Marcel Golding, the suspended executive chairperson of E.tv’s holding company Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI), has lost his bid in the Cape Labour Court to halt a disciplinary hearing over his decision to buy R24-million worth of shares in Ellies Holdings without consultation.
Judge Anton Steenkamp did, however, raise his concerns about political interference which he said “were serious and on the fact of it, not without substance”.
But he said Golding had not made a case to show that the disciplinary hearing was related to his refusal to bow to political pressure to carry content on e.tv at government’s request.
The case appeared to revolve around Golding’s decision to buy shares in the set-top box company Ellies, which he failed to report to fellow HCI managerial services directors, Jonny Copelyn and Theventheram Govender until October 6, on the eve of a Sabido board meeting. The other two directors did not support the purchase.
Golding was suspended from investment company Hosken on October 22, following a special committee hearing into allegations of gross misconduct related to the purchase of the shares. He said he acted in good faith and in the best interests of Hosken when he instructed Investec to buy the stock on behalf of Sabido Investments, of which he is chief executive.
Sabido is the parent company of e.tv.
The judge dismissed Golding’s argument that he was employed by Sabido and e.tv and not HCI. Golding had said this meant that HCI was not entitled to take action against him.
Allegations of political interference ‘not without substance’
Judge Steenkamp acknowledged the seriousness of allegations made by Golding in his affidavit for an urgent hearing, that he was being victimised because he would not bow to political interference.
He said while the allegations were “on the face of it, not without substance”, the charges against Golding bore no reference to editorial content. “It’s that share price purchase without authorisation that led to the pending disciplinary hearing that lies at the heart of this application,” Judge Steenkamp said.
He said Golding could not return to the work as he wished, and rejected the argument that HCI’s disciplinary hearing against him would damage his reputation and harm the companies he ran, saying the hearing was only set down for a week.
Steenkamp agreed with Golding’s concern that a chairperson had been chosen by HCI to hear the matter, but said that “as HCI’s counsel pointed out, in almost every disciplinary hearing a representative of the employer acts as the chairperson”.
Steenkamp opted not to award costs, saying the relationship between Golding and Copelyn had already suffered sufficient damage, and this might jeopardise any future hope of it being restored.
Golding has also applied for the matter to be heard before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).