Johannesburg - Communication Minister Faith Muthambi will be hauled before Parliament to explain her decision this week to endorse Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s appointment as SABC chief operations officer.
Muthambi could also be called before an internal ANC committee amid pressure on the ruling party from its alliance partners to reverse the appointment, an opposition party considering legal steps to overturn Motsoeneng’s appointment and Public Protector Thuli Madonsela launching a new probe into the matter.
Muthambi this week announced that Motsoeneng was appointed by the SABC board after a law firm, hired to look into Madonsela’s report into the SABC, cleared him of wrongdoing.
Motsoeneng had been acting in the position for a number of years after it became vacant in 2006 when Solly Mokoetle left the broadcaster.
On Saturday, communications committee chairwoman Joyce Moloi-Moropa was loathe to comment on the appointment, but confirmed that the minister would come explain the matter.
She received a letter from DA committee member Gavin Davis with the request, which she said was not unreasonable.
She added it was one of many issues about state entities that the minister would have to answer for.
The ANC has distanced itself from Motsoeneng’s appointment saying they were not taken into confidence by Muthambi when she affirmed the SABC board’s decision.
ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said if the matter was placed on the agenda of the ANC’s next national executive committee meeting, it would be the sub-committee on communications that would have to respond, based on a report into the matter.
On Friday, Small Business Minister Lindiwe Zulu told the Mail & Guardian that Muthambi had snubbed last month’s sub-committee meeting, which was to discuss the direction of the SABC.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi on Saturday described the appointment as a “shocking banana republic antic”, adding that they were 100 percent behind the SACP’s call to review the decision.
“This goes beyond the minister’s decision. The ANC must save its image,” he said.
He said the ANC’s statement that “they were as shocked as all of us”, could not just end there.
“They are in power. We expect them to act. Otherwise who will believe anything that the ANC says about cadre development.
“If the ANC did not act, they would be taking away their support,” said Vavi.
“We are already counting the political costs. Its these things that continually chip away at the support and confidence of the liberation movement – and I’m saying this as an ANC member who loves the party but is hurt by it,” he said.
“They must intervene to dispel this notion that deployment in senior positions does not require relevant qualifications and that cadres can be given any position based on loyalty. What are we telling our young people?” asked Vavi.
“It is a horrible statement that entrenches this absolutely no consequences phenomenon.”
Vavi said the SABC board, by making the appointment, had “kicked the public protector on her mouth and told her to go jump in the nearest pool”.
Madonsela, in her February report “When Governance and Ethics Fail” ordered that the vacancy be filled by a suitably qualified candidate within 90 days.
Madonsela recommended that the SABC board take appropriate disciplinary action against Motsoeneng for his dishonesty relating to the misrepresentation of his qualifications, abuse of power and improper conduct in the appointments and salary increments of one of his subordinates.
Madonsela found that Motsoeneng would have never been appointed in 1995 had he not lied about his qualifications and that he had repeated the lie in 2003 when he applied for the post of executive producer of current affairs to which he also should never have been appointed.
A senior SABC executive said by virtue of his position as chief operating officer, Motsoeneng is a board member and should never have been appointed.
According to the Broadcasting Act, a person does not qualify to be appointed to the board if convicted of theft, fraud, forgery and uttering a forged document and perjury.
Madonsela was still waiting for SABC board chairperson Zandile Tshabalala to comply with her report and give her an implementation plan around the changes at the SABC.
Should the board not uphold its commitment to Madonsela, she could eventually subpoena it to explain itself. This week Madonsela announced that she would launch a new investigation into the appointment of Motsoeneng, which would include examining if he has the right qualifications to hold the position.
Motsoeneng’s lawyer Zola Majavu told The Sunday Independent they would deal with Madonsela’s new investigation or related matters in accordance with the law.
Majavu said he needed to fully consult Motsoeneng before deciding whether his client’s high court review of Madonsela’s report would proceed.
“Our approach would be informed about what is formally communicated to my client. Until then his rights remains fully reserved,” he said.
SACP spokesman Alex Mashilo said the integrity of government was at stake as due process was not followed.
“We will monitor what is going on. If due processes are not followed, we will have no other option but to embark on mass mobilisation,” said Mashilo.
Muthambi had contradicted the statements of previous communications minister Yunus Carrim, said Mashilo.
Carrim last year said the position would be advertised after they had reached a settlement in the seven-year legal battle with its former content enterprise executive and then chief operating officer-designate Mvuzo Mbebe.
Mbebe was recommended for the chief operating officer position in 2007 by the SABC board under Eddie Funde but then-chairwoman Khanyi Mkhonza’s new board overturned Mbebe’s appointment, prompting him to interdict the SABC against filling the vacancy pending a review of Funde’s recommendation.
Mbebe obtained a high court order preventing the SABC from making an appointment until his matter was finalised.
At the press conference this week Muthambi admitted the settlement was yet to be finalised – raising questions as to whether Mbebe would file for contempt of court. Mbebe refused to comment, referring queries to the minister.
Meanwhile, the DA is studying a legal opinion they received on approaching the courts to overturn Motsoeneng’s appointment.
Gavin Davis, the DA’s shadow minister on communications, said they would make an announcement next week on their decision.
On Saturday, President Jacob Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj denied his boss played any role in Motsoeneng’s appointment or that of SABC management or staff.
Maharaj said claims that Zuma was involved were “inaccurate and unfortunate”.