Motsoeneng loses another battle as Labour Court dismisses case
Former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng suffered another defeat on Wednesday when the Labour Court dismissed his application. Motsoeneng had applied to the Labour Court to have his disciplinary hearings by the SABC collapsed. Disciplinary committee chair Nazeem Cassim told News24 that the hearings would continue on Friday next week.
He said Motsoeneng’s lawyers would be arguing in opposition to the charges laid by the SABC against Motsoeneng. Last week the SABC argued that Motsoeneng’s behaviour warranted immediate termination. He faces charges of breaching the terms of his suspension following a media briefing he held on April 19.
Motsoeneng’s lawyers had last week argued that parallel hearings by the public broadcaster against their client were unfair.
Motsoeneng had also applied to have Cassim recused as the chair of the hearing, opting for a mutually agreed chairperson with the SABC. Andy Bester, for Motsoeneng, had also wanted a postponement pending his client’s appeal against the Western Cape High Court’s ruling in December 2016. Western Cape High Court Judge Owen Rogers ruled at the time that Motsoeneng could not work at the SABC in any capacity unless former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s February 2014 report was set aside, or a new disciplinary hearing cleared him of wrongdoing.
Rogers said a previous disciplinary hearing, which cleared him of all charges, was “wholly inadequate”. Motsoeneng has suffered one court defeat after another. In November 2015, the Western Cape High Court declared his appointment as COO irrational and illegal and set it aside.
The court denied him leave to appeal. In September 2016, the Supreme Court of Appeal also denied him leave to appeal. During Wednesday’s sitting, Thembeka Ngcukaitobi for the SABC said Motsoeneng maligned the broadcaster’s newly-appointed board during his media briefing.
He had expressed disapproval of some of the new board members and justified his reasons for the SABC’s 90% local content policy. He was later charged with breaching the relationship of trust with the board and bringing the public broadcaster into disrepute.
Bester argued that acting CEO James Aguma authorised the briefing. Ngcukaitobi said Aguma only gave permission for Motsoeneng to hold a briefing to correct a statement relating to the parliamentary ad hoc committee which looked into the fitness of the SABC board to hold office.
“He does not say: ‘I gave you permission to malign the board.'” Bester argued that it was unfair for Motsoeneng to be subjected to two disciplinary hearings. His second hearing relates to charges stemming from Madonsela’s report, titled When Governance and Ethics Fail.
She found that he had lied about his qualifications when he applied to work at the SABC, purged staff, and increased his salary exorbitantly.