Don’t be fooled by Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s “smoke and mirrors”.
That is the advice of William Bird, director of Media Monitoring Africa, in the aftermath of Motsoeneng’s bizarre and lengthy press briefing yesterday where the former SABC chief operating officer sang his own praises and launched scathing attacks on the long and varied list that constitutes his critics.
“What’s dangerous about him is that people don’t see beyond the song and dance,” said Bird.
“I think it was an attempt to fight back and divert the discourse from where it was on the SABC the last few months.”
Before Motsoeneng uttered a word, a string of people – among whom the musician Blonde Makhene – heaped praise on Motsoeneng, especially his policy that 90% of the music played on SABC radio stations had to be local.
Bird described that as “almost staged praise singing” and “Fascist meets Michael Jackson”.
Last month the National Assembly adopted the report of the ad hoc committee that investigated the SABC board and appointed an interim board, which recently started their massive task of turning the public broadcaster around.
In December 2016 the Western Cape High Court ruled that Motsoeneng’s appointment as the SABC’s group executive of corporate affairs was unlawful and irrational and held that he may not hold any position at the SABC until he has faced a satisfactory disciplinary hearing on the Public Protector’s string of findings against him and the subsequent remedial actions have been reviewed and set aside by a court.
Therefore, Motsoeneng is currently an ordinary employee of the SABC without a title.
Yesterday it was debated on social media whether the media should pay any attention to Motsoeneng’s press briefing. Bird said the media understandably covered Motsoeneng, because of the spectacle he created.
“It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”
He did, however, warn that the media attention fed Motsoeneng’s grandeur.
After the press conference, DA MP and spokesperson on communications, Phumzile van Damme, said that his performance was enough for the SABC to fire Motsoeneng.
She said after the court’s finding, Motsoeneng was just an employee of the SABC, albeit one who “draws a salary of R350 000 a month for sitting at home”, and was therefore still bound by the SABC disciplinary code.
“Hosting a press conference, as an SABC employee, without permission from the SABC board, or its management, constitutes a deliberate effort to undermine the SABC and to cause negative reporting of the various efforts to steer the SABC to calm waters,” said Van Damme.
“This cannot go unpunished.
“Previous boards failed to take strong action against Motsoeneng. It is time for the SABC interim board to show its teeth and its commitment to fixing the public broadcaster by firing Motsoeneng.”
Even before the press conference, Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem called on the SABC interim board “to take action against this loose cannon”.
“The board must not allow Hlaudi to undermine their authority,” said Bloem.
After the press conference, SABC News quoted spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago saying that the briefing had been noted, but that the broadcaster would not communicate with Motsoeneng through the media.