Time runs out for Motsoeneng
Court ruling puts SABC supremo in line for fresh disciplinary hearing
THE NOOSE has closed tighter on the SABC’s Hlaudi Motsoeneng after the Western Cape High Court shot down a bid to halt a review of the disciplinary process that cleared him.
Judge Monde Samela also held out little hope the SABC’s application to review the findings of outgoing Public Protector Thuli Madonsela against Motsoeneng would be granted, making it unlikely he will be able to dodge a fresh disciplinary hearing, unless he is fired first. But these proceedings seem likely to be rendered academic by the time they are heard, as Parliament moves to dissolve the SABC board and ultimately free the public broadcaster from Motsoeneng’s grip.
Capping a week of drama in which two SABC board members resigned in the middle of a meeting of Parliament’s communications portfolio committee, slamming their board members for acting unilaterally and unlawfully, Judge Samela dismissed the SABC’s application to prevent the court from reviewing Motsoeneng’s disciplinary process and ordered it to pay the costs – adding to an already hefty legal bill in the fight over Motsoeneng’s appointment as chief operations officer.
The SABC had sought a stay of application after the DA launched a challenge to the disciplinary process that cleared Motsoeneng – despite the public protector’s findings against him – arguing that since it was seeking to review the findings in another court the DA’s application should wait, pending the outcome.
But Judge Samela agreed with the DA and Madonsela that the SABC had waived its right to review her report when it agreed in the Supreme Court of Appeal it should implement her remedial actions by instituting a disciplinary hearing against Motsoeneng.
Having already purported to implement the findings, it could not take a “second bite at the cherry” in seeking to have them reviewed and set aside.
Judge Samela said this and the fact the SABC was seeking to review Madonsela’s report 21 months after it was issued, would have a bearing on the SABC’s prospects of success. This means the DA’s attempt to review the outcome of the disciplinary hearing and set it aside can proceed, but in the meantime Parliament is moving ahead with an inquiry into the fitness of the board, with the intention of dissolving it and appointing an interim board with a mandate to clean up the mess at SABC.
The ANC and cabinet have called on the SABC to reverse its decision to appoint Motsoeneng in his “old shoes” as group executive for corporate affairs after the dismissal of his application for leave to appeal against a judgment setting aside his appointment as chief operations officer.
But the board and Motsoeneng have remained defiant, saying they are going nowhere and there were reports yesterday that Motsoeneng had told staff they would be reporting to him in future. Chairman of the communications committee, Humphrey Maxegwana, has written to Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete, asking her to institute an inquiry into the board.
He said a technical team would draw up terms of reference for the inquiry and it would be up to Mbete to determine what form it should take.
Parliament’s senior legal adviser, Ntuthuzelo Vanara, warned MPs they could not recommend the dissolution of the SABC board before conducting a “due inquiry”, which would be a lengthy process in which the board members would have to be given the right to respond to the charges against them.
This could see the SABC’s agony prolonged as the board fights tooth and nail to prevent its dissolution. In the meantime, it is unable to take any binding decisions after the resignations of Krish Naidoo and Vusi Mavuso left it short of a quorum.