Broke SABC to cough up R10m in le­gal fees

Hlaudi makes part of list of lit­i­ga­tion op­po­nents

Sunday World - - Sunday Report - By Aubrey Mothombeni moth­ombe­nia@sun­day­world.co.za

The SABC has al­legedly run up a bill of more than R10m in le­gal fees in just a year as it fends off lit­i­ga­tion from mul­ti­ple par­ties, in­clud­ing for­mer COO Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng.

Mot­soe­neng and the SABC have been play­ing le­gal cat and mouse games both at the CCMA, where the con­tro­ver­sial for­mer broad­caster was fight­ing to be re­in­stated, and in the­high­court in­Joburg, where the fired COO was fight­ing to get his hands on his pen­sion.

The shock­ing fig­ure, which is set to es­ca­late fur­ther, is made up of fees for, among others, prom­i­nent cases in­clud­ing that of­former CFO and act­ing CEO James Aguma.

In Mot­soe­neng’s case, the public broad­caster with­held his R8m pen­sion, con­tend­ing that he was given an R11m bonus that he did not de­serve dur­ing his tu­mul­tuous em­ploy at the SABC.

The pub­licbroad­caster reg­is­tered the case in court af­ter it was in­formed by the SABC Pen­sion Fundthat it could only with­hold Mot­soe­neng’s pen­sionif it was in­ter­dict­edto doso by a court of law.

The SABC wants Mot­soe­neng to pay back the bonus money, stat­ing he was not sup­posed to be re­warded for his role as he was only do­ing his job.

The de­ci­sion has come back to haunt thep­ub­lic broad­caster in the pocket as it faces se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial chal­lenges, with sur­plus funds re­port­edly ex­pected to only last un­til month end.

The SABC’s le­gal ex­pen­di­ture is hap­pen­ing amid al­le­ga­tions of a high staff turnover in its le­gal depart­ment, with three staffers said to have quit re­cently due to them re­ceiv­ing no work as pri­vatelaw firms are pre­ferred for high-pro­file cases.

Sun­day World can re­veal that the SABC re­ceived in­voices amount­ing to R10m from law firm Werks­mans At­tor- neys for cases han­dled be­tween Au­gust 2017 and Au­gust 2018.

The SABC started off with a le­gal bill of R90 000 when it reg­is­tered an ap­pli­ca­tion at the South Gaut­eng High Court on Au­gust 25 2017.

But the bill later gre­wand by end of April 2018, the amount had reached R1.8m.

With Mot­soe­neng’s CCMA hear­ings and court ap­pear­ances con­tin­u­ing, the le­gal bill es­ca­lated to R3.3m in May.

The in­voices show it in­creased­be­tween June­andAu­gust, hit­ting the R8m mark.

The fig­ure prompted the law firm to tap into the SABC’s trust ac­count to pay it­self R2.1m left in the ac­count.

Ac­cord­ing to an in­voice dated25 May2018, the law­firm chargedtheSABCR95 200 for one ap­pear­ance on one of Mot­soe­neng’s cases.

One ex SABC lawyer said they were treated like sup­port staff for pri­vate law firms and “that’s why some of us left.”

Werks­mans At­tor­neys spokesper­son HawaMoya said they could not comment due to client con­fi­den­tial­ity.

SABC spokes­woman Neo Momodu said: “The SABC ex­pe­ri­enced al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion fol­low­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions by the in­terim boar­d­ap­pointed in­March 2017. The al­le­ga­tions re­sulted in the SABC con­duct­ing dis­ci­plinary pro­ce­dures against the par­ties im­pli­cated… re­sult­ing in the ter­mi­na­tion of ser­vices of some of the in­cum­bents found to have flouted the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s poli­cies and gover­nance pro­ce­dures.

“… [This] re­sulted in cer­tain cases be­ing re­ferred to the CCMA for me­di­a­tion and con­cil­i­a­tion. The CCMA sub­se­quently foundin favour of theSABC. Fol­low­ing the CCMA judg­ments, some of the re­spon­dents ap­pealed to the Ap­peals Tri­bunal, ne­ces­si­tat­ing the SABC to seek le­gal coun­sel.

The mat­ter is be­ing con­sid­ered by the tri­bunal, thus pro­hibit­ing the SABC from re­veal­ing in­for­ma­tion re­lated to the case[s].”

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