SABC boss revolts

2013-03-10 10:00

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The beleaguered SABC has been hit by a fresh crisis as Hlaudi Motsoeneng, recently removed as acting chief operating officer (COO), refuses to vacate his office.

After a divided SABC board removed him from his position last week, Motsoeneng was still occupying the COO’s office on the 17th floor of Radio Park this week.

The man dubbed “the Julius Malema of the SABC” continues to live up to the reputation.

Two inside sources independently verified he continues to call himself acting COO, even in the presence of his replacement, Mike Siluma.

“I am at work. I go to work every day,” Motsoeneng told City Press on Friday.

“But I can’t answer about being acting COO. You must ask (board chairperson) Ben Ngubane about that.”

Ngubane is seen as sympathetic to Motsoeneng.

His deputy, Thami ka Plaatjie, went as far as announcing that Motsoeneng’s demotion had been reversed.

But board spokesperson Lumko Mtimde is having none of it.

“There is no basis in law for the chair or deputy to reverse this decision. It can only be rescinded by the board on the basis of new evidence,” he said.

Motsoeneng’s defiance this week was described by a board member as in keeping with his “long and dangerous power trip”.

When he took up the position in 2011, he was mostly in favour with the board.

“He got a lot done and was energetic and worked against corruption,” said another board member.

“But, as time went on, he seemed to think he was a demigod. He showed a great deal of disrespect towards us and the CEO,” said another.

They say Motsoeneng began to overplay his hand when he resorted to intimidatory tactics around the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report into irregular practices at the SABC.

The acting COO: Hlaudi Motsoeneng

After a divided SABC board removed him from his position last week, Motsoeneng was still occupying the COO’s office on the 17th floor of Radio Park this week.

The man dubbed “the Julius Malema of the SABC” continues to live up to the reputation.

Two inside sources independently verified he continues to call himself acting COO, even in the presence of his replacement, Mike Siluma.

“I am at work. I go to work every day,” Motsoeneng told City Press on Friday.

“But I can’t answer about being acting COO. You must ask (board chairperson) Ben Ngubane about that.”

Ngubane is seen as sympathetic to Motsoeneng.

His deputy, Thami ka Plaatjie, went as far as announcing that Motsoeneng’s demotion had been reversed.

But board spokesperson Lumko Mtimde is having none of it.

“There is no basis in law for the chair or deputy to reverse this decision. It can only be rescinded by the board on the basis of new evidence,” he said.

Motsoeneng’s defiance this week was described by a board member as in keeping with his “long and dangerous power trip”.

When he took up the position in 2011, he was mostly in favour with the board.

“He got a lot done and was energetic and worked against corruption,” said another board member.

“But, as time went on, he seemed to think he was a demigod. He showed a great deal of disrespect towards us and the CEO,” said another.

They say Motsoeneng began to overplay his hand when he resorted to intimidatory tactics around the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report into irregular practices at the SABC.

Motsoeneng was tasked with hiring lawyers to summarise the report and make recommendations.

“The board resolved that we must receive a copy of this report before we present it to the portfolio committee but we were blocked by Hlaudi. We never received copies. Instead, he started phoning board members. One received a call at midnight, one at four in the morning. He said: ‘I have the report and you are implicated, but don’t worry, I’m going to protect you,’” City Press was told.

When asked for comment, Motsoeneng said: “I deny all allegations.”

A board member said: “This was happening as the advert came out to appoint a permanent COO. I think he wanted us on the back foot so that we’d say: ‘Look, this guy helped us. We must reward him with the permanent position.’”

Then rumours began to circulate.

One board member was said to be having an affair with Motsoeneng.

Although he wouldn’t confirm it, board member Cedric Gina was apparently told that a rumour was being circulated to the press that he took a bribe from a politically connected family.

Gina declined to comment, but four board members have provided an account of what happened at a meeting on February 22.

At the meeting, Motsoeneng was again asked for a copy of the SIU report. His response was: “You’re not getting the report and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Later, Gina reportedly said to Motsoeneng: “I am not afraid of you and your threats.” He confronted him about the bribery rumours. “I want to say, in front of everyone, it’s not true. And I want to say that you are trying to blackmail us with this SIU report,” Gina said.

Motsoeneng was asked to leave and the board unanimously decided to demote him, despite objections by Ngubane and another board member, who cited a fear of instability.

When the board met the following Monday, at the Crystal Towers Hotel in Cape Town, it was chaired by Ka Plaatjie in Ngubane’s absence.

Several board members say they were extremely surprised by Ka Plaatjie’s sudden about-turn when he tried to dissuade them from removing Motsoeneng.

The deputy: Thami ka Plaatjie

The attempt failed.

Siluma was picked for the job and Ka Plaatjie was asked to inform Ngubane.

When the meeting resumed the next day, Ngubane reportedly arrived with Motsoeneng and refused to sit with the board.

A member had to run up and down to communicate between the two groups.

“As a courtesy, we asked Motsoeneng to come and see us so we can inform him,” said a board source. “He arrogantly said we must come to his room. We said we are not his boys and girls. In the end, he arrived and was told he’d be returning to his old position.

“Then he bluffed us. He thanked us and acted like he had accepted it. He asked to take leave so it could sink in. Then, on Monday, he was back at his desk like nothing happened.”

In another twist, chief executive Lulama Makhobo was due to visit London last week.

Ngubane recommended Motsoeneng for the job in her brief absence.

The board advised Makhobo not to go and she cancelled her trip.

On Monday, the board arrived at a meeting with Communications Minister Dina Pule without Ngubane and Ka Plaatjie present.

The chair: Ben Ngubane

Motsoeneng alsoarrived.

According to three sources, the board asked him to leave as he no longer serves as an executive, but that didn’t deter him from returning to his office.

SABC spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago, said board meetings were confidential.

“I cannot confirm or deny what happens in them.”

A board member said it was a “terrible environment ... it’s like a soap opera and it’s very debilitating”.

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