Muthambi failed to ease fears over Hlaudi appointment - leaked document

Cape Town - Communications Minister Faith Muthambi failed to allay suspicions over the 2014 appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as the SABC’s permanent chief operating officer, according to a leaked parliamentary document.

Muthambi did not provide adequate evidence to Parliament why Motsoeneng's appointment was "rushed", it states.

The official working document of Parliament's ad hoc committee looking into the fitness of the SABC board to hold office was leaked on Tuesday night.

"The minister, in her own testimony, could not allay suspicions that the [SABC] board was pressured to make the appointment, and in so doing had failed to uphold its fiduciary duties.

"While she had been justified in emphasising the urgency with which the acting senior management posts had to be filled, little evidence was presented that confirmed her insistence that the appointments be done in accordance with the applicable recruitment policies and procedures."

Many witnesses alluded to Muthambi applying undue pressure, the document continued.

“The committee received no evidence that adequately explained why the Minister had confirmed the board's recommendation that an individual without the requisite qualifications, and against whom the Public Protector had made a series of adverse findings, be appointed.”

The board appeared to have been divided on the matter. Some were of the view that Public Protector's findings and remedial action had to be accepted and implemented.

Many witnesses expressed disbelief that despite the Public Protector's damning findings against Motsoeneng, most of the members voted for his appointment.

The SABC’s then human resources executive, Jabulani Mabaso, testified that he was not included in discussions about Motsoeneng's appointment.

'High praise' for Motsoeneng

During her testimony, Muthambi told the committee that she voiced her concerns about the Public Protector’s findings against Motsoeneng, but said he had been acting in the position for too long.

She said there had been high praise of Motsoeneng's ability at the broadcaster and that he deserved a better position.

At the time of the appointment, there was no legal decision on the Public Protector's powers, she said. The Constitutional Court only clarified these two years later.

She insisted in 2016 that his appointment be set aside after the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled on the matter that year. It rejected Motsoeneng’s bid to appeal the Western Cape High Court’s November 2015 ruling declaring his appointment irrational and setting it aside.

Motsoeneng's disciplinary hearing, which subsequently cleared him of wrongdoing, appeared to have been a foregone conclusion, according to witness testimonies, the report states.

The ad hoc committee would meet on Thursday to discuss the draft report and refine it.

Committee chairperson Vincent Smith on Wednesday said he was dismayed that the report was leaked. He said the committee would press on with its work and would likely conclude it on Friday.

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