Hlaudi Motsoeneng's appointment irrational and probably unlawful - Solly Mapaila

SACP 2nd DGS says the ANC, SACP and COSATU have all expressed reservations over SABC COO's appointment

Red Alert: The SABC: When the people's trust relationship is breaking like an unreliable signal

Last week, South Africa's governing alliance partners, the ANC, SACP and the COSATU, expressed reservations on the appointment of Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng to the position of the public broadcaster the SABC's Chief Operations Officer. On Friday 11 July, the SACP youth-wing, Young Communist League of South Africa (YCLSA) came out in support of the main alliance partners. There are serious repercussions when contradictions occur between a deployed cadre and the governing Alliance.

Forcing the governing Alliance to oppose the decisions taken and to question the processes followed is totally unacceptable. Although it is necessary to allow deployed cadres to take decisions without being micromanaged, there are strategic positions for which appointments should never be made without consultation first, particularly in relation to the processes followed. The position of SABC Chief Operations Officer is obviously in this category. This the ANC's perspective as communicated by Spokesperson Comrade Zizi Kodwa.

Head of ANC communications sub-committee Comrade Lindiwe Zulu captures this well, concurring in an interview with the Mail & Guardian (11 July 2014). Confirming that the communications Minister Faith Muthambi did not attend the sub-committee's meeting convened to discuss among other issues ANC policies and the direction the department needed to follow, Zulu correctly says Ministers are expected to engage with ANC sub-committees and implement its policies and decisions.

In addition, there are established legal and corporate governance frameworks that the board the public broadcaster's board and the Communications Minster must follow. As the political head of the Communications department on the basis of ANC electoral mandate, the Minister must follow the governing party's framework in executing such strategic functions. Moreover, we also have a Cabinet which must be factored in.

The ANC has a policy framework of meritocratic recruitment of personnel in the state and public entities. At the level of political leadership in the state, this includes alignment with the historic mission of the national democratic revolution and the vision of the Freedom Charter. This is critical in taking forward our second radical phase of transition: the immediate task facing the revolution.

The ANC Secretary-General is quoted by the Mail & Guardian (11 July 2014) as saying "For every appointment the most qualified person should be considered". The Employment Equity Act clarifies what this means. According to the legislation, a suitably qualified candidate possesses any or a combination of the following: relevant professional qualifications, experience, recognised prior learning and potential to perform the job in hand within a reasonable period.

This employment law categorically states that all these factors must be reviewed when a decision is made, and that excluding a person from appointment solely on the grounds of lack of relevant experience constitutes unfair discrimination.

But what process does an organisation such as the SABC follow to select suitably qualified candidates?

On 25 November 2013, former Communications Minister Yunus Carrim, addressing the country through the Cape Town Press Club, said the position of Chief Operations Officer for SABC would be advertised pending settlement with former executive and sports administrator Mr Mvuzo Mbebe. Mbebe was recommended for the position in 2007 but was never appointed. This led to a legal challenge in which the court of law granted an interdict against the appointment of a Chief Operations Officer on a permanent basis pending the resolution of the matter.

It is clear that the appointment of Mr Motsoeneng without the post being advertised in terms of general employment law, best practice, SABC statutes and the former Communications Minister's public commitment is irrational and probably unlawful. The appointment constitutes unfair discrimination towards other suitably qualified candidates.

The announcement last week of the appointment of Mr Motsoeneng and its endorsement by the Communications Minister came as a big surprise not only to the ANC but to the public as a whole. It was not transparent. And for some time there was no feedback as to whether the matter relating to Mbebe was finally resolved. Now we know it was not. There are serious legal implications considering the existing court interdict on the matter.

More seriously, the trust relationship between the government, the ANC, its alliance partners and most particularly the people as a whole is threatened. Remember the government through the former Communications Minister committed to the public that after settlement of the dispute with Mr Mbebe in terms of the court interdict the position would be advertised. The government cannot be seen to say one thing but then do another in the opposite direction without public accountability and transparency.

If the negation of the government's own commitments to public transparency is allowed, then the people will find it difficult to believe in what the government says. Their trust in government will be eroded. If this trend continues there will come a point where the government will find it difficult to involve the people to endorse programmes even if they are in their best interest.

Cde Solly Mapaila is SACP 2nd Deputy General Secretary.

This article first appeared in the Party's online journal, Umsebenzi Online.

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