The SABC has ‘released’ its controversial acting chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, from his duties in what many believe is an unexpected move. Motsoeneng was expected to be appointed to the job in a permanent capacity.
The public broadcaster’s group spokesman, Kaizer Kganyago didn’t give much detail in a statement released late on Tuesday afternoon.
“The SABC board has announced that Hlaudi Motsoeneng will be released from his duties as acting chief operations officer. Motsoeneng will revert to his position as group executive: provinces,” he said, without offering the reasons behind the decision.
The Media Workers Association of South Africa (MWASA) said it welcomed the SABC board’s decision, but said it bemoaned the “instalment of yet another acting COO in an institution that has failed to rise above its debilitating self-destructive tendencies”.
MWASA said the SABC board itself was dysfunctional, and that its “Band-Aid patchwork” way of trying to resolve the broadcaster’s woes wasn’t working as it continued to “bleed profusely”. It said the board itself should take full responsibility for “imposing the tenure” of Motsoeneng on the SABC.
Motsoeneng’s reign as COO has been clouded by one controversy after another, including that he was seen as President Jacob Zuma’s “enforcer” within the SABC. First off, his CV was called into question as he did not have a matric, and had faked it to reflect that he had. The SABC was exposed as having changed its advertisement for the job of COO from requiring a matric, to not.
But it was his outright censorship of the public broadcaster’s news and current affairs that aroused the ire of civil society, unions and even the SABC’s own staff, which felt he compromised their ability to report fairly. The notorious decision to pull a Metro FM talk show on the road to the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung made headlines, and threw the SABC into a most unfavourable light. He defended the decision, saying the show did not meet the SABC’s editorial policy of “balance and fairness”. ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, said it was a “dumb” decision.
He was also responsible for removing a humorous fish and chips advertisement that played on President Jacob Zuma’s large family from being flighted. He also launched what staff called a “witch hunt” in an attempt to find out who was leaking unfavourable information about him to the press. In November, he issued an internal instruction to convert surplus freelancers into full time employees at a time when the SABC was supposed to be reducing its headcount.
DA spokeswoman on communications, Marian Shinn, told TimesLive Motsoeneng’s removal was “the best news to come out of the SABC in years. Hopefully it’s a start for the SABC in getting rational management”.
MWASA is not convinced. It wants the board to take “more than the inconvenience of limited vicarious responsibility and liability for presiding over such a disastrous period in the history of the SABC. The considerable cumulative collateral damage of the decision by this Board to unleash their favourite and preferred action-man on the operations of the SABC must be accounted for,” said secretary general, Tuwani Gumani.
“To restore faith in the SABC, MWASA calls for full-measure remedial action including urgent consideration of the proposal to place the SABC under administration,” he said.
Kganyago said the position of acting COO would be filled by veteran newsman, Mike Siluma. He said, “The board would like to thank Mr Motsoeneng for his contribution during his time as acting COO. We would like to assure the public that the process of appointing a permanent COO will be concluded once all the legal impediments that have thus far prevented the SABC from making the appointment is resolved.”