Hlaudi Motsoeneng makes last-ditch bid to delay disciplinary action
Controversial former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng may finally face the music after a last-minute bid to halt a disciplinary hearing failed on Wednesday night.
Motsoeneng is facing charges of bringing the SABC into disrepute following a lengthy and bizarre media conference he held in April.
In the media conference he railed against the SABC board for planning to scrap a policy of 90% local music which he had implemented.
The disciplinary hearing‚ which was meant to begin at 3pm on Wednesday‚ descended into four hours of deliberation over whether it would take place.
Motsoeneng’s lawyer, Zola Majavu, explained that his client was not opposed to being disciplined‚ but wanted the hearing of the misconduct charge combined with a hearing of a previous allegation of misconduct that stems from findings in a report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela.
"We want them to be combined not to do this one and then another one. We run the risk that they will fire him for this and if they fire him‚ he doesn’t get a chance to vindicate himself on the Public Protector’s report‚" Majavu said.
Motsoeneng feels so strongly about clearing his name he has gone to court. On Tuesday he filed papers in the High Court in Cape Town saying Madonsela’s 2014 findings have "stunted" his career progression. No date has been set for a hearing of the case which was filed on a semi-urgent basis.
Madonsela found that Motsoeneng’s employment at the SABC was irregular as he had misled the SABC about his qualifications by fabricating matric symbols.
"The very nature of that office (public protector) is that its conclusions hold weight in the public discourse‚ and as the Democratic Alliance argued‚ I am ‘unemployable’ for so long as its conclusions stand.
"My further career progression is thus stunted until the issues raised by the public protector are finalised‚" Motsoeneng says in court papers.
He has also criticised the current hearing‚ calling it "an abuse (of process) stemming from ulterior motives".
On Wednesday‚ hearing chairman Advocate Nazeem Cassim was reluctant to postpone the matter‚ asking whether Motsoeneng would go to the Labour Court to halt it.
The SABC had argued that proceedings should go ahead because there was no basis for postponement.
After hours of discussions, Cassim said the hearing should start‚ only for both sides to ask for time to prepare.
Now the hearing is expected to begin at 11.30am on Thursday‚ if Motsoeneng chooses not to bring another legal challenge.
However‚ Majavu has left the door open for another challenge.
"The charges arising from the press briefing should be combined from the charges arising from the Western Cape High Court so that he does not have two separate disciplinary hearings. The matter is not concluded yet‚ we will still argue taking the matter to the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation‚ Mediation and Arbitration)‚" he said late on Wednesday night.
Motsoeneng also cast a shadow over Parliament on Wednesday‚ where SABC chief financial officer and acting CEO James Aguma came under heavy criticism.
Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) heard that he had filed an affidavit in support of Motsoeneng at the disciplinary hearing‚ saying he had given permission for the media conference.
Aguma did not appear before the committee‚ which was addressed by Communications Minister Ayanda Dlolo‚ due to illness.
DA MP Tim Brauteseth called for Aguma to be sanctioned immediately.
Brauteseth said Aguma had told the communications portfolio committee last week that he did not authorise Motsoeneng’s press conference "and therefore he lied in parliament and that’s a criminal act".
"Suspend Aguma today whether he is sick or not. It doesn’t matter‚" Brauteseth told Dlodlo.
The ANC has backed the call‚ issuing a statement after Wednesday’s committee meeting which called for the interim board to act against Aguma.
"Mr Aguma has been at the centre of expenditure and procurement irregularities at the SABC. He has also shown complete disregard to Parliament and the interim board. He has conveniently been booked off sick every time he is called to account to Scopa. We take serious exception to Mr Aguma’s evasion of Parliament‚" ANC MP Mnyamezeli Booi said in the statement.
Parliament had expected to grill Aguma on R5bn in irregular expenditure at the SABC.