One of South Africa's highest-paid journalists, Phil Molefe, has left the SABC after reaching a settlement with the public broadcaster after a lengthy court battle. Photo: Melinda Stuurman

Johannesburg - One of South Africa’s highest-paid journalists, Phil Molefe, has left the SABC after reaching a settlement with the public broadcaster after a lengthy court battle.

The Sunday Independent has established that Molefe, who was until this week the SABC’s suspended news and current affairs executive, reached an agreement with the new interim board.

Spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago confirmed the agreement.

Molefe, who earned an annual salary of over R2.2-million, still had two years left of his five-year contract, which began in 2010.

SABC insiders told The Sunday Independent that Molefe had received a R1.5m golden handshake, but Kganyago said details of the settlement were confidential.

Neither Molefe nor his lawyer, Dali Mpofu, could be reached for comment on Saturday.

The SABC has previously paid its former executives substantial golden handshakes. Mpofu was paid R14.1m to leave his position as chief executive in 2009 after several clashes with the SABC board. And former group executive in the office of the chief executive and regions, Charlotte Mampane, walked away with over R4.3m last year. Mampane is now the National Lotteries Board chief executive officer.

Molefe was on the verge of taking his legal battle against the SABC to the Supreme Court of Appeal after being granted leave to appeal by the Johannesburg High Court in January.

The Sunday Independent has been reliably informed that the terms of the agreement included Molefe’s ditching his court bid.

He was suspended in April last year after his boss, chief executive Lulama Mokhobo, complained that the ANC had not been included in the hour-long interview on SABC1’s Sunday Live show with axed ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, among other charges.

Communications Minister Dina Pule recently revealed that the SABC had shed 245 of its employees since February 2010 as part of its cost-cutting measures. By the end of February this year, the public broadcaster had 3 645 employees, down from 3 889 in 2010.

The SABC has been in freefall for several years and the National Treasury has projected a R616m loss in the 2012/13 financial year.

Last month, The Sunday Independent reported that the SABC had requested an additional R7.3 billion from Pule to fund its digital migration capital projects, next year’s general elections, and digital terrestrial television channels.

It could only get about R140m.

However, it is not all doom and gloom at the SABC, with the public broadcaster confident that it will manage to pay off its R1bn Nedbank loan by the end of September. By March this year it owed just over R194m.

Meanwhile, Pule has appointed musician Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse, veteran broadcaster Dumile Mateza and former SABC chief people officer Phumelele Nzimande to her 13-member broadcast production advisory body.

Nzimande is SACP general secretary and Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande’s wife.

Pule’s advisory body will make recommendations on the production and display of local content, financing strategies and enhancing the production of local content for the multi-channel and digital broadcasting. - Sunday Independent