Hlaudi Motsoeneng.  Picture: THE TIMES
Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Picture: THE TIMES

The SABC’s interim board may soon withdraw a decision by previous nonexecutive directors to appeal against the public protector’s damning 2014 report on governance lapses at the broadcaster that led to former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s fall from grace.

Should the board decide not to proceed with the appeal, it could signal the end at the SABC for Motsoeneng, who has largely been blamed for most of the crises at the public broadcaster.

Most members of the previous board, which collapsed towards the end of 2016, fought hard to retain Motsoeneng, but the High Court in Cape Town ruled in December that he should not occupy any position at the SABC unless the public protector’s report was set aside or new disciplinary processes against him finalised.

The public broadcaster and Motsoeneng challenged the ruling but the application for leave to appeal was dismissed by the same court earlier in 2017.

Motsoeneng is due to face a disciplinary hearing in coming weeks, based on the recommendations of the public protector’s report.

The interim board has been given several tasks by Parliament’s ad hoc committee that investigated the SABC crisis. The committee recommends that the interim board carries out an audit of all remedial action, including that of the public protector and of recommendations and orders that have been issued over the past three years to determine the SABC’s compliance in this regard. If matters are not subject to review, implementation plans should be developed and executed without delay, the ad hoc committee’s final report says.

According to sources at the SABC, the issue of withdrawing the appeal will be discussed by the interim board, which started working last week. Board members are likely to rescind the review application.

"It is something that will be discussed and the general feeling is that the application must be withdrawn … the SABC has been spending millions on unnecessary legal costs," a source with knowledge of board deliberations said.

The SABC is in a financial bind and is fast running out of cash to operate effectively.

The report by the public protector said that Motsoeneng had fabricated a matric qualification, purged staff who disagreed with him and increased his salary irregularly, from R1.5m to R2.4m in a year. The public protector recommended that he be disciplined, but the SABC went on to confirm his appointment as chief operating officer.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said on Thursday the suggestion that the challenge to the public protector’s report would be withdrawn, was "speculation at this stage".

The board started working last week and still had to discuss "several issues", said Kganyago. He said the board was still to finalise dates for Motsoeneng’s disciplinary hearing.

"They still need to appoint an independent chairman [and] an evidence leader and make sure all witnesses are available," said Kganyago.

Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo would not comment on the work of the public broadcaster’s interim board.

Her spokeswoman, Phumla Williams, said the minister had given interim approval to start working last week, guided by the recommendations of the ad hoc committee report.

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