Johannesburg - The SABC is close to settling the seven-year legal battle with its former content enterprise executive and then chief operating officer-designate Mvuzo Mbebe, with new terms of an out-of-court settlement being finalised.
A settlement of the matter would pave the way for the troubled public broadcaster to fill the COO position as Public Protector Thuli Madonsela ordered the vacancy be filled by a suitably qualified candidate within 90 days of releasing her report last month.
Communications Minister Yunus Carrim’s spokesman, Siya Qoza, said an earlier draft settlement was not tenable and a new out-of-court settlement has been finalised.
“There are aspects of it that are not consistent with the Public Finance Management Act, and the department is engaging with National Treasury on this,” Qoza said.
Mbebe was recommended for the COO 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’s lawyer, Mncedisi Ndlovu, told The Sunday Independent that the ball was now in Carrim and the department’s court. “We’re close to finalising the matter. We have given them our proposal.”
Qoza said Carrim wants to settle the matter within the next two weeks if possible.
Settling with Mbebe would give the SABC an opportunity to fill the position, vacant since 2006, when Solly Mokoetle left the public broadcaster.
Mokoetle returned as chief executive but resigned and was paid a R3.4 million golden handshake.
Current National Lotteries Board boss Charlotte Mampane and the incumbent Hlaudi Motsoeneng have acted as COO since 2006.
The SABC board, which Madonsela told to take disciplinary action against Motsoeneng for dishonesty relating to misrepresentation of qualifications (he has no matric), abuse of power and improper conduct in the appointment and salary increments of senior executive Sully Motsweni, has indicated it is still studying the report.
Motsoeneng came under fire during Madonsela’s interviews with some of the SABC’s current and former executives in the course of her investigation.
Then suspended chief financial officer Gugu Duda told Madonsela’s investigation team she was suspended five months into her position after altercations with Motsoeneng, who was verbally abusive towards her and former chief executive Lulama Mokhobo.
This week, the SABC dismissed Duda after the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration found her guilty of misconduct.
She had been on suspension since September 2012.
According to Duda’s interview with Madonsela’s team, Motsoeneng did not take kindly to being cautioned whenever certain payments he sought to have made were not in line with financial prescripts.
Risk and governance executive Itani Tseisi also informed the team that Motsoeneng was very influential and verbally abusive to staff members and the SABC board, even before he was appointed acting COO.
According to Madonsela’s report, Motsoeneng once threatened to get rid of an internal auditor if she proceeded to release a damning SizweNtsalubaGobodo report on the SABC’s corporate governance practices.
Motsoeneng refused to have the report released and reviewed by the board as it implicated several board members.
This week, the troubled public broadcaster appointed its acting chief financial officer Tian Olivier as former chief executive Mokhobo’s replacement, also in an acting capacity.
Makerere University-educated Ugandan chartered accountant James Aguma will take Olivier’s position as acting CFO.
Motsoeneng has indicated he intends taking Madonsela’s findings on review after claiming in his response to the report that he was being made the sacrificial lamb for the SABC’s troubles.
Meanwhile, Madonsela’s office will oppose the high court review application by Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. Madonsela recommended that President Jacob Zuma consider disciplinary action against Joemat-Petterson’s for “reckless dealing with state money and services, resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, loss of confidence in the fisheries industry, alleged decimation of fisheries resources and delayed quota allocations due to lack of appropriate research”.
Despite facing a number of reviews Madonsela appeared upbeat, saying: “We are quite confident that no court will come to a different conclusion”.