The SABC's Auckland Park headquarters. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
The SABC's Auckland Park headquarters. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

The SABC’s former chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, is not responsible for the costs incurred during the dismissal of eight journalists last year.

This is according to his legal representative Advocate Thabani Masuku‚ who argued that Motsoeneng was not the decision-maker, and that the directive to dismiss the journalists was taken by former acting group CEO Jimi Matthews‚ who ordered former acting group executive for news and current affairs‚ Simon Tebele‚ to fire the eight employees.

"The court had not identified Mr Motsoeneng as the decision-maker responsible for terminating the employment contracts of the applicants. [The] SABC itself had not identified Mr Motsoeneng as the decision-maker [and] the applicants themselves did not identify Mr Motsoeneng as the decision-maker‚" argued Masuku.

 

He further argued that if union Solidarity believed that Motsoeneng was responsible‚ they would have joined him with the main applications. "The sole reason and purpose for joining Mr Motsoeneng after judgment on the merits was not to re-visit the merits of the application and determine, again, whether or not the applicants had been unlawfully and unfairly dismissed."

Solidarity‚ which brought the application to the Labour Court‚ has argued that Motsoeneng‚ who is the second respondent‚ made the decision that led to eight journalists being fired after they spoke out on issues within the SABC.

Solidarity wants Motsoeneng to be held liable for the legal costs as he introduced the 90% local-content policy and also banned the airing of violent protests on SABC. "He would have participated in those proceedings by providing a version of the role he is alleged to have played in the termination decisions. That way the court would have been empowered to make just and equitable orders having regards to all the facts relevant to the questions of unfair and unlawful dismissals‚" said Masuku.

Earlier on Wednesday‚ Advocate Hans van der Riet SC‚ representing the Broadcast Electronic Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu)‚ told Judge David Gush that all three respondents should be held personally liable for the costs of the dismissal of his clients. "It’s clear that [Motsoeneng] took the decision." He also said the SABC was guilty of "unacceptable conduct".

Van der Riet is representing Busi Ntuli‚ Thandeka Gqubule and Lukhanyo Calata. These three, along with Vuyo Mvoko‚ Jacques Steenkamp‚ Foeta Krige‚ Krivani Pillay and the late Suna Venter, were fired by the public broadcaster in July 2016 for speaking out against Motsoeneng’s policy of no longer airing footage of violent protests.

Solidarity’s legal representative Advocate Corné Goosen said Motsoeneng, at no point, said the allegations against him were a lie‚ and that he took a technical approach on the admissibility of the evidence‚ instead of denying it.

A confident Motsoeneng said he was hopeful that he would not be held liable for the costs orders that had been imposed on him. Notably‚ controversial Pastor Paseka "Mboro" Motsoeneng was present after lunch to show support for his "comrade".

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