SABC: more outrage

2014-07-11 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as the SABC’s chief operating officer (COO) has again caused howls of outrage in the governing alliance.

Motsoeneng has been appointed on the grounds of his performance record, according to Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, despite the SABC’s financial situation being in such dire straits that Motsoeneng asked Muthambi to increase the price of a television licence.

Public Protector (PP) Thuli Madonsela had also expressed her surprise at Motsoeneng’s appointment, as she was still awaiting the minister’s response on her report, which was issued in February, in which her office found Motsoeneng had misrepresented his qualifications — that he passed matric — to the SABC, had his salary increased from R1,5 million to R2,4 million in one year, and that he had purged senior staff.

The SABC had also received the worst possible audit from the auditor-general in its previous financial year — a time during which the public broadcaster had to handle tenders worth R8 billion to transfer South Africa’s signal from analog to digital. As COO of the SABC, Motsoeneng will drive this transfer.

Spokesperson of the SA Communist Party Alex Mashilo said the party was so unhappy with Motsoeneng’s appointment that they will resort to mass action if the corpora­te management at SABC does not get “cleaned up”.

Cosatu supported the Communist party in this call.

The ANC, which on Wednesday was surprised by Motsoeneng’s appointment, yesterday said through its spokesperson Zizi Kodwa that the decision by the SABC’s board had nothing to do with them.

The public broadcasting lobby group, SOS Coalition, and the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers’ Union (Bemawu) both shared the Communist Party’s serious concerns regarding the process followed to appoint Motsoeneng, including the fact this his post was not advertised.

A memorandum stipulating how the executive directors of the SABC — including the COO — must be appointed, stipulates that candidates must be interviewed and a shortlist must be supplied to the minister.

Muthambi also admitted she had not discussed the appointment with the cabinet, as had been a courtesy shown with previous appointments. Although discussing appointment with cabinet is not required by the memorandum, sister paper Die Burger has learnt the lack of this consideration by Muthambi could anger ANC heavyweights.

Muthambi yesterday maintained the SABC had followed due process and she had taken “the rational” decision to appoint Motsoeneng.

Speaking during a post-cabinet briefing, Muthambi said there was nothing irregular about Motsoeneng’s appointment, despite Madonsela’s report to the contrary.

“The appointment of an independent law firm by the SABC board to investigate all the issues raised by the public protector was the most responsible way to deal with the public protector’s report,” Muthambi said.

She did not want to say what the law firm had recommended.

Motsoeneng told talk radio 702 he has nothing to say to the PP report on his alleged abuse of power. He said people had appointed him, and there was no reason to for him to answer any questions surrounding him.

He also denied that he was appointed to provide political protection for the ANC.

DA spokesperson Gavin Davis said he found it “bizarre” that a private legal firm could outweigh the opinion of the PP, adding if the minister wants to set aside the PP’s report, she would have to apply to the court.

Davis said he will today ask the portfolio committee on communication to study the private firm’s report as well as call Muthambi to appear in front of the committee. This follows a threat by the Economic Freedom Fighters to take the matter to court as well as Bemawu to declare a dispute.

Alleged irregular awards of salary increases and promotions had cost Motsoeneng his job in 2007.

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