"This is not our man. I'm going to Pretoria." — former acting SABC CEO Phil Molefe recounts a conversation with SABC general executive for corporate affairs Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
"But Baba loves him, he loves him so much. We must support him." — former (and late) SABC board member Hope Zinde recounts a conversation with Communications Minister Faith Muthambi in reference to Motsoeneng.
The parliamentary inquiry into the state of the public broadcaster, SABC, has had hardened ANC MPs like Vincent Smith and Dr. Makhosi Khoza questioning how the general executive for corporate affairs, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, ran roughshod over a series of senior managers and board members. How. Did. That. Happen? they asked repeatedly on Monday.
Not the governing ANC (whose communications sub-committee has repeatedly railed against Motsoeneng's reign of terror); not three judges (yesterday, the Western Cape high court ruled for a second time that the broadcasting executive's appointment was illegal. The Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed his case earlier this year and returned it to the Western Cape); not Parliament and not even a Public Protector's report have been able to see off the red-eyed and twisted genius who has held the SABC in an iron grip.
Motsoeneng's salary has been lifted from R300,000 a few years ago to R2.9 million and then to R4.1 million even as the broadcaster has lost money hand over fist. He aced a massive bonus from a dodgy contract with Multichoice with whom he launched two channels on the DSTV bouquet. At the weekend, board members revealed that they had concerns about the contract but it was pushed through.
From whence, then, does Motsoeneng derive his power, several MP's asked last week. It is pretty clear now from the evidence presented to the inquiry that his base is in "Pretoria", shorthand for government. According to the SABC's former news chief, Phil Molefe, Motsoeneng said he was headed to Pretoria when he was refused a R500,000 increase. But who in Pretoria?
While the Democratic Alliance leader, Mmusi Maimane, said Motsoeneng was no longer an employee of the SABC after the judgment, my money is on a different outcome. Motsoeneng will find a legal loophole to drag out his reign; after a sleight of hand, he now occupies a different role at the SABC.
Is it the communications minister, Faith Muthambi, who is the government's custodian of the SABC on behalf of the public? Muthambi has refused to implement the Public Protector's report which found that Motsoeneng had faked his matric to get a junior reporter's job, making his tenure illegal. And the minister led the appeal on one of the judgements. In addition, the minister changed the articles of association of the broadcaster to vest far greater power in her person — she then passed these reigns to Motsoeneng, various testimonies to parliament have shown. The two acted in tandem to make appointments, sign contracts and run a shadow structure away from the rest of the board.
If Muthambi is the SABC boss's impunity pill, is she his only one? The late former SABC board member Hope Zinde launched the first challenges against the ascendant Motsoeneng years ago. She lobbied the minister to tell her about the young man's dictatorial ways, to which Muthambi replied: "But Baba loves him, he loves him so much. We must support him."
"Baba" is, of course, the father of the nation, President Jacob Zuma. Muthambi has never denied this and numerous reports through the years have suggested that Motsoeneng has the president on speed dial. One story from a journalist colleague stays with me. The SABC team needed the Presidency's comment on a story. The spokesperson was not available. Motsoeneng got up, left the room, made a call and within moments, a presidential interview was set up. Numerous SABC staff say Motsoeneng has a hotline to Baba.
While the Democratic Alliance leader, Mmusi Maimane, said Motsoeneng was no longer an employee of the SABC after the judgment, my money is on a different outcome. Motsoeneng will find a legal loophole to drag out his reign; after a sleight of hand, he now occupies a different role at the SABC. He is no longer chief operating officer, the role the court says he occupied illegally, but is an executive for corporate affairs. That builds a technicality for more legal gerrymandering.
The story of Hlaudi Motsoeneng and his capture of the SABC is that love, and especially Baba's love, can conquer all.
Will Baba's Love Conquer All Once Again For Hlaudi?