The South African Broadcasting Corporation will not be paying its head of news and former acting chief executive, Phil Molefe, a settlement after he failed to secure the top job permanently.
Insiders at the broadcaster told the Mail & Guardian that Molefe had expected to secure the promotion and was demanding a payout after the job went to Lulama Mokhobo in January. The issue has been discussed at board level, they said.
SABC board chairperson Ben Ngubane said the board’s discussions were confidential. “If there are stories going around that the SABC board will pay Phil Molefe R7-million, that is not true,” said Ngubane. “We will not pay.”
There were rumours that Molefe was unhappy about Mokhobo’s appointment and had felt let down by the SABC, but he told the Mail & Guardian this week that he was the first to phone to congratulate her. Communications Minister Dina Pule announced the appointment, valid for a five-year period, on January 17.
Mokhobo replaced acting chief executive Robin Nicholson, who was ousted by the board while he was away on leave. Molefe stepped into the role, with the understanding that he would return to his key job when a new appointment was made.
“I stayed on for a week after the announcement was made and then went on leave. Some people don’t see your car in the parking lot and assume all sorts of things,” said Molefe.
Molefe claims to be on leave
On Thursday, Molefe claimed he was merely on official leave. Asked when he was going to return from leave he said he did not want to disclose information that he believed was a matter between him and his employer.
Experienced newsman Mike Siluma is acting as head of news at the corporation.
Ngubane’s unilateral appointment of Molefe last year was controversial. At the time, Molefe said his work had not been disrupted by the infighting sparked by his appointment and the unhappiness of some members of the board after he took up the post.
Molefe was then accused of starting 2011 with a purge of staff, which he denied in an interview with the M&G. “No-one has been purged,” he said. “It is not true. What purpose would that agenda exist for?”
But some SABC insiders claimed he was purging the ghost of his predecessor, Snuki Zikalala, by firing Xolani Xundu, the political editor at the SABC, in January last year. Xundu was appointed by Zikalala, who was regarded as a supporter of former president Thabo Mbeki.
Although board members hope that the financial predicament and unrest at the corporation is now behind it, the post of the chief operating officer is again in the spotlight.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who is acting in the post, has been hailed by Ngubane for saving the corporation millions by clamping down on wasteful and corrupt spending.
However, he has intermittently come under fire in the press in the past two years for not having passed matric and there have been claims that he lied on his CV about having the qualification. This week there was another rumpus at the broadcaster after a letter Motsoeneng wrote claiming he had never lied about having a matric mysteriously disappeared from his human resources file. That letter has since been replaced in the file after Motsoeneng found a copy of it, the M&G understands.
The appointment is now temporarily on ice following litigation launched by an unnamed previous applicant.