.

It remains unclear what CAF games are at issue. The existence of the contract was revealed by interim board member Leslie Sedibe at a hearing of Parliament's communications committee on Tuesday. However, the Mail & Guardian is the first to disclose its precise nature.

The contract price paid was allegedly not authorised by the former SABC board. It was signed by Mvuzo Mbebe, the group executive for content enterprises, who was recently suspended by the interim board.

Mbebe signed the contract at the end of last year and allegedly agreed to a guarantee exceeding R500-million. It was signed at a time of mounting SABC debt and when senior executives had been briefed twice about the financial crisis at the public broadcaster.

Telling Parliament that the interim board had uncovered the billion-rand contract this week, Sedibe described it as "shocking".

"It's a sports contract that we are investigating," he told journalists, who swamped him after he had dropped what he described as a "bombshell". "We would have preferred to pay a lesser price." He declined to name the contract, saying negotiations were under way.

SABC sources said the corporation's chief financial officer, Robin Nicholson, had repudiated the deal. Nicholson has also been suspended.

Mbebe and Nicholson flew to Paris in February this year to renegotiate the contract, signed with SportFive, CAF's agents. It is understood that the guarantee was dropped and the terms of payment renegotiated.

Mbebe could not be reached for comment, but after the announcement in Parliament he is understood to have slapped a court order on the SABC, demanding copies of all sports rights records dating back to 2004.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Mail & Guardian Online.