Unions target Motsoeneng first to reclaim SABC legal fees
Former head of news Simon Tebele is also in their sights as they go after the millions in legal fees a court has ruled must be repaid to them
Trade union Solidarity expects disgraced former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng to pay the R1m in legal fees that the union is owed after it won a cost order last week.
If he was unable to pay the total amount, the union would attempt to retrieve the amount from former SABC head of news Simon Tebele and the public broadcaster itself, the head of Solidarity’s Centre for Fair Labour Practices, Anton van der Bijl, said on Friday.
Motsoeneng, the SABC and Tebele were hit with the cost order on Friday, when Judge David Gush ordered that they were jointly and severally liable for the legal costs of both Solidarity and the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) in the court battle that forced the SABC to reappoint seven dismissed journalists.
The unions could, however, decide from whom they wanted to start claiming and how much they should pay, Van der Bijl said. Solidarity believed that Motsoeneng made the decision to fire the journalists and that he should bear the cost.
Bemawu’s Hannes du Buisson estimated that its legal fees amounted to R1.8m-R2m. It does not employ attorneys and, as a result, its legal fees were almost double Solidarity’s.
He said Bemawu would also go after Motsoeneng and Tebele first. Bemawu would only demand costs from the SABC for that which was not covered by Tebele and Motsoeneng, as it would then come out of the pockets of taxpayers.
Motsoeneng seemed shocked after the court ruled that he was also liable to pay costs, after he had argued that Tebele had taken responsibility for the dismissal of seven SABC journalists that spoke out against the SABC’s editorial policies.
He asked the court to make the SABC liable for costs, as he and Tebele were mere employees at the broadcaster.
Tebele’s legal representative, Paul Pio, however, asked the court to disregard the affidavit in which Tebele took sole responsibility for the dismissals.
Motsoeneng indicated that he would appeal. "It is not going to be the end because I believe it was politically motivated and malicious by those people who are involved [Solidarity and Bemawu]," he said.
Foeta Krige, one of the dismissed SABC journalists — who became known as the SABC 8 — said that the wheel of justice turned slowly, but that justice had been achieved.
He said that there was a process under way in the newsrooms of the SABC in which there would be no tolerance of "incompetent and power-hungry" news bosses such as Tebele and Motsoeneng.