Hlaudi Motsoeneng.   Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng is set to instruct his lawyers to appeal a ruling in the Johannesburg Labour Court‚ which has ordered him to share legal costs amounting to more than R1m.

Judge David Gush ruled on Friday that Motsoeneng‚ the SABC, and its former acting group executive for news and current affairs, Simon Tebele, must pay the legal costs incurred during the dismissal of seven journalists last year.

The journalists were part of a group dubbed the SABC 8.

"I respect the judge and the ruling today [but] I’m going to instruct my lawyers to appeal the matter. For me it’s not going to be the end because I believe that this was politically motivated and malicious by those people who are involved‚ which is Solidarity and Bemawu (Broadcasting‚ Electronic‚ Media and Allied Workers Union)‚" Motsoeneng said. "It’s not going to end today. It’s the beginning of the battle, from where I’m standing."

Motsoeneng’s legal representative‚ Advocate Thabani Masuku‚ argued on Wednesday that Motsoeneng was not the decision-maker and that the directive to dismiss the journalists was issued by former acting group CEO Jimmy Matthews‚ who had ordered Tebele to fire the employees.

"When it comes to the issue of paying‚ I was not even part of the past court matters. The person who took that decision [to fire the eight journalists] on oath has revealed the information‚ so I’m shocked that the ruling is also against me‚ so I’m not going to leave this matter‚" said Motsoeneng. "What is even more important for me is ... I wasn’t even in involved in the disciplinary hearing."

However‚ trade union Solidarity‚ which brought the application to the Labour Court‚ still believes Motsoeneng was the decision-maker‚ despite the judge stating that all three parties were liable for the costs.

"This ruling means that the SABC 8 [journalists] and the public of SA have been vindicated. But if [Motsoeneng] wants to appeal‚ he can drag this matter on for as long as he wants [but] we will oppose the appeal‚" said Anton van der Bijl‚ Solidarity’s head of fair labour practices. "He was part of the decision and that’s been clear throughout the matter. He can appeal it or refer it to the Constitutional Court but we will proceed with the matter to hold him accountable."

Solidarity initially wanted Motsoeneng to be held solely liable for the legal costs as he had introduced the 90% local content policy and also banned the airing of violent protests on the public broadcaster’s television channels.

Van der Bijl said they would first gun for Motsoeneng to pay the costs before approaching the other respondents.

Busisiwe Ntuli‚ Lukhanyo Calata‚ Thandeka Gqubule‚ Jacques Steenkamp‚ Foeta Krige‚ Krivani Pillay and the late Suna Venter were fired by the public broadcaster in July 2016 for speaking out after Motsoeneng banned footage of violent protests. Around the same time‚ senior news anchor Vuyo Mvoko also lost his job when the SABC refused to renew his contract.

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