NEWS & ANALYSIS

Hlaudi Motsoeneng's appointment irrational and unlawful - Helen Zille

DA leader says her party will apply to High Court to have SABC COO's appointment set aside

DA to seek High Court review of Motsoeneng appointment

14 July 2014

The Democratic Alliance today announces legal action on the appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

The process of serving papers on Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and the SABC Board has begun, with the application to be made in the Gauteng High Court.

We believe there is a strong legal case that Mr Motsoeneng's appointment was irrational given the Public Protector's findings against him.

Our High Court application seeks to have the appointment of Mr Motsoeneng reviewed and set aside as being irrational. 

In sum, the Public Protector's report released on 17 February 2014 found that Mr Motsoeneng - 

• Lied about his qualifications when applying for the COO position 

• Acted in bad faith and abused his power by increasing his salary three times in the space of one year; from R1.5 million to R2.4 million

• Was responsible for the "purging" of senior staff that cost the SABC "millions of Rand due to procedural and substantive injustices confirmed in findings of the CCMA and the courts."

• Irregularly increased the salaries of various staff members, increasing the SABC's salary bill by R29 million

We will make the case in the High Court that, in the light of the Public Protector's findings, the decision to appoint Mr Motsoeneng was irrational for the following reasons:

1. The Public Protector's findings were not taken into consideration

The Board and the Minister do not appear to have considered the findings of the Public Protector. Appointing someone who was known to be dishonest and willing to abuse his power could never be rational. This is especially true in this case.  The Broadcasting Act requires the COO to be committed to openness and accountability, and to the principles of the SABC Charter, including good governance. 

The only evidence that the Board and the Minister applied their mind to the Public Protector's Report was the Minister's recent statement that an independent law firm considered the PP Report and "cleared Mr Motsoeneng of any wrongdoing". 

But it is not possible for a law firm's report to trump the report of a Chapter Nine Institution, much less clear a person of wrongdoing. Only a court can do that. Incidentally, it appears from articles in the media yesterday that the law firm in question has denied that its report cleared Mr Motsoeneng.

2. No other candidates were considered

The appointment process of the three executive directors is set out in section 11.1.2 of the SABC's Articles of Association:

The non-executive Directors shall, after they have conducted interviews and compiled a short list of preferred candidates, recommend to the Member for his or her approval/rejection, the appointment of the preferred candidate to fill any position as the executive Directors of the Corporation.

Not only was the appointment of Mr Motsoeneng contrary to the requirements of the Articles and the Charter - it was irrational. When appointing a person to such a post, it would be necessary to consider a variety of possible candidates in order to find the person best suited. It appears that the Board did not perform that exercise. That renders the appointment irrational. 

Who runs the SABC is the business of every South African.

From what news we receive, to the quality of programming we get for our taxes, to the promotion of proudly South African productions- everything depends on who leads and manages the SABC.

About 60% of South Africans tune in to watch SABC prime-time news every night. That is why it is in the interest of all South Africans that the irrational appointment of a man like Mr Motsoeneng to run the public broadcaster be reviewed and corrected.

The DA also believes it is time for us all to seriously reflect on the state of the SABC.

Parliament must open a forum to debate and deliberate on what it will take for South Africans to have a public broadcaster that performs the service demanded of it.

We will call for this important debate to be placed on Parliament's agenda at the earliest opportunity.

Minister Muthambi also has much to answer for. At the DA's request, the Minister is due to appear before the Communications Portfolio Committee to account for the decision to appoint Mr Motsoeneng to this position.

An SABC capable of truly serving all South Africans is possible.

But we must act now to correct the destructive course the SABC is on by confronting the mismanagement of our public broadcaster.

Statement issued by DA leader, Helen Zille, July 14 2014

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