Mpofu's suspension unlawful, court told

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board did not comply with its own rules when it suspended chief executive Dali Mpofu, the Johannesburg High Court heard on Friday.

The board made a decision to get rid of Mpofu simply because he had suspended SABC news chief Snuki Zikalala, said Mpofu’s lawyer, advocate Vincent Maleka SC.

“The SABC board acted before it complied with its own internal rules ... the suspension cannot stand,” he said in his closing argument ain an urgent application challenging Mpofu’s suspension from the public broadcaster.

“The [board] meeting was unlawful ... the resolution was unlawful,” added Maleka.

Judge Moroa Tsoka, who has reserved judgement until Monday morning, questioned the SABC’s lawyers about the legality of Mpofu’s suspension.

He pointed out that the SABC’s court papers state that the memorandum of the meeting where the suspension was decided had not been adopted formally by the board.

The court documents filed by the SABC state: “The precautionary suspension decision was taken unanimously.
The minute of that meeting is still in draft form. It has not yet been adopted.”

“If a minute is not adopted, it cannot be effective,” the judge said, adding that it seemed that “the board acted prematurely”.

But advocate Tim Bruinders, for the SABC board, replied that chairperson Kanyi Mkhonza had made it clear in her affidavit that she was at a meeting where there was a majority decision to suspend Mpofu.

Bruinders said the judge’s statement that the suspension could not be effective because the minute was not formally adopted was like “living in a make-believe world of Kafka”.

Bruinders argued that Mpofu’s application should be turned down because there was no urgency in the matter.

But the judge interrupted Bruinders to ask him why the board felt it necessary to suspend Mpofu at 1.40am: “Couldn’t they have waited until he arrived at work the next day?”

“It seems ... the applicant [Mpofu] should be given an inherent right to dignity,” the judge said.

Mkhonza suspended Mpofu last Wednesday, the day after he suspended Zikalala, SABC group executive of news and current affairs.

Mkhonza said Mpofu’s suspension was pending an investigation into allegations about his conduct, including claims that he refused or failed to implement board decisions.

The court heard on Thursday that the board had some “concerns” about Mpofu’s conduct as CEO, which included the alleged late submission of the public broadcaster’s budget, the alleged loss of important sports broadcasting rights contracts and his alleged failure to implement board decisions on the repositioning of radio station SAfm.

A memorandum containing these concerns was leaked to the Sunday Times and Mpofu accused Zikalala of leaking the document. That is why he suspended Zikalala, a move the board argued was unlawful.

Mpofu’s lawyers also told the court that the appointment of Gabriel Mampone as acting CEO was invalid because only executive members of the board can be appointed to the position.

This was cited as another reason why Mpofu’s application should be considered as urgent.

Judgement will be handed down on 9.30am on Monday.—Sapa

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