SABC defends ‘uneducated’ boss

The SABC is flourishing under a new regime and its acting chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, was among the people who deserved an accolade for saving the corporation millions by clamping down on wasteful and corrupt spending, says SABC board chairperson Ben Ngubane.

Motsoeneng has intermittently come under fire in the press in the past two years for not having passed matric. Although there had been claims that he lied on his CV about having the qualification, the board had not been shown proof of this, Ngubane said.

Broadcasting staff who have worked with Motsoeneng told the Mail & Guardian that he comes from an impoverished background and therefore did not finish his education, but he has had about 18 years of broadcasting experience.

Although there were claims that he dropped names and openly supported President Jacob Zuma, these proved to be untrue in the workplace, they said.

Kaizer Kganyago, the head of SABC group communications, said the advert for the job of chief operations officer had been placed on the broadcaster’s internal platform but was taken down when Communications Minister Dina Pule pointed out that there was litigation over the position.

The litigation had come from an unnamed person who had previously applied for the post and felt he had been selected, he said.

“The minister told us about the litigation and said we couldn’t appoint anybody in that post until the litigation was sorted out,” said Kganyago.

“The minister has no intention of interfering with the board over this appointment, but would like to see the advertisement for applications go out publicly when the litigation is over.”

However, this move has not gone down well with the national spokesperson for the Communication Workers Union, Matankana Mothapo, who said his members backed Motsoeneng for the top job.

“I was shocked to see the story on how he ‘lied’ about having a matric appearing in a newspaper at the weekend. I was outraged that the article was accompanied by a picture that was meant to be Hlaudi but was, in fact, a photograph of former SABC consultant Justice Ndaba,” he said. “We believe Hlaudi is an inspiration and if he can work hard and rise up, so can the rest of us.”

Mothapo claimed Motsoeneng had not tried to hide the fact that he had no matric and was now being targeted because he was rooting out corruption.

Chairperson reiterates board support for Motsoeneng
Ngubane said Motsoeneng had the support of the majority of the board members, who would like to see him appointed to the job. “Today Hlaudi spoke at the staff ‘rediffusion’ meeting and all the people present rose to show their unanimous support of him, saying he was the man for the job,” he said.

Ngubane said that in spite of Motsoeneng’s popularity at the corporation, he might have become a target because he had clamped down on corruption and exercised cost-saving measures at the cash-strapped corporation.

“He saved us R19-million by putting a stop to the controversial lease deal that led to journalists driving luxury Mercedes-Benz vehicles,” said Ngubane. “He took me to Mpumalanga and pointed out what was happening. He even phoned the acting chief executive [Phil Molefe] about this and saved us millions in no time.”

Ngubane said Motsoeneng had followed up on the auditor general’s report on corruption at the broadcaster, setting up task groups to tackle the problem areas that were placing extreme pressure on the SABC, which showed an R800-million loss in 2008.

The SABC now seems to be turning the corner and board members hope that the financial predicament is behind it. SABC board member Clare O’Neil said this week that television advertising until the end of December had exceeded its target by R110-million. It is projected that there will be 16% growth year on year in this area.

“We seem to have achieved stability and the market is responding to it,” said O’Neil. “We are trading incredibly well and the project is on target.” The projected growth in radio advertising was 8% year on year, which also seemed to be on target, she said.

O’Neil said the SABC had, since 2010, begun to engage vigorously with the advertising industry and the “positive and honest interaction” appeared to have paid off because advertising was increasing.

Ngubane said the SABC had been able to pay just more than R100-million to its creditors last year and was expected to be able to repay R300-million in March. It was unlikely that the corporation would need to draw down the second tranche of the R1.47-billion loan guarantee from the treasury, he said.

The arrival of new group chief executive officer, Lulama Mokhobo, was giving further stability to the corporation, said Ngubane, and she was welcomed by staff at the “rediffusion” meeting this week. Mokhobo was previously SABC group executive for public broadcasting services.

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