Friday, November 27, 2015

High Court deals heavy blow to SABC’s Hlaudi

BELEAGUERED South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng has been dealt another heavy blow following a Western Cape High Court judgment on Friday ordering his appointment be set aside.

The Western Cape High Court last month heard part B of a review application by the Democratic Alliance (DA) which specifically sought to have Mr Motsoeneng’s permanent appointment as the SABC’s chief operating officer set aside as being irrational.

The DA believes that there is a strong legal case that Mr Motsoeneng’s permanent appointment was irrational and unlawful‚ given Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings against him.
The first part of the DA’s application sought to enforce the public protector’s recommendations. In 2014 the public protector released a report that found Mr Motsoeneng’s salary had risen from R1.5m to R2.4m in one year. Also, according to the report, he had lied about his academic qualifications and purged senior staff.

The public protector recommended Mr Motsoeneng, who was acting chief operating officer at the time, be suspended, pending a disciplinary inquiry.
But he remained in his position and no disciplinary action was taken against him. His appointment to the position was then made permanent despite the damning report.
The DA had argued in court last month that there was a strong legal case that Mr Motsoeneng’s permanent appointment was irrational and unlawful‚ given the public protector findings against him.
"The board and the minister also violated the SABC’s own governance documents which require the board to prepare a short list of candidates and interview those candidates," DA lawyer Anton Katz argued.

Mr Motsoeneng’s lawyers argued that the DA’s court challenge was premature because the Constitutional Court had still to clarity the public protector’s powers and the SABC would institute internal disciplinary proceedings.
But Mr Katz said this did not justify the public broadcaster’s failure to follow proper procedures before making the appointment.
"The position … was not advertised and no candidate, not even Mr Motsoeneng, was interviewed for the position," said Mr Katz.

Last month Mr Motsoeneng, who has been fighting tooth and nail to hold onto his high-paying job, took a voluntary leave of absence until the completion of disciplinary hearings against him.
Mr Motsoeneng faces various charges of misconduct including gross dishonesty and abuse of position. His disciplinary hearing was initially scheduled to take place on October 30 but was postponed.

He has gone to the Constitutional Court, in which he is challenging a landmark Supreme Court of Appeal judgment handed down last month.
The Supreme Court of Appeal judgment confirmed the public protector’s powers and also ruled that Mr Motsoeneng be suspended pending a disciplinary hearing. The appellate court said that, given Mr Motsoeneng’s position at the public broadcaster, the disciplinary process risked being compromised if he remained in his position while it unfolded.

by Bekezela Phakathi,

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