Minor victory for Hlaudi against SABC

2019-12-03 00:46

Former SABC chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng has won a court challenge against the public broadcaster.

City Press has learnt that Motsoeneng scored a victory in the Western Cape High Court on November 21, in a case concerning an application that was brought by the SABC to force him to pay the legal costs it incurred.

Motsoeneng had initially taken legal action against the public broadcaster soon after his axing in June 2017, in response to the SABC charging him for comments he made at a press conference in April 2017.

Motsoeneng challenged his former employer for charging him on that basis, rather than on then Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s recommendations.

Motsoeneng then withdrew this charge, but last week the SABC was unsuccessful in forcing him to cover the legal costs.

At that April 2017 presser, Motsoeneng defended the decisions he had taken as COO of the SABC, including his implementation of the 90% local content policy.

By this time, he had been placed on suspension from the SABC, following a court ruling.

He was fired in June 2017 for bringing the public broadcaster into disrepute.

The legal action taken by the SABC against him for costs is one of a number of court cases the broadcaster is said to be involved in, adding to its financial woes, says a source.

The source has alleged that the SABC is spending far too much money on legal cases, particularly ones brought by disgruntled former employees, who were fired on the grounds of being irregularly appointed by Motsoeneng during his tenure as COO.

“They are challenging their dismissals in the labour court, arguing that they were appointed through SABC processes and not by Motsoeneng,” the source said.

But SABC acting spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo denied these allegations on Saturday.

Motsoeneng confirmed to City Press on Saturday that he had won the case against the SABC but declined to comment further, saying he did not want to talk to the media about his cases against the SABC and would deal with them in court.

“I am equal to the task. I am ready for it. I believe that in the end justice will prevail,” said Motsoeneng.

His lawyer, Zola Majavu, said the Western Cape High Court had dismissed the SABC’s application.

“[It] was pursuant to Motsoeneng’s withdrawal of the case in which he wanted the SABC to charge him as per the Public Protector’s recommendation. Instead, it opted to charge him based on the press conference he held,” Majavu said.

In her report, released in 2014, Madonsela recommended that action be taken against Motsoeneng for receiving exorbitant salary increases and lying in his SABC application form that he had a matric certificate.

Commenting on the November court ruling, Seapolelo said:.“The facts are that in 2017, Motsoeneng called a presser wherein he brought the SABC into disrepute. He was later charged by the corporation for bringing its name into disrepute – a charge for which he was eventually dismissed.

Last year, the SABC paid the DA about R1.7 million relating to court cases the public broadcaster lost while defending Motsoeneng.

“After being charged, Motsoeneng approached the Western Cape High Court, seeking an order compelling the SABC to include charges he had faced in a disciplinary inquiry. This was declared invalid by the court. Motsoeneng withdrew his application without tendering the legal costs incurred by the SABC in defending his application.

“The SABC then applied for a court order to compel Motsoeneng to pay its legal costs, which the court declined to grant to the SABC in November.”

Regarding the irregular appointments application in the labour court, Seapolelo said the SABC had followed recommendations made by the parliamentary ad hoc committee and the Public Protector.

“The SABC is on record for saying that it will not litigate through the media. Court records remain available for inspection to members of the public, including the media, who have an interest in the application.

“The application will be heard on December 11 and 12, and interested members of the public may attend proceedings.”

In terms of the R2.1 billion bailout given to the SABC in October – out of a R3.2 billion tranche – Seapolelo said the money received would not be used for court cases but for the priorities outlined by the board, Treasury and the department of communications as a precondition for receiving the rest of the bailout money, amounting to R1.1 billion.

“So, some of these priorities include paying the corporation’s longstanding creditors, investment in content acquisition and maintenance of our infrastructure. The corporation confirms that no bailout money has been or is being used to settle any court case,” Seapolelo said.

Last year, the SABC paid the DA about R1.7 million relating to court cases the public broadcaster lost while defending Motsoeneng.

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