Suspended SABC executive hit with additional charges at disciplinary hearing
Suspended SABC chief financial officer James Aguma’s legal representative has argued that additional charges brought against his client at his disciplinary hearing are pure victimisation.
Arguing before the chairperson of the disciplinary hearing‚ Professor Taki Madima SC‚ at Werksmans Attorneys in Sandton on Tuesday‚ Aguma’s lawyer‚ Osborne Molatudi‚ argued for almost two hours that this would be an unfair hearing as his client was not given proper communication about the intention of the additional charges.
"We see this as victimisation‚ no doubt. Nowhere in any of this correspondence will you find that the SABC [says] ‘[it is] reserving [its] right to conduct further investigation which may result in further charges being brought’‚" argued Molatudi.
"The question as to whom‚ by whom and by when should you make those representations ... but what is important is that when you conduct an investigation which may or may not warrant a suspension of an employee‚ is that upon conclusion of that investigation‚ you will satisfy yourself that you have the charges and immediately proceed to charge the employee‚" Molatudi said.
Aguma was suspended in May by the SABC’s interim board after being accused of providing false information under oath during the disciplinary proceedings brought against former chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng. He has also been accused of tender irregularities and fruitless and wasteful expenditure during his tenure.
He faces 10 charges‚ which are:
• Breach of contract of employment and business code of conduct and ethics
• Breach of Section 57 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) of 1999
• Breach of Section 57 of PFMA — rights with the supply chain management policy
• Breach of the supply chain management policy
• Breach of Section 57 of the PFMA
• Abuse of authority
• Breach of the delegation of authority framework
• Breach of Section 57 of the PFMA — regular supply chain management policy
• Breach of fiduciary duties
Molatudi accused the SABC of being on a "fishing expedition" and of not knowing if the charges can stand‚ saying [they] cannot be allowed in the hearing as the public broadcaster has no strong case.
"At no stage were we informed that,‘ by the way‚ we are continuing with the investigation and there may be additional charges’. The initiator either may have realised that [these] first four charges that are before the sittings may not be strong. This brings us to the only conclusion that maybe they are not strong and then, perhaps, decided to go back," he said.
"We submit that the additional charges received by us should not be considered by you, Mr Chairperson, until such a time that Mr Aguma is afforded an opportunity to make representation in relation to SABC’s amendments to the charges."
Aguma’s supporting affidavit in Motsoeneng’s disciplinary hearing stated that he had given Motsoeneng permission to hold the controversial conference in April that ultimately led to Motsoeneng being sacked. This prompted the SABC to bring additional charges against Aguma on July 5.
Molatudi‚ who was told by the chairperson that he should have stated at the beginning of the hearing that he intends to seek a postponement due to outstanding documents‚ [and] demanded that they be provided with resolutions by the SABC comprising of minutes of the special board meeting‚ including the date and transcript, to avoid being in a situation where any interested party can apply to have the hearing set aside.
However‚ the SABC’s legal representative Sandile July has argued that the public broadcaster doesn’t have to seek permission to add additional charges as there was no plea. Furthermore‚ July argued that even if there were a plea from Aguma‚ they have a right to add more charges.
"Which law says that you cannot add charges?" he asked. "There’s no rule that says that. We added the charge initially, so what is wrong now with us adding the other charge? The employee is on suspension and we come across certain information. If we didn’t believe in the initial charges‚ it is not an employee’s business. If we didn’t believe in those charges and we happen to have other charges‚ we have every right to do what we need to do with the information at our disposal."
The chairperson was due to rule on Tuesday afternoon whether or not he would postpone the hearing.