The Democratic Alliance (DA) is taking Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s permanent appointment as the SABC’s chief operating officer on legal review and will seek the court to set the appointment aside.
DA leader Helen Zille told journalists on Monday that the party will apply to the high court before the end of this week. Zille said the DA believes that there is a strong legal case that Motsoeneng’s appointment was irrational given public protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings against him.
“Our high court application seeks to have the appointment of Motsoeneng reviewed and set aside as being irrational,” she said. Zille said they will make a case in the court that, in the light of the public protector’s findings, the decision to appoint Motsoeneng was irrational because Mandonsela’s findings were not taken into consideration.
Zille said the only evidence that the SABC board and Communications Minister Faith Muthambi applied their mind to Madonsela’s report was Muthambi’s recent statement that an independent law firm considered the public protector’s report and “cleared Motsoeneng of any wrongdoing”.
“But it is not possible for a law firm’s report to trump the report of a chapter nine institution, much less clear a person of wrongdoing — only a court can do that,” said Zille.
No candidates considered
Zille said the fact that no other candidates were considered was also problematic because the appointment process of the three executive directors was set out in the SABC’s articles of association.
“The non-executive directors shall, after they have conducted interviews and compiled a short list of preferred candidates, recommend to the member [minister] for his or her approval or rejection, the appointment of the preferred candidate to fill any position as the executive directors of the corporation,” states section 11.1.2 of the articles of association.
Zille said not only was Motsoeneng’s appointment contrary to the requirements of the articles and the charter, it was irrational. “When appointing a person to such a post, it would be necessary to consider a variety of possible candidates in order to find the person best suited. It appears that the board did not perform that exercise. That renders the appointment irrational.”
The DA would also call for a parliamentary debate on what it will take for South Africans to have a public broadcaster that performs the service demanded of it. The party wants Muthambi to account to the communications portfolio committee for the decision to appoint Motsoeneng permanently.
Other parties into the picture
The party’s spokesperson on communications, Gavin Davis, said that the DA was consulting all other opposition parties in Parliament about speaking collectively on the matter. In her report released in February, Madonsela found that while Motsoeneng was the SABC’s acting chief operating officer, his salary had increased from R1.5-million to R2.4-million in one year.
He had also purged senior staff, and misrepresented his qualifications to the SABC — namely that he had passed matric. Madonsela recommended to the public broadcaster to appoint a new chief operating officer within 90 days.
Muthambi announced in Pretoria last Tuesday that Motsoeneng, who had until then been acting chief operating officer, had been permanently appointed to the post. Meanwhile, Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications announced on Monday that all matters related to the department of communications and its entities, including the SABC, would form part of the committee’s programme for the next term.
The oversight committee’s chairperson, Joyce Moloi-Moropa, said the portfolio committee has been closely monitoring the developments at SABC and other entities reporting to the department.
“The minister assured the committee during our last meeting that the SABC will meet their deadline [August 17] to responds to the public protector’s report,” she said. “We therefore believe that by the time we meet again with the department, all issues raised in the report would have been responded to, and we will take it from there as part of committee oversight mandate”.
Moloi-Moropa added that the committee had at no staged resolved to summon Muthambi to the committee this week (as reported by some media) to explain her confirmation of Motsoeneng’s appointment as the permanent operations executive at the SABC. Parliament will be dealing with budget vote debates from this week until the end of July. Members of Parliament will go on recess at the beginning of August.