Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. File picture: Antoine de Ras


Johannesburg - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela on Wednesday expressed her surprise at the permanent appointment of controversial acting SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, SABC radio news reported.

“I don't know what to make of it. I was surprised when I read this morning (Wednesday) that he has been appointed,” Madonsela told the station.

“I'm still waiting for a response from the SABC and from the minister; until then I'm not in a position to understand what has just happened.”

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi announced Motsoeneng's appointment on Tuesday night in Pretoria, saying she had made the appointment following a recommendation by the SABC board.

In February, Madonsela released a report (entitled “When governance and ethics fail”) which found Motsoeneng's SABC appointment irregular. Among other things, his salary increased from R1.5 million to R2.4 million in one year.

She found he had misrepresented his qualifications - that he passed matric - to the SABC, and recommended that he be replaced.

At the time of releasing her report, Madonsela recommended that a new COO be appointed within 90 days. This deadline has since elapsed.

After a previous request for extra time, the SABC board was given until August 17 to respond to Madonsela's report.

On Wednesday, Madonsela said she had had no response from either the communications department or the SABC.

Madonsela said that in reacting to Motsoeneng's appointment, in addition to investigating “any alleged or suspected improper conduct”, she had the power to take appropriate remedial action.

“I'm not too concerned about what has happened. Of course the actors involved have done what they thought they needed to do. My way forward is to call them to my office to come and explain themselves and then I'll take it from there.”

Madonsela said one possible option was for her to approach Parliament to debate the matter.

The Democratic Alliance said Motsoeneng's permanent appointment meant he could continue his “reign of terror” at the national broadcaster.

“We can expect more surveillance and purging of SABC staff, more clampdowns on editorial independence and more 'happy news' that reflects positively on the governing party,” DA MP Gavin Davis said.

The Media Workers Association of South Africa said the SABC needed to ensure its sustainability.

“The SABC needs a credible exit strategy from its persistent circumstances characterised by diminished public confidence, widening trust-deficit and compromised business competitiveness,” general secretary Tuwani Gumani said in a statement.

“Strengthening the SABC in terms of its independence from commercial, political and cultural influences is vital.”

Last week, political parties called for Motsoeneng to be relieved of his duties. This was after Motsoeneng suggested journalists should have a licence to practice, as in the medical and law professions.

Also last week, Motsoeneng appeared before Parliament to present a strategic plan and budget for the SABC, which received a disclaimer of opinion from the Auditor General - the most adverse finding he can make.

Parliament heard the SABC was losing advertisers and viewers.