NEWS

SABC Cannot Keep Hlaudi's Appointment Out Of Public Scrutiny

Hlaudi's appointment is definitely everyone's business and not just an internal affair, says court

07/02/2017 14:33 SAST | Updated 07/02/2017 15:04 SAST
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Hlaudi Motsoeneng's appointment is not an internal matter at SABC. (Trevor Kunene/Daily Sun/Gallo)

The Western Cape High Court has dismissed the SABC's leave to appeal a ruling against Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

The SABC is a public body and its decisions about services and goods are open to review, the Western Cape High Court said in a ruling on Tuesday.

The court rejected the public broadcaster's argument that Hlaudi Motsoeneng's appointment was an internal matter, and not an exercise of public power that could be challenged in court. It dismissed with costs the SABC's application for leave to appeal its earlier ruling on Motsoeneng's appointment as group executive of corporate affairs.

The DA applied to have Motsoeneng's appointment as group executive for corporate affairs set aside and the court ruled in December that he could not go to work in any capacity at the SABC, pending the findings of a new disciplinary inquiry or a court review of parts of former public protector Thuli Madonsela's report on his conduct, which was released in February 2014.

Her findings included that he lied about his qualifications.

Motsoeneng was removed as chief operating officer (COO) after the Supreme Court of Appeal in September rejected his bid to appeal the Western Cape High Court's November 2015 ruling declaring his appointment irrational and setting it aside.

The court ruled in December that his appointment was unlawful and that he could not hold any position at the broadcaster, unless a Public Protector's 2014 report on his appointment as chief executive officer was overturned, or a new disciplinary inquiry cleared him.

The Democratic Alliance, which brought the initial application against the SABC, welcomed the ruling. "This is a victory for the rule of law and a positive step toward restoring the integrity and independence of the SABC," said party chairperson James Selfe.

Last week, Stephan du Toit, for the SABC, had argued that the public had no interest in the staffing of the public broadcaster.

Judges Andre Le Grange and Owen Rogers differed in their ruling. "The procurement of services and goods by public bodies undoubtedly constitutes administrative action... it is common cause that the SABC is a public body which exists in the public interest."

They found there was no reasonable prospect of another court reaching different conclusions.

Du Toit had also argued that the judgment would set an important precedent, opening up the floodgates for court challenges. "It would allow, in future, outsiders to interfere with the employment policies of any state department or any organ of state," he said at the time.

The judges said they were not impressed with this argument. "In practical reality, political parties, public interest groups and other outsiders pick their fights carefully." They said judgments that followed these reviews most often enhanced the quality and transparency of procurement decisions.

On Motsoeneng's new disciplinary inquiry, the court was informed by the SABC's attorneys in January that all, but the DA, had agreed on the new initiator. "Although the person previously agreed upon as the new chairperson was unavailable to take up the appointment, we were given the name of another person as the new chairperson."

The court said it was inclined to leave it to the new interim SABC board, which would hopefully be appointed soon, to determine the new chairperson and initiator of the latest disciplinary inquiry against Motsoeneng. – News24