Axed SABC CEO hits legal road

2011-07-02 18:41

Ousted SABC acting CEO Robin Nicholson will go to court to fight the public broadcaster’s board for alleged breach of contract.

The board this week dumped Nicholson and replaced him with head of news, Phil Molefe.

Nicholson, the former SABC chief finance officer, told City Press the board had last Friday offered him a six-month extension on his contract, which expired on June 30.

But Wednesday’s special annual general meeting of the SABC board with Communications Minister Roy Padayachie saw the SABC’s articles of association changed to allow any SABC employee to act as CEO.

While SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told City Press the move was aimed at giving the SABC more latitude in choosing a stand-in chief executive until a full-time candidate is found, insiders say it was focused on getting rid of Nicholson.

The board had been split over renewing his contract, while the ministry had been “uncomfortable’’ with Nicholson continuing acting in the position.

Nicholson said that at the full board meeting, he had been offered a six-month extension valued at R3 million and a one year restraint of trade agreement coupled with six months’ salary.

However, because of discrepancies between the verbal agreement and the contract, he asked for amendments on Monday.

Nicholson said he had not yet received the contract by Wednesday and had asked the company secretary, who holds his proxy, to sign on his behalf as he was in the Free State.

“I then received a call telling me that the AGM had taken place and that they had changed the articles of association and revoked the contract because I hadn’t signed, and (they) appointed Phil,’’ Nicholson said.

He accused board members of being “without integrity’’ for “lying’’ to him last Friday and said he would challenge the legality of changing the articles of association in the absence of board chairperson Ben Ngubane, who was out of the country at the time.

“Process has not been followed properly and the current appointment is fraudulent. The general meeting called by the minister did not quorate,’’ he said.

“I am a man of my word. I gave my word that I would work for six more months to help out. We shook hands on this. This board does not have a shred of common decency,” Nicholson said.

Kganyago said he could not comment on the Friday meeting or on the reasons why the articles were changed beyond operation reasons.

“All I know is that the AGM was called by the minister and they changed the articles of association,’’ he said.

Kganyago said the corporation would decide how to respond to Nicholson’s legal challenge “once the documents come”.

The reshuffle is understood to have sparked the resignation of board member Peter Harris, who quit on Wednesday evening.

Harris said he had sent his letter of resignation to President Jacob Zuma but declined to comment further, saying he was bound by a confidentiality agreement not to do so.

Ngubane was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

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