Hlaudi the politi­cian?

CityPress - - News - CHARL BLIGNAUT charl.blignaut@city­press.co.za

Sus­pended SABC chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng this week made a last-ditch at­tempt to cling to his job ahead of his loom­ing dis­ci­plinary hear­ing.

Sur­rounded by sym­pa­thetic mu­si­cians, who spoke for an hour be­fore he could start his marathon press con­fer­ence live on SABC news, the oc­ca­sion felt like a road­show; an epic praise poem; a trib­ute con­cert with opening acts.

It was also Mot­soe­neng’s ap­par­ent pitch for a high-pro­file career in pol­i­tics, should the hear­ing not go his way. And it won’t – not this time. Mot­soe­neng can’t sur­vive the SABC in­terim board’s man­date from the par­lia­men­tary ad hoc com­mit­tee to im­ple­ment its rec­om­men­da­tions, among them the find­ings of a three-year-old Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor re­port call­ing for his cen­sure for ly­ing about his qual­i­fi­ca­tions, and hugely in­flat­ing his and his clos­est al­lies’ salaries. He’s cur­rently earn­ing R350 000 a month to stay at home. Word on the board is that it’s over.

Mot­soe­neng also no longer has the un­con­di­tional pro­tec­tion of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter. Faith Muthambi has moved on and Ayanda Dlodlo, say in­sid­ers, is not back­ing what is patently a los­ing horse.

The press con­cert was more of the same cult of the per­son­al­ity stuff from the grand blesser of the air­waves. Build­ing his mythol­ogy, Mot­soe­neng and his al­lies ob­fus­cated on every level, pre­sent­ing se­lec­tive truths and pop­ulist rhetoric.

We saw mu­si­cians singing his praises for im­ple­ment­ing a 90% lo­cal con­tent quota on ra­dio – but what we didn’t see is that the same mu­si­cians are owed an es­ti­mated R400 mil­lion by the SABC, which has not paid mu­sic rights in some­thing like seven years – five of them on Mot­soe­neng’s watch.

Ev­ery­body wants lo­cal con­tent and a thriv­ing lo­cal cul­ture, but Mot­soe­neng did not com­mis­sion a risk anal­y­sis be­fore he uni­lat­er­ally im­ple­mented his new quo­tas, which added R50 mil­lion a month to the TV pro­duc­tion bill be­cause lo­cal con­tent is ex­pen­sive.

He was ad­vised at the time to phase in­creased lo­cal con­tent in and buffer the SABC’s cof­fers, but he ham­mered his pol­icy home and lost the mar­ket in­stead.

On Wed­nes­day, he laughed off sug­ges­tions that the 90% pol­icy had hurt ra­dio, saying there was only a 1% or 2% au­di­ence drop-off. What he didn’t tell us was how the un­ex­pected new lo­cal con­tent sched­ules caused ad­ver­tis­ers to with­draw and rev­enue to plunge. Nor did he speak about the mas­sive le­gal bill that was ac­cu­mu­lated af­ter hound­ing sus­pected whistle-blow­ers from the build­ing; the tens of mil­lions of rands spent on ques­tion­able con­sul­tants; and the mil­lions he paid him­self in bonuses.

In fact, he claimed that he left the SABC with plenty of money in the bank, and said there would have been no fi­nan­cial cri­sis, no staff lay-offs and no un­paid pro­duc­ers if he was still there. Months of in­ves­ti­ga­tion by City Press prove this to be a lie.

Mot­soe­neng, with his fla­grant dis­re­gard for pol­icy and le­gal pro­ce­dure, is the author of the down­fall of the pub­lic broad­caster.

He knows he’s un­likely to get his job back, so his lat­est press con­cert was ac­tu­ally the launch of his po­lit­i­cal career.

He said as much: “You may say you don’t want Hlaudi, it’s fine. But Hlaudi is go­ing to lead you on an­other platform ... Peo­ple are call­ing me to pol­i­tics. Politi­cians would be shocked at the num­bers that would vote for me.”

Mot­soe­neng has also ev­i­dently had the back­ing of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma as he has played a core role in skew­ing news and po­lit­i­cal cov­er­age at the SABC to be pro-Zuma. On Wed­nes­day, he con­tin­ued to pitch his bid to the heart of the Zuma camp.

He said he didn’t just “cre­ate” Bo­nang Matheba and Robert Marawa, he also “started this rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion” that the pres­i­dent speaks about th­ese days.

But Zuma doesn’t need to worry, Mot­soe­neng doesn’t want his job – he sup­ports a fe­male pres­i­dent. One as­sumes this is Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Mot­soe­neng’s look­ing fur­ther into the fu­ture.

Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng

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