SABC: DA jumping the gun on Motsoeneng

Cape Town - The DA's court application to have SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng removed from his post is politically motivated, the Western Cape High Court heard on Tuesday.

"This is an entirely political application designed to humiliate Mr Motsoeneng, the SABC and the [communications] minister, and designed to pick up a public furore based purely on speculation," Norman Arendse, for Motsoeneng, told the court.

Arendse said the Democratic Alliance came to court as a flag bearer of public interest, the rule of law and good corporate governance, but the grounds of their application suggested otherwise.

He said it was premature for the DA to ask the court to summarily suspend Motsoeneng because he was a "toxic influence", when Public Protector Thuli Madonsela was still in talks with the SABC.

If she felt the matter required urgent attention, she could have placed her report on Motsoeneng before Parliament, but she had not.

"It is not respecting that institution because they are actually saying the public protector is too useless to enforce and give effect to her own report. We must do it."

Arendse said if Anton Katz, for the DA, was to be believed, SABC staff had been "shaking in their boots" since Madonsela released her report in February.

The document is titled "When Governance and Ethics Fail".

"In our heads of argument and our affidavits also, we describe the outrageous allegations made by the DA as alarmist, hysterical and even paranoid.

"To think that one man threatens the freedom of expression in the country must clearly qualify as outlandish."

The DA wanted an urgent interim interdict removing Motsoeneng pending a review of the decision to appoint him.

Stony-faced Motsoeneng

Motsoeneng sat stony-faced in court, surrounded by his supporters, as he listened to proceedings.

The DA's application focused on the "unlawful" process the SABC board followed in its recommendation of his appointment, the rationality employed in the decision, and the findings of Madonsela's report.

In February, Madonsela released her report on Motsoeneng, while he was acting COO.

She found his salary increased from R1.5m to R2.4m in one year, that he had purged senior staff, and misrepresented his matric qualifications to the SABC. Madonsela recommended that a new COO be appointed at the SABC within 90 days.

In July, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi announced Motsoeneng's permanent appointment. She said he was cleared of all wrongdoing by a legal firm before the decision was made.

The DA then launched a high court bid to have his appointment set aside. Muthambi and the SABC filed opposing court papers.

SABC board chairperson Ellen Tshabalala, in her court papers, reportedly rubbished Madonsela's report.

Tshabalala said the broadcaster knew from day one that Motsoeneng did not have matric.

She said he was not dishonest, had never misled the SABC, and was not responsible for any irregular spending.

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