Former SABC COO Chris Maroleng has asked the Labour Court to declare his axing from the public broadcaster invalid and unlawful,  saying the procedure was faulty.

Maroleng’s tenure  at the SABC ended abruptly following a board meeting in April, just more than a year after he took over from controversial predecessor Hlaudi Motsoeneng. 

Maroleng argued in court papers filed at the Labour Court this week that he was denied his contractual right to appeal against his dismissal.

He wants the court to declare his right to appeal in terms of the SABC’s disciplinary code and employment contract, and that the public broadcaster’s refusal breached both the code and his contract.

The court should also order his restoration as COO, pending the outcome of the appeals process. 

Maroleng axed after he was found guilty of three of four charges he faced at a disciplinary hearing. He had pleaded not guilty to all of them.

He was found guilty of breaching his fiduciary duties as a result of a letter he wrote to the SA Rugby Union (Saru) in which he effectively tried to save former SABC acting group executive for sports Marcia Mahlalela’s job at the union.

According to media reports at the time, Mahlalela resigned from the SABC late in 2018 on the day she was set to appear before a disciplinary hearing to answer for alleged irregularities relating to the reappointment of popular presenter Robert Marawa. She later joined Saru.

After noting she was charged before jumping ship, Saru wrote a letter to the SABC, specifically to Maroleng, enquiring about the seriousness of the charges.

Maroleng, who appeared to have been worried that Mahlalela's new job could be on the line, told Saru that she was not found guilty of any wrongdoing and the charges against her were not substantiated.

The SABC board took issue with Maroleng's tone in the letter to Saru and argued that he seemed to have represented the interest of Mahlalela over those of the SABC.

SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe argued that Maroleng was not authorised to respond on behalf of Mahlalela, and he further claimed that the COO had lied to Saru that Mahlalela was facing three charges while she was facing six charges.

Maroleng was also found guilty on a third charge of gross negligence relating to the secondment and payment of an allowance to Carmen Schneider, an HR employee at the broadcaster, reportedly to lead a management programme he had initiated.