SABC board chairwoman Ellen Tshabalala has extended chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s power to act as chief executive officer of the public broadcaster until the end of December. The move follows earlier reports that the controversial COO was standing in for acting CEO, Anton Heunis, who is ill.
DA shadow minister of communications, Gavin Davis, says the decision to do so is “obviously irrational”.
“The courts have ordered that Motsoeneng should be suspended and disciplined for the Public Protector’s various findings of fraud and mismanagement against him. Instead, Tshabalala has given Motsoeneng total control of the administration of the SABC, including budgets and senior appointments,” Davis said in a statement.
Davis said the issue is “particularly problematic” because the SABC is busy recruiting a number of senior executives including head of news, head of sport and head of stakeholder relations. “The Public Protector found that Motsoeneng had a history of favouring allies and purging opponents at the SABC. We expect that he will now use his authority as CEO to appoint his loyalists to these key positions,” he said.
“It is also alarming that, as acting CEO, Motsoeneng is now the editor in chief of the SABC. In other words, a man who believes that journalists should be licensed, and that there should be a 70% ‘good news’ quota, now has the absolute power to make editorial decisions at our public broadcaster,” Davis added.
Tshabalala herself is also facing charges of fraud for allegedly lying about having various degrees listed on her curriculum vitae. She faces on inquiry on 3 December after initially going to court to prevent the hearing.
But Davis says her decision to delegat authority to Motsoeneng “adds further weight to the Communications Portfolio Committee recommendation that Tshabalala should be suspended pending the outcome of her own fraud Inquiry. She is clearly unable to make rational decisions in the public interest at this juncture”.
Davis said the Democratic Alliance would ask President Zuma to “immediately act on the Portfolio Committee’s recommendation to suspend Ellen Tshabalala. We need to break this unholy alliance between Tshabalala and Motsoeneng without delay”.
The bottom line, he said, is that “neither Tshabalala nor Motsoeneng should be in office making decisions that affect the future of the SABC”.
IMAGE: Tshabalala’s order delegating CEO authority to Motsoeneng