[From our archives] Dali Mpofu wrangles with the SABC over his suspension

The dispute over the suspension of South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) CEO Dali Mpofu should be referred to the Labour Court, the Johannesburg High Court heard on Wednesday.

Lawyer Paul Pretorius, representing the SABC board, told Judge Antonie Gildenhuys that the high court did not have the jurisdiction to deal with the matter.

”Your Lordship must decline jurisdiction, or alternatively refer the application to the Labour Court,” Pretorius said on the second day of Mpofu’s challenge against his third suspension from office.

”The Labour Court has the jurisdiction to deal with this,” added Pretorius.

Earlier in the day, the judge questioned Mpofu’s conduct during the board meeting in June that resulted in his suspension from office for a third time since May 7.

Mpofu’s lawyer, Michael Kuper, argued that the meeting, where the suspension was decided on, was unlawful because the board’s three executive directors were asked to recuse themselves.

This would make the meeting null and void.

But Gildenhuys asked whether Mpofu did not leave the meeting voluntarily because he did not object against the request for him to leave.

”It seems to me that if he did volunteer to leave, that is the end of your case,” Gildenhuys told Kuper.

”He [Mpofu] is a legally trained person and he has been through a court case on this very issue … why did he not object?” asked the judge.

”As I see it, that is the crux of the case,” he added.

Kuper said Mpofu believed that the board would recall him to offer him an opportunity to state his side of the story.

Kuper pointed out that Mpofu did object at the end of the meeting when it emerged that he would not get a chance to respond.

But Gildenhuys said Mpofu should have at least explained in his court affidavit why he did not make any objections at the beginning of the meeting.

”I can think of many reasons why he did not object … [but] I find it disturbing that he doesn’t deal with that in his papers,” said the judge.

The judge also asked the SABC board’s lawyer to deal with the possibility of suspending judgement to allow another board meeting to take place. Pretorius said he would deal with that later.

A handful of members of a Tembisa congregation again attended the court hearing to show support for Mpofu.

Asked why they were supporting him, a woman, who did not want to be named, replied: ”I don’t know. I think they [the SABC] invited us here. The pastor is a friend [of Mpofu].”

On Tuesday, Gildenhuys ruled that Mpofu’s application was urgent. However, the judge said he could only rule on whether the meeting where Mpofu’s suspension was decided was unlawful, and not on whether the suspension itself was unlawful.

Mpofu’s lawyers are arguing that the meeting did not follow the correct legal procedures, and also quoted from two previous judgements by Judge Moroa Tsoka, which overturned Mpofu’s first two suspensions.

Mpofu was first suspended on May 7, a day after he suspended his news chief Snuki Zikalala, who was accused of leaking a memorandum on Mpofu’s alleged bad management of the SABC.

Zikalala was reinstated in his position as SABC head of news this week because the board believed Mpofu did not have the authority to suspend him.

The hearing continues on Thursday. — Sapa.

 

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