There has been no progress in replacing acting SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, new communications minister Faith Muthambi says. The problem with appointing a fulltime COO dates back to 2007 when Mvuzo Mbebe, who was tipped for the position by former SABC board chair Eddie Funde, but whose appointment was overturned by the next chair, Khanyi Mkhonza, has tied up the SABC in settlement negotiations.
But in March this year, former communications minister Yunus Carrim’s spokesman, Siya Qoza, said an out of court settlement with Mbebe was imminent. This would pave the way to finally appoint a desperately needed permanent COO to guide the troubled public broadcaster.
The Sunday Independent reported that Mbebe’s lawyer said the ball was in the minister and the department’s court and that the matter was close to being finalised. Qoza said Carrim wanted to settle within two weeks.
Now a reply to a parliamentary question from the DA’s communications spokesman, Gavin Davis, has revealed that this was not the case. Muthambi said the issue of Motsoeneng and Mbebe had not even been discussed.
“Given the public protector’s findings on Motsoeneng (Thuli Madonsela’s report, When Governance and Ethics Fail, exposed Motsoeneng as someone who “operated above the law” and was guilty of gross abuses of power), who has driven the SABC into the ground, I’m struggling to see why he’s still there,” Davis told The Media Online.
He said the SABC had hit “rock bottom” during Motsoeneng’s tenure, receiving a disclaimer of opinion from the Auditor-General and controversially banning opposition party adverts during the election campaign.
Davis said he had written to Muthambi to ask that the board immediately suspend Motsoeneng “until the deadlock has been resolved”.
Muthambi, in her reply, said, “The relevant parties together with the Ministry of Communications still needs to discuss the issue to find or establish a final settlement on the matter”.
In other words, said Davis, “no attempt has been made fill the position despite the Public Protector’s recommendation on 17 February that the Communications Minister ‘take urgent steps’ to replace Mr Motsoeneng within 90 days. We are now a month and half past the deadline, but no closer to resolving the deadlock that is keeping Mr Motsoeneng in his job.”
Davis said the public protector’s report made it clear Motsoeneng had no place at the SABC and that there was “every reason to relieve him of his duties”.
“Mr Motsoeneng has run the SABC into the ground and should never have been appointed in the first place. The longer it takes to replace him, the more obvious it is that he is keeping his job to ensure the SABC reports on the ‘good news’ that reflects positively on President Zuma’s record in government,” said Davis, adding that if Muthambi wanted allay fears that her department wasn’t a ministry of propaganda, she would suspend Motsoeneng “without delay”.
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