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SABC blatantly ignores public protector’s report

Two years after public protector Thuli Madonsela found that the SABC chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, had lied about his matric certificate, she is “taken aback” that her findings have largely been ignored.

Madonsela’s office will be writing to the SABC to explain that the broadcaster was obliged to do as she said.

In response to follow-up questions from her office to the SABC to check whether the remedial action she outlined in her report, titled When Governance and Ethics Fail, had been taken, the broadcaster failed to convince her that it had done so.

Madonsela’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said they received the response from the SABC on February??12. “It showed that the SABC had ‘implemented’ the public protector’s remedial action,” he wrote in response to the Mail & Guardian’s emailed questions.

“We were taken aback because the response came months after the Supreme Court of Appeal gave direction on the legal status of the public protector’s findings and remedial action, and what affected parties can and cannot do in response to same,” Segalwe said.

The court said Madonsela’s findings have legal effect and, if the SABC did not apply for a review within the legal prescripts of 180 days, “it cannot be ignored or second-guessed”. The SABC could also not embark on any “parallel investigation process” and adopt a position that these findings trumped hers.

Segalwe said Madonsela was writing to the SABC “to help it understand the SCA judgment and comply with the remedial action”.

Motsoeneng yesterday said he wasn’t aware of the exchange. “The SABC implemented the report and there was a disciplinary hearing,” he said. The SABC’s spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago, could not be reached for comment.

Motsoeneng appointed despite report
Madonsela’s report, which was released in February 2014, found that Motsoeneng was “dishonest” and had been allowed to operate above the law. It recommended that the SABC board take corrective action against him for lying about his matric certificate and raising his salary from R1.5-million to R2.4-million, and for irregularly and rapidly increasing the salaries of other staff members.

Despite the report, he was appointed in his position permanently in July 2014.

Last year, the Democratic Alliance launched a court application to try to force the SABC to implement Madonsela’s report and to set aside his appointment, but, despite the court ruling in the DA’s favour, Motsoeneng remained in place.

A disciplinary hearing into his misconduct, ordered by the court, cleared him of wrongdoing in December. The court also ruled that Madonsela’s report was legally binding.

The M&G has seen the SABC’s response to five points raised by Madonsela’s office. In response to the recommendation that all monies Motsoeneng spent irregularly be recovered, the SABC said salaries were adjusted accordingly, but it couldn’t recover the money because there was no evidence that the broadcaster had suffered a R29-million loss as stated in Madonsela’s report because the human resources department had approved it.

The SABC said it could not charge Motsoeneng with dishonesty or misrepresentation of his qualification because of affidavits by staff members involved in his appointment. It also said Motsoeneng was cleared of all charges in the hearing on December 12. The broadcaster said Madonsela’s “allegations” that Motsoeneng abused his power and was guilty of improper conduct in approving salary rises for some staff members, which gave rise to disputes for suspending and firing others, were dealt with in the disciplinary hearing. “The suspensions and terminations were not as a direct result of the involvement of Mr Motsoeneng,” it said. “The allegations are not founded.”

Madonsela also called for the roles and relations of the SABC board and the chief operating officer to be clearly defined in relation to the group chief executive officer, “to avoid the paralysis and premature exit” of group chief executives and to adhere to the principles of good corporate governance.

The SABC said it was up to the shareholder, meaning the minister of communications, to define the role and responsibilities of the board as a whole.

MP resigns over broadcast Bill

South African Communist Party treasurer Joyce Moloi-Moropa, who previously chaired Parliament’s communications portfolio committee, has spoken out about her unhappiness regarding the Broadcasting Amendment Bill, which, if passed, is set to turn the public broadcaster into a state broadcaster.

Moloi-Moropa, who is also a member of the ANC’s national executive committee, was recalled from Parliament by the SACP after the Cabinet’s decision to approve the Bill. Instead of SABC board members being appointed through a parliamentary process, as is currently the case, it would see a nominations committee making recommendations to the communications minister. 

The ANC had instructed Communications Minister Faith Muthambi to withdraw the Bill, but she persuaded the Cabinet to approve it. This week, Moloi-Moropa said the Bill contradicted ANC policy.

“We [the SACP] support the ANC resolutions [that the SABC remain a public broadcaster]. They [policies] are relevant and are correct,” said Moloi-Moropa, who has clashed with Muthambi several times.

Although she denied leaving Parliament in protest, SACP sources linked her sudden resignation to the Bill. Pressed to explain this week, Moloi-Moropa only said: “It was heavy … very heavy.” – Matuma Letsoalo

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