Hlaudi Motsoeneng judgment upset

2014-10-26 06:00

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A high court ruling that Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings are not binding has vindicated ANC MPs in Parliament’s committee dealing with the controversial R246?million upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s private Nkandla residence, says committee chairperson Cedric Frolick.

Opposition parties have walked out of the multiparty committee and accused the ANC of defending Zuma at the cost of the Constitution.

“The judgment bolsters the majority view as far as the Public Protector’s remedial actions are concerned,” said Frolick.

“Parliament is not bound by the Public Protector’s findings. The Public Protector is not a judge and cannot make orders to the state that must be executed. We will simply continue with our work and make recommendations to the House. We will not deal with the powers of the Public Protector, but the judgment will assist us in finalising the work because at least there’s a judicial ruling on her remedial action,” said Frolick.

On Friday, Western Cape High Court judge Ashton Schippers handed down judgment on the DA’s application to force the SABC to institute disciplinary proceedings against Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

This measure was ordered by Madonsela after she investigated Motsoeneng and found he had lied about his qualifications and should face disciplinary action for, among others, arbitrarily sacking staff.

Instead of instituting disciplinary proceedings, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi appointed Motsoeneng permanently as chief operating officer (COO). This prompted the DA to take the matter to court.

Schippers ordered the SABC to charge Motsoeneng within 14 days and to suspend him pending the outcome of his disciplinary hearing.

But Motsoeneng and Madonsela have vowed to apply for leave to appeal against the judgment.

Madonsela’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said Schippers’ ruling would have serious implications for the powers of other chapter 9 institutions – and for thousands of ordinary South Africans who lodge complaints against state wrongdoing.

Other chapter 9 institutions include the office of the Auditor-General, the Independent Electoral Commission, the SA Human Rights Commission and the Commission for Gender Equality.

Motsoeneng said he was preparing to challenge the ruling all the way to the Constitutional Court because he believed Schippers could not force the SABC to act against him when the public broadcaster had already “cleared” him of any wrongdoing.

“Remember the SABC has also cleared me. That matter is very interesting because if you clear a person, how do you come back and charge that person? But also, if the judge agreed that the Public Protector’s recommendations were not binding, how do you force the SABC to also take action because you’re saying the recommendations are not binding?” asked Motsoeneng.

His lawyer, Zola Majavu, said his client was prepared to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal if his application for leave to appeal was turned down.

“He [Motsoeneng] can only be suspended when he receives his charge sheet from the SABC.

“Schippers gave the SABC 14 days in which to serve him with a charge sheet and until he receives the charge sheet he is still the COO,” said Majavu.

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