Questions have hit the embattled SABC anew in the wake of revelations that the board attempted to parachute controversial employee Hlaudi Motsoeneng into the position of chief operating officer (COO) permanently despite a court interdict stopping the board from making the appointment.
The Sunday Independent understands that senior managers have raised questions about board chairman Ben Ngubane’s role in Motsoeneng’s elevation to the second most powerful job in the SABC.
Ngubane apparently knew that Mvuzo Mbebe, a former executive who was allegedly promised the job, had taken the SABC to the South Gauteng High Court, demanding he be given the job as was recommended by the previous board to the late communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri.
If the Ngubane-led board did not give him the job, he claimed, it should compensate him for the five-year period he would have served in the post. This would amount to millions of rands as the COO earns at least about R2 million a year.
The SABC would have been guilty of contempt of court had it proceeded with its effort to appoint Motsoeneng because the court barred it from filling the position pending the outcome of Mbebe’s court challenge.
Another sticky point is how Motsoeneng, essentially an ANC deployee at the SABC
who does not have matric, got promoted three times in a year when allegations about him lying about his education were well known.
“Why is the SABC board and executive reluctant do deal with the falsification of qualifications? This is fraud. It is illegal. What is the SABC hiding? What is the mandate from the organisation (ANC),” one official said.
A few months after his return to the SABC, Motsoeneng was appointed as the general manager responsible for board and stakeholder relations in the group chief executive officer’s office in February 2011, a position which paved the way for him to attend board meetings despite not being authorised to do so. Nine months later, in December 2011, he was seconded to act in the COO’s office.
Now staff at the SABC and top government officials say he is earmarked to take over the job permanently.
“In a year he was promoted three times. What instruction, which we as SABC staff do not know about, does the board have from Luthuli House?” an official asked.
Motsoeneng, 43, joined the SABC in 1996 as a news reporter and in 1999 was promoted to the producer’s job for Lesedi FM.
He was then sacked for allegedly forging his matric certificate.
He attended the Qhibi Ha Sethunya primary school in Qwa Qwa, Free State, where he was born and the Metsi Matsho High School where it could not be ascertained whether he had matric or not.
Yesterday Ngubane referred all queries about the COO job to Communications Minister Dina Pule.
On Wednesday, CEO Lulama Mokhobo allegedly told staff at the SABC she “did not see why Hlaudi cannot be appointed because he has shown himself to be capable”.
This has led to staff questioning her suitability for the job.
“Is Mokhobo fit to run the SABC? What do her comments say to ordinary workers at the SABC? A job is advertised, we are told to apply, but already she and the board have decided that one candidate will get the job. Where is the fairness in all this?” an employee asked.
But SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said: “I was there. She (Mokhobo) never said that. I can clearly say whoever gave this information was giving their own interpretation of what happened.”
This week, Pule intervened in the matter and ordered the board to halt its search for the COO because of Mbebe’s case.
“We have requested that we restart the process because we have litigation around the post and we are still negotiating. We want to negotiate in good faith with the individual and once we have closed that chapter we will then go ahead and advertise and the process will continue from there,” she said.
“Unfortunately, I will not necessarily be able to tell you when we are going to conclude because this is dependent on the negotiations we have with the other individual,” Pule said. She refused to disclose whether her intention was to pay Mbebe out or give him the job.
Mncedisi Ndlovu, a lawyer for Mbebe, also declined to comment on the negotiations. In the past the SABC board had recommended Mbebe to Matsepe-Casaburri to take over the position, he said.
The minister wrote back to the SABC board saying she was “uncomfortable” with Mbebe.
Matsepe-Casaburri did not take the matter to cabinet as is required before such an appointment is made and did not explain to Mbebe what made her “uncomfortable”.
Her successor Siphiwe Nyanda promised to sort the matter out but he too failed until he was reshuffled. Roy Padayachee, like Nyanda, was also removed without resolving the matter.
In the interdict, the court said Mbebe was entitled to know why he was no longer a candidate of choice for the position.
The court found that Matsepe-Casaburri’s conduct was irregular.
“As things stand, the SABC cannot appoint a COO because there is an interdict in place,” Ndlovu said.
The SA Communist Party said it had “learnt with shock the clumsy and rushed attempts” to fill the vacant COO position. It should be advertised just like other senior vacancies at the public broadcaster.
“If all the other senior positions have been publicly advertised why not this one?” it said.
“The SACP has been on record seriously raising its concerns about the irregular appointments of individuals into senior positions at the SABC, who have either forged qualifications or have been found to have lied about them. No explanation has been forthcoming from the SABC.” - Sunday Independent