Or as The Media Online puts it, Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s “reign of terror” at the SABC is over. The former chief operations officer was summarily dismissed by the broadcaster’s interim board after a disciplinary inquiry found him guilty of misconduct and bringing his employer into disrepute.
Interviewed shortly after a press conference addressed by board’s chairman, Khanyisile Kweyama, member of the SOS Coalitions and broadcast researcher Kate Skinner told themediaonline.co.za Motsoeneng’s dismissal was “incredible news” and that his “reign of terror” had finally ended.
Kweyama also said Motsoeneng’s ban on broadcasting scenes of protests had been overturned, that a new editorial policy was being discussed and that his unilateral order that all radio stations play 90% South African music – a move said to have had a hugely negative impact on the broke broadcaster’s bottom line – had been shelved.
At the press conference, Kweyama said the conditions of Motsoeneng’s contract with the SABC was null and void as he’d been dismissed. “He didn’t respect the contract, so we don’t have to respect it either,” she said. She said he’d breached the terms of his fixed-term contract and was “guilty on all charges’.
The interim board’s move has been well-received in most quarters. William Bird, director of Media Monitoring Africa, said it was “great news… We so used to bad news, and utterly bizarre news, we forgot what normal process looks like! To be clear, there are a litany of reasons why Mr Motsoeneng should be removed. It is a first and essential step to halting the crises at the SABC”.
Motsoeneng was finally dismissed over an unauthorised press briefing he and his ‘friends’ held in April in which he lambasted the interim board, and defended his 90% local music move, believed to have cost the broadcaster millions in lost advertising revenue, and which still left musicians without the promised revenue as the SABC now owes in the region of R75 million musicians and music rights organisations. The interim board also shut down the lucrative – for The New Age – business briefings which saw the Gupta-owned newspaper paid a fortune to host its ‘business briefings’.
The Democratic Alliance, which has fought Motsoeneng in a number of court cases, believes the “very litigious Motsoeneng is likely to take the interim board’s decision on review. We advise him not to waste the public and the SABC’s time and money on what will be barren harvest litigation. Throughout several court judgments, including one by the SCA, Mr Motsoeneng has been found to be unsuitable to hold office at the public broadcaster,” it said in a statement.
Motsoeneng’s legal fees alone have cost the broadcaster a lot of money, according to City Press. The paper says the SABC’s Human Resources, Governance and Nominations Committee was unhappy over an invoice from Motsoeneng’s lawyer, Zola Majavu, for the amount of R493,100.50, which the SABC has refused to pay. Some other fees have apparently been paid.
The DA, in its statement, said, “The Public Protector also recommended that any fruitless and wasteful expenditure that had been incurred as a result of irregular salary increments to Mr Motsoeneng, Ms [Sully] Motsweni, Ms [Leah] Khumalo and the freelancers, is recovered from the appropriate persons’.”
The interim board was given six months by parliament’s portfolio committee on communications to deal with issues crippling the broadcaster and preventing it from carrying out its mandate. This came after hearings into the situation at the SABC were initiated by parliament, uncovering a mess at the broadcaster.