Hlaudi gets his confidence from himself, SABC inquiry hears

Cape Town – Former SABC board member Professor Bongani Khumalo says SABC executive Hlaudi Motsoeneng needed very little help to boost his self-esteem.

Khumalo told Parliament's ad hoc committee looking into the SABC board on Tuesday that Motsoeneng derives his assurance and confidence from himself.

"He believes he can manipulate anyone to be agreeable with him," Khumalo told the MPs.

"This is a person who responds uniquely when you put your foot down. He then tries to negotiate the conversation with you. He was not used to someone not towing the line.

"With good leadership, with a firm hand, [many of] these things would not have happened."

He described a common method Motsoeneng would employ when a board member publicly went against one of his or the SABC's policies.

"When we were in a board meeting, and a board member participates in a way he doesn't like, he would say so-and-so had an agenda and that 'we could see through this agenda'."

'That is his character...'

They would then have to remind Motsoeneng of his place and say they were not afraid of him, he said.

He described the dynamic as "bizarre", that it should not have happened in a corporate environment.

He said he doesn't expect to see a lot of change from Motsoeneng in time, because "that is his character, that is him".

During Khumalo's time on the board from September 2013 to January 2015, the board suffered from poor business decision-making and possible criminal motives, he said.

Khumalo said he did not want to directly name previous board members implicit in disciplinary processes.

He went into the board with great confidence and commitment, but left hugely disappointed.

Muthambi changes tune

On Christmas Eve 2014, he said he had received a letter from Communications Minister Faith Muthambi asking him to give reasons why she should not recommend to the President that he be removed from the board.

"I was shocked cold. I withdrew from the company of my family.

"It was the strangest thing ever to occur to me, in all my corporate life," he said.

This was after he had publicly disagreed with the board's decision to name Motsoeneng as permanent COO in July that year. He also said, as the head of the board's HR sub-committee, that the sub-committee was in majority favour of implementing the Public Protector's report at the time.

After failing to get hold of the minister, Muthambi's legal adviser Dan Mantsha told him the letter was not meant for him.

Despite the reassurances, Muthambi never withdrew the letter after he requested her to, which led him to resign in January 2015.

What made it stranger, he said, was that Muthambi previously implored him at his first meeting with her at a Magaliesburg retreat that he should stay to help stabilise the SABC, and reaffirmed his qualifications.

They even had similar personalities and views on the SABC at the start. He said Muthambi needed help to deal with the personalities at the SABC.

He said some of the board's functions were impacted by the shareholder's interference, that is, the ministers.

Khumalo said the issues at the SABC could be endemic of all state-owned enterprises under the current leadership.

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