/ 5 February 2014

Resigned SABC chief Mokhobo denies massive payout

SABC chief executive Lulama Mokhobo has resigned from her post.
SABC chief executive Lulama Mokhobo has resigned from her post.

SABC's chief executive officer Lulama Mokhobo is horrified that people are mistakenly claiming she will now get a huge payout following her resignation after only two years in the hot seat. 

She will not be leaving under a cloud, Mokhobo told the Mail and Guardian

Media reports claimed Mokhobo was accused of an abuse of power and improper conduct in a provisional report by the public protector for appointing controversial acting chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng to his post.

"As you know, I never appointed him to the post, as was stated in a provisional public protector report, 'The Blame Game', leaked to the press," she said.

"The board appointed Hlaudi and it had to be approved by the [communications] minister. I was interviewed by the public protector's office and this issue was cleared up for the final report."

Mokhobo said she would not receive a large payout when she leaves at the end of the month. "I am not going to be paid out for the remainder of my contract," a riled Mokhobo said. "It would be irresponsible of me to even think of it.

"I want to catch up on reading, take time out and relax. I don't want to be fully employed for a while. My family time was never mine or theirs, for a long time my family has taken a back seat."

Right time to leave
Instead, the executive who was described by board members as "the shareholders' choice" at the time of her appointment, said she felt exhausted and it was the right time to leave.

"It has been a great honour and privilege. I just reached a place and engaged with the board. I was starting to say, 'you know what, I am occupying this seat, getting a darn good salary, but it is a question of value'.

"My  job was to stabilise the company, bring it up to liquidity, and deal with strategic issues it had for a while. I have done that. There is now R1.2-billion cash in the bank," said Mokhobo.

"The government guarantee is paid off by the SABC and certain strategic projects such as our satellite channel and our human capital requirements are done now. We have the 24-hour news channel launched and digital transformation is done. I came in, and together with an executive team, we unlocked all of that, and had a successful launch of our channel."

Unusually for a chief executive at the drama-filled SABC, Mokhobo's stint in the top job was relatively quiet, apart from her suspension of SABC news chief Phil Molefe, after she asked to see regular copies of his editorial news diaries and accused him of news bias in favour of expelled ANC Youth leader Julius Malema.

Asked whether she had fallen out with Motsoeneng, who is known to wield the censor's axe in favour of President Jacob Zuma, she said they had a good working relationship.

"Nothing happened. In every company there is dissent, but there was pure friendship between executives. We worked, and we had different approaches, but ultimately the SABC had to be one, and key debates were very robust," explained Mokhobo.

"No, it is just reaching a point, and I am the type of leader who is able to see when my time is up. I have done everything I could. I am not a maintenance business person. I am a problem solver, and I have done what I could. I gave my executive team space and challenges. The SABC now needs a brilliant mind to be able to push the organisation into the digital future."

Unwilling to discuss
This week Mokhobo was faced with updating the communications parliamentary committee after it had heard the shocking results of a skills audit report by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The report revealed the SABC lacked the critical skills required for a successful transformation to digital broadcasting by June 2015. 

If she felt there was a lack of skills around her as she guided the SABC over the past two years, the quietly spoken Mokhobo, who trained as a teacher and later obtained a masters of science, was not letting on. 

Asked whether she been bothered by the criticism that Motsoeneng did not have a matric, Mokhobo said he had years of experience in the job, and on-the-job training is now recognised in law.

Motsoeneng declined to be drawn into a discussion on why Mokhobo was quitting her job.

"I don't want to discuss that, only she can discuss that. We worked as a team, the two of us and the group executive. There were no issues on leadership," he said.

"She knows that I do work hard, and I handle the operations side of work. She was more on a strategic level. Our relationship was very solid. We enjoyed what we were doing."