DA can't tell us who to hire and fire - SABC lawyer

2016-11-24 16:05
Hlaudi Motsoeneng (Jenni Evans, News24)

Hlaudi Motsoeneng (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town – No political party can dictate who the SABC should hire or fire, the state broadcaster's lawyer said at a DA court application to have senior executive Hlaudi Motsoeneng removed.

"On what basis can a political party come and dictate who is going to be appointed at the SABC in what job?" asked advocate Stephan du Toit SC in the Western Cape High Court on Thursday.

"Does it mean political parties can start deciding on the administration? On who they employ?" he asked, during lengthy submissions over why the SABC did nothing wrong by keeping Motsoeneng on after adverse Public Protector findings.

Du Toit insisted that the Public Protector's report stands unless a review sets it aside, and that the report did not say Motsoeneng must be fired.

That means Group Chief Executive Officer James Aguma was well within his corporate rights to keep him on.

"It's an internal matter, it's an employer allocating a job to an employee," Du Toit said.

'It is not a statutory post'

After the SABC lost a challenge to an earlier court ruling that Motsoeneng's appointment was irrational, it removed him as Chief Operations Officer (COO) and moved him to group executive for corporate affairs.

"He is appointed to a different job, he doesn't have the power of COO," said Du Toit.

"This court cannot, at the [insistence] of a political party, tell the SABC who they can employ. It is not a statutory post."

Motsoeneng's appointment was a "business decision" taken by Aguma at an independent entity, and the court could not order that he be dismissed.

Besides, Aguma had said that although Motsoeneng was a "colourful character", he added value to the company.

He had strong negotiating skills, had saved the SABC a large amount of money, had taken the initiative in two programmes, and wished to start channels in other official languages spoken in South Africa.

"So he is regarded as an asset," Du Toit said. "Surely the SABC can run its affairs as it thinks best."

Judge Owen Rogers pointed out that the Public Protector had made some adverse findings about the SABC, so the matter could not simply be viewed as one contained within the corporation.

These included substantiation of claims of financial mismanagement in hiking salaries, including Motsoeneng's own, and firing people who had complained about him.

DA being 'vindictive'

Former communications minister Dina Pule was also found to have had a hand in a board appointment.

Du Toit said the DA was trying to leapfrog other processes by wanting Motsoeneng to be fired before internal and other procedures were completed.

"And that interferes in the right of the SABC to run its affairs.

"The fact that the shareholder is the state does not make it any less an independent entity."

He said the DA was being "vindictive" in asking that Motsoeneng, and three other staffers, personally pay the costs of the application.

It was just based on malice in a "difficult" situation.

The case continues.

Read more on:    public protector  |  da  |  sabc  |  hlaudi motsoeneng  |  cape town

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