Time runs out for Mot­soe­neng

Court rul­ing puts SABC supremo in line for fresh dis­ci­plinary hear­ing

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - CRAIG DODDS

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.

craig.dodds@inl.co.za

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