Cape Town - A large group of protesters wearing ANC T-shirts and brandishing ‘Hands Off Hlaudi’ posters gathered outside the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday to show their support for the beleaguered SABC Group Executive of Corporate Affairs.
Judge Andre le Grange and Judge Owen Rogers are hearing an application brought by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to have the outcomes of Motsoeneng’s disciplinary hearing set aside, and his position declared invalid.
The Chairperson of the DA’s Federal Executive, James Selfe, said in a statement on Wednesday that the court must remove Motsoeneng from his position “until and only if the Public Protector report is set aside”. The 2014 report found, among other things, that he had lied about his matric qualifications, and had given himself irregular salary increases.
“The first application pertains to the DA’s request, lodged in March, to have the farcical outcome of the disciplinary inquiry into Motsoeneng, then as Chief Operating Officer (COO), set aside, as it was fatally flawed and only served to shield him from accountability,” the statement read.
Selfe said the outcome of the disciplinary hearing could not be accepted because of numerous charges including gross dishonesty that were simply dismissed.
“The second part deals with the DA’s application, lodged in October, to have the appointment of Motsoeneng as Group Executive of Corporate Affairs, declared invalid,” Selfe said.
The DA’s lawyer Advocate Anton Katz described Motsoeneng’s disciplinary hearing as a “charade”, a “sham” and “farcical”.
“If the court comes to the decision that it was a sham, why should the taxpayer pay for a charade?”
Katz said Motsoeneng had approved the chairperson of his own disciplinary: “There were nine people on the board, including Motsoeneng himself”.
He told the court that Motsoeneng remains in the very same office he occupied as Chief Operating Officer of the public broadcaster.
“The only conclusion this court can come to is that it was a charade, and an attempt to comply that failed miserably”.
“This is Alice in Wonderland stuff”, which subverts the constitution, previous judgments and the Public Protectors report Katz told the court.
Katz said the evidence was “devastating” with R28 million wasted in one year alone: “That is our money”.
In the main application, Katz said they sought to have Motsoeneng removed from the SABC: “We say he can’t be there at all”.
“Far reaching cases call for far reaching remedy”.
Katz said Motsoeneng’s heads of arguments that suggest that the DA is politicking in court has already been rejected by the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court.
“This is a battle about legality, not about getting votes in the next election. When it comes to the principle of legality, the courts are obliged to enter the arena”.
Judge Andre le Grange said these cases are on the rise “and we are getting swamped with them”.
Katz responded: “That is because Parliament is failing”.
In September, it was determined that Motsoeneng could not be COO, but later that month he was given a new five year contract as head of corporate affairs.
Katz said it was a new contract with his old salary and while he sounded like a “stuck record”, he had been in court for two and a half years.
“When you tell a lie, you must be careful that the lie is consistent. The entire bang shoot is a lie. You are talking about Alice in Wonderland”.
Katz argued that “our four horsemen” who include Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi and Hlaudi Motsoeneng himself should be held personally responsible for the DA’s costs.
“Why should the taxpayer pay for this unlawful conduct?”
Advocate Etienne Labuschagne, acting for the Public Protector, said her position was that “neither the minister nor the SABC complied with the public protector’s remedial action”.
The public protector’s 2014 report found, among other things, that Motsoeneng was dishonest and had lied about passing matric.
“The starting point is the finding. What are the implications of non compliance in this case? The question really is what is the consequence in law, for the SABC, the board and the minister for not having complied?”.
He said while the SABC had sought to review the Public Protector’s report, the SABC still needs to comply with remedial action, even where the review is still pending.
“They may do so under protest, but they can’t ignore it”.
He argued that they acted unconstitutionally and said the public protector had expressed her view that the “SABC has essentially sabotaged that disciplinary process”.
“She has found him to be a dishonest employee who has been a toxic failure for corporate governance. He should not be in a position of authority until the review is finalised. He should not be in a position of authority where honesty and integrity are required”.
Motsoeneng was present at court proceedings where he at times appeared to be falling asleep. He also stifled his laughter when referred to as toxic, and at one point, looking particularly bored, pulled out a newspaper to read.