- The Special Tribunal overturned a decision by former SABC executives to pay 53 music legends R50 000 each.
- It said the executives violated their powers and the SABC's internal policies.
- The tribunal dismissed claims by the former COO that he raised the money via donations from MultiChoice.
Former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and eight ex-executives, who served on the public broadcaster's operations committee, acted unlawfully by paying 53 "music legends" R50 000 each in 2016, the Special Tribunal ruled on Tuesday. The decision was set aside.
The tribunal ruled that Motsoeneng and the executives had abused their powers and violated internal policies at the SABC.
The ruling follows the public broadcaster and the Special Investigating Unit's (SIU) March application to declare the payments unlawful and invalid, and to set the decision aside.
They argued there were no agreed criteria to identify "music legends" and alleged that the payments were not approved by the board responsible for budgetary issues.
They also alleged that the broadcaster did not benefit from the payments and that it had incurred wasteful and fruitless expenditure.
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The tribunal said Motsoeneng argued that the SIU and SABC failed to demonstrate which policies were violated. He also claimed to have raised the money through donations from MultiChoice.
He justified the payments as being to thank artists for "their support during the liberation struggle" - and said most of them were desolate and died as paupers.
The tribunal said Motsoeneng had failed to provide a definitive answer about the existence of the policy that allowed the payments.
It said: "On the one hand, he denies that such a policy does not exist. On the other hand, he submits that such a policy was not necessary as it is consistent with the SABC's constitutional, statutory and policy objectives."
According to the tribunal, Motsoeneng was the one who conceived the idea, which the broadcaster's executive committee approved in July, and it was implemented in September 2016 by the operations committee.
It cited the minutes of the meetings, in which the executives agreed on the payments, and nobody had questioned the criteria used to identify "music legends".
The tribunal said: "In fact, it appears that a list of identified music legends had been prepared prior to the impugned meetings being held. OPCOM only raised questions regarding how music legends not on the list would be dealt with if they presented later."
"There is no policy within the SABC authorising the impugned decisions...The laudable and noble MLP objectives do not justify breach of the rule of law. No public servant may conceptualise and implement a project unless authorised by prevailing statutory and regulatory policy provisions, have the necessary approvals, including funding for the project," reads the ruling.
The SIU welcomed the ruling.