SABC, minister responds to DA court action
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Communications minister Faith Muthambi stuck by her appointment of controversial SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng, calling the Democratic Alliance “scandalous” for challenging her decision in court.
Muthambi this week filed court papers in response to the DA’s mid-July application to have Motsoeneng suspended. The matter is due to be heard at the Western Cape High Court on August 19.
Muthambi also faced a subpoena this week from public protector Thuli Madonsela, demanding that she clarify how Motsoeneng was appointed.
Madonsela issued a report in February stating that Motsoeneng had lied about his qualifications and allegedly increased his earnings by nearly R1-million a year.
Madonsela’s investigation into Motsoeneng’s appointment continues and the SABC has until August 16 to reply to her allegations.
The DA followed up Madonsela’s report with court action after its ongoing battle with the SABC, which it accused of political bias for banning its May 7 election advertisements.
Muthambi denied in her replying affidavit that Motsoeneng was “unlawfully appointed”.
She said he had “satisfactorily discharged his functions and duties as chief operations officer for a period of almost three years”.
“He has the necessary experience and expertise to fulfill his functions and duties in that regard,” she said.
Muthambi also opposed his suspension as the SABC would “inevitably be required to pay him his normal salary during the period of his suspension”.
The board and board chairperson would then need to “recommend someone to me to be appointed as acting chief operating officer,” she said.
“In those circumstances, the first respondent (SABC) will be obliged to pay double the monthly salary for the office of chief operating officer. That course of conduct would result in additional expenditure, which the first respondent will incur unnecessarily,” she said.
She also argues the DA should not approach the courts but Parliament or its portfolio committee on communications to “undertake the necessary investigations in order to establish whether there is sufficient ground to suspend and/or remove” Motsoeneng.
“It has failed to explore and pursue that remedy without providing any satisfactory explanation. On this ground alone, this honourable court is entitled to dismiss (this case), with costs,” she said.
She further argues that there is “no bias” from Motsoeneng or the SABC against the DA.
“The allegation of political loyalty is a gratuitous attack… They have been made without any supporting evidence by the applicant (DA)… I have been advised that those allegations are scandalous, vexatious and irrelevant,” she said.
She said while “some of the political parties… criticized his appointment… (it) does not make the appointment unlawful, or improper”.
The DA has challenged various government parties – including President Jacob Zuma – to respond in court to allegations that Motsoeneng was involved in fraud, political bias and corruption.
Motsoeneng has also filed a responding affidavit, alongside the SABC, its board and the latter’s chairwoman Zandile Tshabalala.
Cape Town-based lawyer Barnabas Xulu alongside Mchunu Attorneys in Johannesburg would represent the SABC, its board and Tshabalala.
The SABC board was responsible for recommending Motsoeneng to the minister, and it has to answer questions about his alleged improper appointment and employment at the public broadcaster.
Xulu filed responding affidavits on behalf of his clients at the Cape Town court this week.
“The recommendation of the board is rational and lawful… The SABC can’t just suspend him because the DA says so. The SABC believes they are politicking,” he said.
He said Motsoeneng was “not the one who approved the bonuses and salaries totaling R29-million” at the SABC, as alleged.
“We have provided documents showing that he was not involved. All this happened before he was appointed. We have proof from the SABC. We are going to court with nothing to hide,” said Xulu.
The DA and Madonsela pointed out that Motsoeneng had misled the public broadcaster about his qualifications. Xulu submitted affidavits from SABC staff to the court, confirming they knew Motsoeneng had not completed high school.
“He doesn’t have matric but we have affidavits that people who recruited and hired him knew that he didn’t have matric. It was disclosed. He has subsequently done courses which are at the level of a university diploma,” said Xulu.