Hlaudi Motsoeneng File picture: Itumeleng English/Independent Media

Johannesburg – A defiant Hlaudi Motsoeneng believes that his decision to hold a media briefing where he slated the public broadcaster’s interim board was part of his constitutional right to freedom of speech. He is also convinced that the assertion he made was in the public’s interest.

This is revealed in Motsoeneng’s application, requesting a postponement of his disciplinary hearing on Friday afternoon.

The former SABC COO also reveals how he tried to access his office in order to retrieve copies of various board resolutions he wants to use in his defence in his case against the SABC but found that the office was locked.

Not only has he been barred from the CEO’s office of the public broadcaster, but his name tag has been removed from the door, and his personal assistant placed on leave.

He was barred from the CEO office because he was a COO and not CEO, according to sources.

“In my telephonic conversation with the employee, he (Motsoeneng) advises that he has been denied access to his office at the SABC, where he kept copies of various board resolutions he seeks to adduce in evidence,” the legal papers read.

According to his lawyer Zola Majavu, barring his client from entering his office was a decision taken “in seeming anticipation of his dismissal”.

“His (Motsoeneng’s) personal assistant has also… been placed on leave, in an attempt to prevent him from accessing information on his work computer,” the papers state.

“The documents he required are in support of his assertion at the press conference that Mr Krish Naidoo (chairperson of the SABC interim board) lied to Parliament.

“The employee… invokes both the constitutional entitlement of freedom of speech and the assertion that such statements constitute protected disclosures and were further in the public interest.”

Motsoeneng wanted to access documents containing the minutes of a board meeting pertaining to the SABC board’s decision to review “by round robin” a damning report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela into his fitness to hold office and the approval of the recommended amendments of the SABC’s editorial policy, following last year’s decision to ban the coverage of violent protests. He is also demanding minutes of the board on the adoption of recommended revisions to its memorandum of incorporation. He further requested the minutes be made available by no later than this past Friday.

Motsoeneng is facing charges of contravening the terms of his suspension after holding an unauthorised media briefing in April, at which he criticised the SABC interim board and praised himself for the good work he said he had done while at the public broadcaster.

His fight with the SABC was dealt a blow on May 24 when the Labour Court dismissed his attempt to stop the disciplinary proceedings.

The hearing was scheduled to start on Friday. Motsoeneng was also expected to file a responding affidavit on the matter but failed to lodge it due to “physical incapacity”.

He had undergone surgery on May 25, and was “deeply sedated”… and has been “placed under strict instruction to rest and not to engage in any stressful… activity”.

Motsoeneng claims that he had learnt, through his interaction with an SABC employee, that he had received messages of well wishes from previous members of the board.

They would testify before the disciplinary inquiry “in confirmation of his evidence of oath”.

He also states that he wants to lead certain video evidence at the inquiry “to give context to some of his utterances”.

Various courts had found Motsoeneng’s appointment as COO to be unlawful.

A ruling by the Western Cape High Court in December last year found that he was unfit to hold any office until a fresh disciplinary hearing cleared him of any wrongdoing, or if a court set aside the public protector’s report that implicated him in lying about his academic qualifications, purging staff and giving himself generous salary increases.

The court ruled that previous disciplinary hearings which cleared him were “wholly inadequate”.

Sunday Independent