SABC wastes millions in world Cup bungle

WITH only 48 days to go before the World Cup kicks off, heads are expected to roll at the SABC after officials failed to secure a venue from where the soccer spectacle will be broadcast to millions of viewers throughout Africa.

WITH only 48 days to go before the World Cup kicks off, heads are expected to roll at the SABC after officials failed to secure a venue from where the soccer spectacle will be broadcast to millions of viewers throughout Africa.

This follows a bungle by SABC officials who failed to secure the Nasrec Exhibition Centre for R3,8million.

Now the national broadcaster is expected to pay R26million for the Sandton Convention Centre as an alternative venue.

SABC chief executive officer Solly Mokoetle is so angry he is threatening to "chop off some heads" because of the saga.

Internal SABC documents in Sowetan's possession reveal that SABC producers told their bosses a year ago that Johannesburg's Nasrec centre should be used as broadcasting headquarters.

But former group executive of content enterprise Mvuso Mbebe said the R3,8million price tag was too high and cancelled the plans.

Ten months later, in February this year, SABC executives changed their minds but by then Nasrec was fully booked.

The SABC then allegedly sublet space at the Sandton Convention Centre through a "contact" of Peter Kwele, head of SABC's 2010 project unit.

A deal was struck. SABC would give Kwele's "contact" advertising worth R1million in exchange for the venue. But last week the fee mysteriously shot up to R26million.

The documents reveal that SABC producers were given the go-ahead to work with a budget of R87million - R1million of which would cover the venue fee - and began all the technical work to get the venue ready.

But now the SABC has a shortfall of R25million.

Sowetan sources said the SABC's general operating budget does not have a spare R25million to cover the unexpected increase.

The source said the SABC was likely to borrow the money using its government guarantee.

Last year, when the SABC admitted that it was R800million in debt, the government gave it a R1,5billion guarantee so that it could borrow money from banks.

Sandton Convention Centre management yesterday declined to comment.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the SABC did not wish to divulge operational plans (including the financial resources), "as it will be tantamount to exposing ourselves to competitors".

Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda's spokesperson, Tiyani Rikhotso, said "nothing to that effect has been communicated to us".

Rikhotso said the SABC's plans to broadcast the World Cup were on track, as far as he knew.

Government spokesperson Themba Maseko said the cabinet was also not aware that the SABC was experiencing hiccups.

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