Johannesburg - The SABC’s acting chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, has launched a witch-hunt for employees suspected of leaking damaging information about him.
This came after The Star’s report last week that Motsoeneng had instructed the debt-crippled corporation to spend millions it did not have converting surplus freelancers into permanent employees.
The Star has learnt that he summoned SABC employees to a general meeting at the public broadcaster’s headquarters on Monday and threatened to sniff out and fire those behind the leaks.
Four employees who attended the meeting said Motsoeneng announced that he had asked internal auditors and the corporation’s acting news chief, Jimi Mathews, to find out who had leaked the story and to recommend sanctions.
They said Motsoeneng maintained that he was launching “operation clean up” to flush out insubordinate managers who did not want to “be on the same page” with the executive.
He did not name them.
The president of the Broadcasting, Electronic Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu), Hannes du Buisson, confirmed the meeting and Motsoeneng’s utterances.
“I have heard that he has threatened people, even outside the meeting, that he would find out where the leaks come from and fire those people. That is the report we have found from our members.
“But what I can tell you is that, as Bemawu, we are saying that information that is supposed to be disclosed must be disclosed and any attempt to deal with those people will result in Bemawu defending them, because they are protected by the whistleblowers act (the Protected Disclosures Act),” said Du Buisson.
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said: “The SABC, like any other organisation, including The Star newspaper, will treat its internal company information with the integrity it deserves. The leaking of company information will not be tolerated, and staff members who are found to have leaked information will be dealt with accordingly through the HR processes of the organisation.”
Kganyago said “it must be clear that the issue of leaking information is part of the organisation’s media policy and forms part of the employment contract”.
“As the SABC, we expect all our employees to be loyal and believe in the organisation’s vision. Anyone who does not, and is not, is more than welcome to leave… ”
The Star reported last week that Motsoeneng issued the “instruction” through an internal memo on November 7, despite protests by the broadcaster’s acting chief financial officer Tian Olivier and others.
The paper also reported that the acting chief operating officer had warned there would be “consequences” if the management and HR failed to find the budget and implement the conversion during the 2012/2013 financial year.
Sources said Motsoeneng’s instruction was expected to cost the SABC an estimated R30 million or more.
This was because the memos The Star quoted, putting the figure at R5.7m, covered only the expenses for 22 video editors. They excluded those of about 60 freelancers from the studio production division, the sources said.
The chief operating officer’s instruction flies in the face of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s call on the SABC to cut its staffing complement and to cut costs as it continues to service the R1 billion bailout granted by a private bank in 2009 to address an R800m deficit.
Insiders said Motsoeneng’s decisions raised questions about who was in charge of the public broadcaster – he or CEO Lulama Mokhobo.
Appointed to his strategic position without a matric certificate, Motsoeneng is seen as close to President Jacob Zuma and some ANC top brass at Luthuli House.
SABC employees were divided this week on whether they agreed with Motsoeneng. Some said he was failing the public broadcaster while others insisted he was “Mr Delivery”.