Cape Town - SABC executive Hlaudi Motsoeneng's position as chief executive for corporate affairs has no standing until the Public Protector's report on him is suspended or overturned on review, the Western Cape High Court heard on Wednesday.
"The Public Protector believes the appointment would be improper until the SABC's application has been finalised," the protector's lawyer, Etienne Labuschagne, submitted in the DA's application to have Motsoeneng removed from his new job, and any job, at the SABC.
He said former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had found Motsoeneng a "dishonest" employee who caused "a toxic failure of corporate governance" at the public broadcaster.
The Constitutional Court ruled on March 31, in the EFF’s application about Madonsela’s report on Nkandla, that reports from the Public Protector’s office are binding.
The DA’s application was being heard by Judges Owen Rogers and Andre le Grange. A phalanx of advocates and their attorneys sat in the grand benches of the court.
Motsoeneng sat to one side, wearing a blue suit and striped tie, listening intently.
Earlier, he told News24 that he was well, and ready for the case. He and the DA's federal executive chairperson exchanged pleasantries, touching each other's shoulders like old friends.
"It's not personal," said Motsoeneng, settling in to hear the DA say he should be booted out of his job at the public broadcaster.
In 2014, under Madonsela's watch, an investigation found Motsoeneng had never matriculated from Metsi Matsho High School, as he had claimed, and that he had given himself pay rises.
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Motsoeneng was appointed acting SABC chief operating officer in 2011. After Madonsela’s report, titled When Governance and Ethics Fail, was released in February 2014, there were expectations in some quarters that he would be removed.
Instead, in July 2014, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi approved his appointment by the SABC board as the permanent COO.
The DA took the matter to court. In November 2015, Judge Dennis Davis found Motsoeneng’s promotion was "irrational". He said Motsoeneng's continued tenure would depend on the findings of a disciplinary inquiry against him. The SABC held one and cleared him.
The DA went back to court to ask that the disciplinary inquiry findings be set aside. The SABC indicated it would take the Public Protector's report on judicial review.
On September 19 this year, the Supreme Court of Appeal rejected Motsoeneng’s bid to appeal the Western Cape High Court’s November 2015 ruling declaring his appointment irrational and setting it aside.
Motsoeneng was again expected to lose his job but instead was moved over to the corporate affairs job.
Supporters chant Motsoeneng's name
Anton Katz, for the DA, argued that the saga had cost the taxpayer over R28m in the more than two years it had been dragging on. He said the SABC's handling of the matter reminded him of Alice in Wonderland.
He submitted that, in addition to the SABC's strange behaviour over Motsoeneng, the whole thing was a charade. Motsoeneng was behind the appointment of the chairperson of his disciplinary hearing and even spoke for the board at media conferences.
Supporters outside the court did not feel the same way. They swamped Motsoeneng as he left the court during the lunch break, chanting his name, and excitedly taking selfies.
The case continues.