Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

Former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng cannot use the right to freedom of expression to justify the remarks he made at a controversial press conference in 2017.

That was the view of Anton Myburgh SC‚ counsel for the public broadcaster‚ who was presenting closing arguments on Thursday at the Commission for Conciliation‚ Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in Johannesburg‚ where Motsoeneng is challenging his dismissal from the SABC.

"Mr Motsoeneng’s right to freedom of expression is limited. He was not a member of the public. He was a senior employee of the SABC. His right [to freedom of expression] must yield to the rights of others not to be defamed‚" argued Myburgh.

He also said Motsoeneng was bound by contractual stipulations and could not rely on freedom of expression as a defence for making defamatory remarks.

Motsoeneng was fired by the public broadcaster in June 2017. His dismissal followed a finding by a disciplinary committee‚ chaired by Nazeer Cassim SC‚ that he was guilty of bringing the broadcaster into disrepute at a controversial media conference he called on April 17 2017.

In the briefing‚ which lasted four hours‚ Motsoeneng defended his 90% local music content quota‚ criticised a parliamentary ad hoc committee probe into the fitness of the SABC‚ and insulted interim SABC board member Krish Naidoo.

Myburgh said Motsoeneng had used the press conference to inflate his ego and his statements had undermined his relationship with the SABC. "His statements do not enjoy legal protection because they impair the dignity of others‚" contended Myburgh.

Motsoeneng’s supporters picketed outside the CCMA before the hearing resumed on Thursday. An official from the CCMA approached Motsoeneng and complained that they were blocking traffic and the building landlord complained about the disturbance.

Thabiso Mhlamvu‚ chair of the South African Arts & Culture Youth Forum‚ was one of the picketers. He said they supported Motsoeneng because he believed in the transformation of the entertainment industry. "We don’t even want the 90% local content — we want 100%. Because we as young people deserve to be taken care of by our government."

Mhlamvu said they would be happy if Motsoeneng were to be reinstated in his job as "there is chaos already in the SABC and it is not his fault".

Black First Land First (BLF) said in a statement that it would also stand in solidarity with Motsoeneng when the hearing resumed on Thursday. The BLF described him as "a proponent of radical transformation and the only pro-black activist who managed the SABC".

During the hearing at the CCMA in March‚ SABC board deputy chair Khanyisile Kweyama testified that Motsoeneng was not qualified to hold any position at the broadcaster. She said that even if the courts were to rule that he be reinstated‚ he would fall short of the requirements.

When it was his turn to testify at the CCMA in June‚ Motsoeneng accused Naidoo of using his political connections to get him sacked. Motsoeneng claimed Naidoo instructed the ANC to get rid of him.

The hearing continues.