Johannesburg - The Labour Court in Johannesburg on Friday ruled that sacked South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Chief Operating Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, former group executive news and current affairs Simon Tebele and the public broadcaster were liable for the wrongful dismissal of eight journalists.
The eight journalists were fired after they challenged the broadcaster’s controversial editorial policies and compared the ban of broadcasting violent protests to censorship. Seven of the eight journalists were later reinstated after the labour court ruled that the dismissals were unlawful.
Solidarity and the Broadcasting, Electronic Media and Allied Workers Union (BEMAWU), who have been assisting the journalists dubbed the "SABC-8", were adamant that Motsoeneng, Tebele and the public broadcaster should be held responsible for their legal costs. The court agreed with Solidarity and BEMAWU and ordered the defendants to pay the costs.
Speaking to journalists after the ruling, the outspoken Motsoeneng remained defiant.
"I'm going to instruct my lawyers to appeal the matter, for me it's not going to be the end because I believe that this was politically motivated and malicious by those people involved, Solidarity, including BEMAWU," said Motsoeneng, who was sacked from his SABC position in June after he was found guilty of misconduct.
Motsoeneng claimed he was acting accordance with the SABC policy and was within his rights as the COO to support the banning of broadcasting protests.
"I'm surprised, I mean, I was not even part of the disciplinary hearing, but I don't regret to champion the policy of the organisation because that was my job to do," Motsoeneng said.
On Wednesday, Motsoeneng, through his council, said the former SABC Acting CEO Jimi Matthews was the one responsible for the unlawful dismissal of the journalists.
"The person who took that decision on oath has revealed the information, more than three people at the SABC have revealed that information ... I'm shocked that the ruling is against me," Motsoeneng told journalists.
Anton van der Bijl, for Solidarity, later said he considered the ruling a victory for all South Africans.
“This victory is not only our victory; it is a victory for all South Africans. It underlines the necessity that government officials, irrespective of how high and mighty they consider themselves to be, should be held accountable for their decisions," said Van der Bijl.
"It also confirms the basic principles of transparency and accountability as set out in the Constitution. We are delighted with the verdict, which could also serve as a precedent in cases against comparable government officials."