Hlaudi Motsoeneng

Johannesburg - The latest legal case against former SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng was just an attempt “to hit his pockets and hurt his family”. It was also an attempt to block Motsoeneng from feeding and educating his children.

This was a response by Motsoeneng - through his legal counsel Advocate Thabani Masuku - gave in the Labour Court on Wednesday following an application by Solidarity and trade union Bemawu (Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union) for Motsoeneng to be personally held liable for the legal costs of the “SABC 8” employees. 

The eight were fired from the public broadcaster last year for protesting against a ban of showing and broadcasting of violent scenes on all public broadcaster’s platforms.

The Labour Court later overturned their dismissals.

On Wednesday’s  court proceedings were aimed at determining who should be held responsible for the costs for a series of court applications.

In their papers, Solidarity and Bemawu also wanted similar cost orders to be made against the SABC and former Group Chief Executive News and Current Affairs Simon Tebele.

Adv Masuku told the Labour Court that his client was never cited in the main civil case by SABC 8 or had been found to have ordered, during the main trial, their dismissals.

He also bemoaned an attempt of Solidarity and Bemawu to ask the court to make an adverse ruling against Motsoeneng based on comments he made on various newspaper articles, IOL and Youtube.

Masuku was very critical of both Solidarity and Bemawu’s case accusing them of having deliberately ignored a sworn affidavit made by Tebele. 

In his sworn affidavit, partly readout in court, Tebele said he personally took a decision to fire the SABC 8 after consultation with acting CEO Jimi Matthews. The court heard that Tebele, made another revelation in which, he said he took such a decision after legal advice from an independent law firm.

Masuku said Solidarity and Bemawu chose to ignore Tebele’s main affidavit as well as his supplementary statements before court.

Masuku was adamant that newspaper articles “were inadmissible evidence”. 

“According to the court directive, the latest court action was to determine who fired the SABC 8. There is no evidence that Mr Motsoeneng was the decision-maker. That evidence cannot be found in the affidavit of Mr Tebele. The main applicants in the matter also want the court to prosecute Mr Motsoeneng on hearsay evidence. Newspaper articles are inadmissible in court,” Masuku argued.

The SABC, who testified earlier, also wanted Motsoeneng to be held liable for costs. SABC counsel Phillip Mokoena, who is acting on behalf of interim board, painted a picture of the public broadcaster as being in a state of chaos prior to the appointed of the interim board.

Advocate Mokoena told the court that senior managers including Motsoeneng and former CFO James Aguma acted on their own and undermined governance policy within the SABC.

He said this was due to the absence of a fully and lawfully constituted board of the SABC which is legally charged to make milestone decisions on behalf of the public broadcaster.

Mokoena argued that if costs were to be made against the SABC, it should minimally be at 10% and Motsoeneng and Tebele should split 90% costs order between the two of them. Tebele, however, surprised the court, when he submitted that the court should hold Motsoeneng liable on the “weight of evidence of the main applicants”.

Judgment was reserved.