We all knew where the power was - former SABC HR chief

Cape Town - Former SABC group executive of human resources Jabulani Mabaso has told Parliament's ad hoc committee looking into the SABC board that staff, even the CEOs, "knew where the power was".

Mabaso was testifying to the committee on Monday, and was asked by the inquiry's lead evidence adviser if Hlaudi Motsoeneng essentially acted as the 'de facto' SABC CEO.

"Oh certainly. At the SABC the CEO is on the 28th floor, the COO the 27th floor," he said.

"But the meetings are held on the 27th floor, and the CEO 'gets called in'.

"Former [acting] CEO Mr Jimi Matthews used to say, 'you know, we are all adults', in a way to say, you know where the orders are coming from.

"We all knew where the power was."

The four CEOs he served under between 2013 and 2016, including Tian Olivier, Anton Heunis and Lulama Mokhobo, were all undermined by Motsoeneng.

Mabaso said the majority of witnesses who have testified should have all reported to the SABC's CEO according to the company organogram, suggesting that there were essentially "two organisations".

He said many other executives were "juniorised" by Motsoeneng.

The board 'the problem'

ANC MP Makhosi Khoza asked Mabaso how so many talented and senior people allowed one man to reign over them.

"If the board does not compel them by not taking action, there's nothing much we as executives could do.

"The board would receive information [from Motsoeneng] and then they accept.

"The one thing I can say is that the board got divided around allegiances. It basically cascades. The good old tactic of divide and rule works."

He said the unlawful amendment of the Memorandum of Incorporation, which allowed the three chief executives to appoint group executives, gave them a reason to purge staff officially.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi made the amendment in October 2014.

"He is a very powerful man if he cannot be called to order by the board," he added.

Motsoeneng appointments

He also said Motsoeneng was not vetted during his most recent appointment to group executive of corporate affairs, as well as current acting COO Gugu Tugwana.

The positions were not advertised either.

He said he had made continual policy recommendations to the board since 2013 which often caused contention and was sent back.

A degree is required to hold a chief executive position at the SABC, he said.

"At that particular time, during Dr Ngubane's tenure, the policy was abandoned," he said in reference to former SABC CEO Ben Ngubane.

Recruitment at a national key point also required people to be vetted, he said.

"The current policy did not have that, nor did it have competency assessments."

He left the SABC in June 2016.

The Western Cape High Court on Monday ruled that Motsoeneng cannot work at the SABC in any capacity unless a Public Protector's report is set aside, or a new disciplinary hearing clears him.

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