/ 10 July 2014

Muthambi: Law firm report cleared way for Hlaudi appointment

Sunny outlook: Hlaudi Motsoeneng says he has a great deal of support for his plan to put a positive spin on the news.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng was a respondent in no less than 15 different cases from the 2013-14 financial year with the highest legal bill he accrued amounting to R5.3-million. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi told journalists on Thursday that she had no reason not to confirm Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s appointment as chief operating officer of the national broadcaster after a law firm report cleared him wrongdoing.

The law firm had been hired to look into public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on Motsoeneng. However, Muthambi refused to name the firm.

By law, the public protector’s findings can only be reviewed and set aside by a court of law. Muthambi said she affirmed Motsoeneng’s appointment as chief operating officer after a submission made to her by the SABC board on Monday, which had a recommendation that Motsoeneng be appointed. 

Muthambi said she considered the following when making her decision: 

  • The public protector report; 
  • A report by an independent law firm appointed by the SABC; 
  • Motsoeneng’s record as acting chief operating officer, and when he acted as deputy chief executive; 
  • The broadcasting Act;
  • The shareholder compact; and
  • The broadcaster’s articles of association.

She said the SABC’s decision to appoint an independent, credible and principled law firm to investigate all the issues raised by the public protector “was the responsible way” of dealing with the public protector’s report. 

“The SABC board and I are satisfied that the report by [the] appointed firm of attorneys has cleared Mr Motsoeneng of any wrongdoing. Therefore there was nothing before me that suggested that I should not affirm the appointment,” said Muthambi. 

The SABC board was in the final stages of collecting all the necessary information to forward to the public protector, and Muthambi indicated that both the board and herself would meet the deadline as set. 

‘No pressure on the board’
Muthambi insisted that: “There was no pressure on the board [to appoint Motsoeneng] and the decision that I made was rational, and I believe it is lawful”. 

Madonsela found in February 2014 that Motsoeneng’s appointment as the acting chief operating officer was irregular and that him being in this position for a period in excess of three months without the requisite board resolution was a violation of the SABC’s articles of association, which deals with appointments. 

She found that Motsoeneng had committed fraud by stating in his job application form that he had completed matric. He then filled in false grades on the same application form and promised to supply a matric certificate to confirm his qualifications when he knew he had not completed matric and did not have such a certificate.

Muthambi also revealed that there has been no settlement reached between the ministry and former SABC executive and sports administrator Mvuzo Mbebe, who interdicted the broadcaster from filling the position on a permanent basis. “There’s no settlement agreement that I am aware of in regard to Mr Mbebe’s case,” she said. 

This could mean that Motsoeneng’s appointment is in contempt of court. “This matter cannot be used to drag stability in the SABC. There was no settlement given to Mbebe, the issue of Mbebe’s court order cannot be used to stifle the stability at [the] SABC,” said Muthambi. 

Mbebe’s claim is that he was promised the job of chief operating officer by the late former communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, who died in 2009. It is understood that Mbebe was recommended for the position in 2007 but was never appointed. He has on several occasions prevented the broadcaster from appointing a person to the post permanently. In 2009, he was granted an interdict against the appointment of a new chief operations officer, making it impossible for the post to be taken up on a permanent basis.

Resolved matter
Muthambi on Friday told Parliament’s oversight committees on communication and telecommunications and postal services how difficult it was going to be to appoint a permanent chief operations officer – one Madonsela’s recommendations.

Muthambi said she had “lifted” a court file from the high court to familiarise herself with the Mbebe matter, that “all my predecessors couldn’t resolve”. “I … found that Mbebe obtained a court order on May 13 2009 that bars the SABC from appointing a COO.”

“The SABC didn’t appeal the matter. That means the remedial action recommended by the public protector … if we are to implement it, we would be in contempt of court,” said Muthambi, before assuring the MPs that she would make sure the matter gets resolved.