The Democratic Alliance on Monday challenged the legality of the SABC’s decision to claim from its insurance for the legal fees of chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and former board chairwoman Ellen Tshabalala.
DA communications spokesperson Gavin Davis said both had lied to the SABC about their academic qualifications before they were appointed, and therefore the SABC could not use taxpayer’s money to defend them over wrongdoing technically committed in their private capacity.
“Not only is it morally unjustifiable for the public to pay Motsoeneng and Tshabalala’s legal costs, there are serious question marks over the legality of the SABC’s decision to indemnify them from paying,” Davis said.
“Firstly, both Motsoeneng and Tshabalala lied about their qualifications before they joined the SABC. This means they committed wrongdoing in their personal capacity; it cannot be said that they committed these acts in the course and scope of their employment. Indeed, the SABC should be taking action against Motsoeneng and Tshabalala, not funding their legal battles.”
Davis said it also appeared to constitute a breach of the contentious SABC memorandum of incorporation which Communications Minister Faith Muthambi signed last year.
The memorandum stated that the corporation may take out insurance to protect a director against liability or expenses for which the broadcaster is permitted to indemnify an employee.
However, Davis pointed out that paragraph 20.2.1, and a sub-clause, expressly states that this excludes directors found guilty of “wilful misconduct”.
“It is quite obvious that, whichever you way you look at it, neither Motsoeneng nor Tshabalala can be lawfully indemnified from paying their own legal costs,” he added.
Muthambi has, in reply to written parliamentary questions, said the SABC did not pay any legal costs for Motsoeneng but added the introduction of the Companies Act in 2008 had rendered insurance for directors’ liability crucial for all companies.
“The SABC as such took an insurance cover and all legal fees for Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng were submitted to the insurers for payment.”
She gave the same answer in reply to an indentical question from the official opposition regarding Tshabalala’s legal fees.
Asked for comment on Davis’s statement, Muthambi’s spokesperson Mischack Molakeng said: “The SABC has not paid any legal fees for Hlaudi Motsoeneng, that is our official comment.”
The bitter wrangle over Motsoeneng’s appointment as chief operating officer is currently before the Supreme Court of Appeal. The SCA on Friday reserved judgment on whether Motsoeneng should be suspended pending the outcome of the disciplinary inquiry to which public protector Thuli Madonsela said he should be subjected for, inter alia, misrepresenting his qualifications.