Ex-manager says Maroleng was on SABC dismissal ‘hit list’

A former SABC provincial manager claims the dismissal of the public broadcaster’s chief operating officer, Chris Maroleng, in April last year was a well-planned sabotage. 

Maroleng succeeded the controversial Hlaudi Motsoeneng in 2018 and was axed from the SABC on the grounds of misconduct, after an internal disciplinary hearing. Since then, he has been fighting the public broadcaster and accusing it of not giving him the right to appeal. 

This fight has made its way to the high court, with Maroleng suing the news corporation for R12-million for what he calls unlawful dismissal. He is challenging his dismissal with the labour court and demanding that the SABC carry a televised apology during prime time. He also wants the SABC’s board of directors to be declared delinquent and personally liable for the improper process followed leading to his dismissal. 

The Mail & Guardian has seen the high court documents. 

In those papers, it is alleged that his dismissal was a planned move by the SABC’s chief executive, Madoda Mxakwe, and the chairperson of its board, Bongumusa Makhathini. The two are also accused of plotting the dismissal of James Shikwambana, then the provincial manager of the SABC in the Western Cape. 

Shikwambana, in his grievance contained in the papers submitted in support of Moreleng’s case, says he heard a conversation between Mxakwe and Makhathini while he was driving them in Cape Town in November 2018. He claims that Mxakwe said: “Chair, we must build a case against this guy.” 

This, he alleges, shows that the two were determined to build a case of misconduct against Maroleng, and did so illegally. “My conclusion was that the former COO [chief operating officer] was a threat to him. When newspapers reported that Mr Maroleng was going through a DC [disciplinary committee], I was not surprised.” 

Shikwambana says he resigned after learning that he was part of a “hit list” that was prepared within the SABC. 

“I had a fallout with the CEO, surely coming from a disagreement I had with him on a matter while I was the SABC provincial manager in the Western Cape. Since I was implicated on this list of those irregularly employed. To save myself the trouble of travel to Johannesburg and spending a lot of money on legal bills, I decided to withdraw my name from the process and resigned on September 1st.”

“The names on the list were said to be of those who were going to be taken to labour court by SABC. Mr Mxakwe said they were busy finalising that list but [that] my name was not there. In the meeting, he informed me that my request has been declined by the GCEO [group chief executive officer], citing the fact that I was implicated in those irregular appointments. I was shocked for two reasons; he raised my expectations knowing that he was not going to approve; secondly, he said my name was not on the list but suddenly I am implicated.

SABC denies allegations

SABC spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo said they have not received any summons or writings from the court and learned about this matter from the media.

“The SABC can confirm that, at the time of writing, the corporation had still not been served with the summons, which has been circulating in the media. Once we are in receipt of the summons, the SABC will review the contents and respond accordingly through the required court process.”

She further denied the allegations that proper processes were not followed when Moreleng was dismissed.

“It is untrue that due process was not followed regarding Mr Maroleng’s matter. He was charged after breaching his fiduciary duties as a director, for acting in a manner which breaches good faith, trust, honesty, loyalty and confidence, and for two charges of gross negligence.”

Seapolelo said that both Makhathini and Mxakwe denied having any discussion about building a case against Maroleng. “The SABC chairperson and GCEO have stated unequivocally that they never had such a discussion and reiterate that this evidence was dismissed by the independent chairperson of the relevant grievance hearing.”

*This article has been changed to reflect that Shikwambana resigned and was not dismissed, as we initially reported. This change happened after the SABC contacted the Mail & Guardian and pointed out the error. 

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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