NEWS

The Fall Of King Hlaudi Motsoeneng And The Rebirth Of The SABC

Parliament today begins shortlisting candidates to serve on the new permanent SABC board --- meanwhile Hlaudi Motsoeneng didn't pitch at court over dismissals.

15/08/2017 13:37 SAST | Updated 15/08/2017 14:02 SAST
Corbis via Getty Images
An SABC Satellite truck beaming back Television signals from the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, South Africa, one of the host stadiums for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. (Photo by AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)

Analysis

Former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng failed to pitch at the Labour Court on Tuesday, where he was expected to explain why he and former News Group Executive Simon Tebele should not be held personally liable for the legal costs in the 'SABC-8' case.

Eight journalists last year were dismissed from the SABC after speaking out against the broadcaster's policy to not show violent protests. The journalists, including the late Suna Venter, were subsequently rehired by the SABC after the court rejected their dismissal.

Read: SABC-8 Journalist Suna Venter Dead At 32

Meanwhile, shortlisting of 363 candidates to serve on the new permanent SABC board commenced in Parliament amid efforts to effect a turnaround in governance at the cash-strapped public broadcaster.

Parliament's communications portfolio committee officially dissolved the SABC board in March following protracted financial and organisational battles. The ad hoc committee looking into the fitness of the SABC board said it was dysfunctional and inquorate, noting that it had four boards and three chief executive officers in three years.

'Appointment of new board should be transparent'
The CVs of shortlisted candidates for the new SABC board should be published on Parliament's website to facilitate public and civil society engagement, the Democratic Alliance said on Monday.

"The DA encourages South African citizens to participate in this process, and join as Parliament embark on finding the best possible candidates for the permanent board of the public broadcaster," the party said.

"We intend on carefully considering each application to ensure that the best candidates are selected to continue the work of steering the SABC from the red to the black."

The main opposition party in Parliament said allowing the public to comment on each shortlisted candidate would be crucial in ensuring that "an SABC riddled with corruption, financial mismanagement and partisanship never happens again".

Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the SABC's long decline

Motsoeneng's lengthy, albeit intermittent, involvement at the SABC since the 1990s has been marred by successive scandals. His tenure as chief operating officer, in particular, was first soured when former public protector Thuli Madonsela in February 2014 found that he had lied about passing matric, abused his position to give himself three salary increases in a single year, and had "cleansed" the SABC of senior staff.

In September last year, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Motsoeneng did not have the right to appeal a ruling by Judge Dennis Davis the year before finding his appointment as COO was irrational and illegal.

By June 2017, new communications minister Ayanda Dlodlo said the disciplinary process resulting in Motsoeneng's axing from the SABC had been fair and was upbeat that his dismissal meant "that is an era that is behind us", according to Business Day.

The SABC's interim board in August filed an urgent application to interdict and restrain the SABC pension fund from paying out Motsoeneng's pension benefits. This followed an audit investigation into the SABC's finances revealing he received "an unlawful/unathorised" payment of approximately R11.5-million.

In the interim, the SABC is reported to have lost R509-million in the fourth quarter of the 2016/7 year, approximately four times its budgeted loss of R137 million, Business Day reported in June. Motsoeneg's signature 90% local content quotas was cited as one of several reasons for deepening financial collapse at the broadcaster.

Tasked with initiating a turnaround at the SABC, the new board may have a maximum of 12 non-executive members and needs at least nine, including a chairperson or deputy, to meet quorum. Once a final shortlist from the 363 applicants is produced by the committee, the National Assembly will vote on the new board who must then be approved by the president.

The board will serve for a maximum term of five years.