Hlaudi's days of sidestepping the Public Protector are nearly over

The SABC’s Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Picture: Denvor de Wee
The SABC’s Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Picture: Denvor de Wee

There is someone who has been sidestepping the Public Protector’s findings for even longer than President Jacob Zuma: Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the controversial chief operating officer of the SABC.

Since Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released her report When Governance and Ethics Fail on Valentine’s Day in 2014 – a report that made a string of damning findings against Motsoeneng – he has been appointed permanently to the post in which he was acting and his salary has increased by almost R1 million.

The report was released about a month before Madonsela’s Secure in Comfort report on upgrades to Zuma’s home in Nkandla was released.

In the latest development in a series of court actions, Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said on Friday that a few weeks ago, Madonsela had planned to write to the SABC saying it had not yet complied with her findings – in response to a letter the SABC had written to her stating that they had abided by them.

“We decided they had misunderstood the findings, as the SABC had not complied,” said Segalwe.

The correspondence took place in the wake of a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling in October that confirmed Madonsela’s findings and resulted in the SABC instituting disciplinary procedures against Motsoeneng.

“It does not look like the SABC understood the court directive. The matter is now ongoing,” said Segalwe.

He confirmed that the SABC had not initiated a legal challenge of the Public Protector’s findings – a step the Constitutional Court confirmed on Thursday was the only available option for recourse.

The DA’s James Selfe said the disciplinary action taken by the SABC against Motsoeneng – which saw him acquitted in the end – was a “farce”. The party has brought an application to request a court to set aside the disciplinary proceedings. “There is no more room for him to manoeuvre,” said Selfe, pointing to Thursday’s ruling by the Constitutional Court that had confirmed the appeal court ruling.

Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution, said that now that the highest court in the land had made its finding, hopefully the Public Protector’s reports would no longer be undermined.

“Thuli Madonsela has said before that since the president’s attempt to undermine her report, other reports her office has produced have not met with cooperation. It has had an impact on the effectiveness of her office. Now, if there is a challenge, the only option is a judicial review.”

Motsoeneng’s attorney, Zola Majavu, said the Constitutional Court judgment on Thursday had no bearing on his client because Motsoeneng had adhered to the Public Protector’s remedial action.

“This action had required the SABC to hold a disciplinary committee hearing into the findings. This was done,” said Majavu, adding that the Public Protector had declined to be part of the DA’s appeal into the initial Western Cape judgment ordering that Motsoeneng’s appointment to be set aside.

Various reports on the disciplinary committee hearings on Motsoeneng have alleged that the SABC stage-managed the process to arrive at the outcome he desired – being cleared of all charges.

Madonsela said he...

. Lied about having a matric certificate;

. Flouted SABC regulations by increasing his salary in one year from R1.5 million to R2.4 million;

. Initiated irregular salary hikes to other staff, escalating the broadcaster’s salary bill by R29 million; and

. Purged SABC senior staff.

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