Suspended SABC CEO Frans Matlala

Cape Town - Suspended SABC chief executive Frans Matlala was targeted in “retaliation” for co-operating with a Treasury investigation into the broadcaster, he claims in a lawyer’s letter responding to warnings served on him this month of his impending suspension.

In other explosive allegations, Matlala claims:

- He was instructed to stop co-operating with the Treasury investigation by board chairperson Obert Maghuve.

- The process to appoint attorneys to act in the disciplinary inquiry into chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng was flawed.

- Communications Minister Faith Muthambi gave the go-ahead for his suspension without his being given a chance to make representations in his defence.

- A letter addressed to members of the SABC board regarding his suspension included Motsoeneng, despite the fact that he had taken a leave of absence pending the disciplinary inquiry and on the understanding that he would not participate in SABC matters or communicate with staff.

- The decision to begin suspension proceedings was unlawful in that the board, in his absence, did not have a quorum and because it was not supported by at least 70 percent of those voting, as required by the broadcaster’s memorandum of incorporation.

- One of the charges against him was that he was not authorised to write to President Jacob Zuma apologising for “the Twitter incident” (when the SABC’s account was hacked and a message posted saying: “WHAT. THE. F***!!!) in response to a story about the president getting a new R4 billion VIP jet.

Matlala’s lawyer, Joe Mothibi, said in the letter addressed to Maghuve, dated Tuesday, that SABC policy made it clear the group chief executive should be the point of contact between the broadcaster and the government.

The SABC announced on Wednesday that Matlala had been suspended with immediate effect, pending an investigation into undisclosed matters, with Jimi Matthews, group executive: news and current affairs, taking the reins in an acting capacity.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said he could not divulge the reasons for the suspension.

Mothibi’s letter, of which Independent Media has a copy, demands that the decision be rescinded by next Tuesday. It says contrary to allegations of financial irregularities, Matlala, as the accounting officer of the SABC, is required under the law and constitution to co-operate with a Treasury investigation. It says Maghuve had instructed Matlala, in a letter on November 11 warning of his impending suspension, to stop co-operating with the Treasury in its investigation of a contract relating to the construction of a multipurpose set and studio service for the SABC sports and news divisions.

“Your instruction that the investigation must ‘stop immediately’ is therefore illegal and cannot be adhered to,” Mothibi wrote.

He alleged the appointment of Werksmans Attorneys to act as initiators in Motsoeneng’s disciplinary hearing, following a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling that it should proceed in accordance with the public protector’s instructions, should have involved Matlala as the accounting officer.

Others agree the SABC board is inquorate.

The matter has been raised in the past by former DA spokesperson on communications Gavin Davis.

The campaign organiser for the SOS: Support Public Broadcasting coalition, Sekoetlane Phamodi, said when an inquorate board made a decision, “it would ostensibly be without substance and authority”.

Political Bureau