A judge in the Western Cape High Courts has ordered that the SABC’s chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, be suspended with immediate effect. Judge Ashton Scheepers found that the remedial action suggested by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in her report on the SABC, When Governance and Ethics Fail, could not be ignored.
DA communications spokesman, Gavin Davis, said the SABC is now compelled by the court to institute disciplinary hearings within 14 days which must be concluded within 60 days, as instructed to do by Advocate Madonsela in February this year. Davis said it was “significant” that Judge Scheepers ordered that an “independent person” must preside over the disciplinary proceedings. “We will be watching closely to ensure that whoever is appointed to head the proceedings is indeed impartial,” he said.
Davis said the DA was “delighted” with the judgment. “We have argued all along that the Public Protector’s damning findings against Mr Motsoeneng could not be ignored. The Public Protector found that he had lied about having a matric certificate, purged staff members perceived as disloyal to him and fraudulently inflated salaries (including his own – from R1.5 million to R2.4-million in one year),” he said.
“The judgment is a resounding victory for every person who values our constitutional democracy and independent public broadcasting. The suspension of Mr Motsoeneng is an opportunity to start getting the SABC back on track,” said Davis in a statement.
Today’s judgment was only the first part of the DA’s Motsoeneng application. There is still a review application to have the chief operating officer’s appointment declared invalid on the grounds that it was irrational and unlawful, Davis said.
“Mr Motsoeneng is bad news for the SABC and bad news for South Africa. He is a key figure in the ongoing ‘Zumafication’ of the public broadcaster and has been protected and promoted despite several findings against him. We hope that the SABC will see this as an opportunity to finally hold Mr. Motsoeneng accountable for his actions,” said Davis.
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago told The Media Online the broadcaster would “study the judgment first before making any comment”.
Earlier this week, SABC board chairperson Ellen Tshabalala avoided an inquiry into her qualifications – or alleged lack of them – by interdicting parliament and preventing the portfolio committee on communications from proceeding. She has firmly defended Motsoeneng, saying he hadn’t misled the SABC over his qualifications, that he was honest and not responsible for irregular spending.
The SABC’s latest annual report received a disclaimer from the auditor general, who found irregular expenditure totaling over R3.3 billion under Motsoeneng’s watch.
Read Professor Pierre de Vos’s analysis of the judgment on Daily Maverick here.
Note: Story updated with SABC comment.
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