Hlaudi gets the last laugh
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Don Makatile says the disciplinary hearing for SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng was a comedy of errors that culminated in a farce.
The only thing serious about the latest SABC disciplinary hearing against Hlaudi Motsoeneng – at which he was cleared of all wrongdoing – is that it was a joke. A very expensive joke concluded over copious rounds of fine coffee lattes and sumptuous lunches at a posh Sandton hotel.
It was a flawed process; a comedy of errors that culminated in a farce. Its decision was arrived at with the same alacrity as the “considered sobriety” of a kangaroo court where everything but the evidence before it mattered.
All it has done for all concerned – especially Motsoeneng’s legal representative advocate Zola Majavu, who confessed that “my services do not come cheap” – has been to add a few extra zeroes to the bank accounts of the legal counsels and zilch to their colourful CVs and general body of jurisprudence.
Cast your mind back to October 8 when the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) dismissed the bid lodged by the SABC and Communications Minister Faith Muthambi against the order granted by the Western Cape High Court that the public broadcaster institute a disciplinary hearing against Motsoeneng and suspend him from his position as chief operations officer (COO) “until at least the finalisation of the disciplinary proceedings”.
But “in deciding these issues, the SCA considered the powers and position of the Public Protector”.
In her now-famous report in February last year, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela was scathing on Motsoeneng whose hefty salary increase she decried. The issue of lying about his matric also received attention from Madonsela.
She then suggested remedial action, including convening a disciplinary hearing against him.
Against all logic and the body of evidence, Muthambi, typical of a kangaroo court judge, instead appointed Motsoeneng permanently to the COO position on July 7 last year. It would have been laughable had it not been such a grave matter of national importance.
In street parlance, Muthambi showed the public protector her pudgy middle finger.
It is now a matter of public record that none of the SABC/ Muthambi appeals have ever received a sympathetic ear in any court hearing. In forging ahead with her serial litigation, Muthambi is inspired by the notion that uBaba (a reference to President Jacob Zuma) uyamthanda (loves) Motsoeneng. None of the national imperatives have ever shaped her resolve to get Motsoeneng back at his desk.
It is the selfsame desk that Judge Dennis Davis in the Cape Town High Court would later declare Motsoeneng does not deserve.
On November 27 this year, after confessing to noting the SCA judgment “with jurisprudential enthusiasm”, Judge Davis set aside the appointment of Motsoeneng.
While the best legal minds in the country were making these findings, the shallow brains at SABC were at a gallop, frantically trying to “finalise” the disciplinary hearing against the COO it now did not have.
One thinking legal mind, William Mokhari SC, ruled on December 3 that “the disciplinary hearing is terminated forthwith” when he took the Judge Davis order into account. Mokhari had said: “I was also appointed to preside over the disciplinary inquiry of Motsoeneng in his capacity as the COO and not in his capacity as an employee of the SABC… in any other capacity.”
According to Mokhari, “the legal effect of the Davis judgment is that the disciplinary inquiry” he was chairing “has become moot”.
Majavu relishes any contest of legal pugilism. He’s always at the ready to wade in with his two cents’ worth.
But it is the view of this reporter that Mokhari threw the book at him. When they resumed this mockery without Mokhari – Willem Edeling was appointed the new chair – on Monday, December 7, I asked Majavu what he made of the Mokhari ruling.
For the first time in his guise as the local Johnnie Cochran, Majavu was speechless. He did not want “to talk about that” – shorthand for “I concede turf to his superior legal argument”.
For the next five days in a cushy boardroom inside the Southern Sun Hotel in Sandton, the circus would play itself out, much to the delight of Hlaudi’s friends. It is my contention that those who authored the charge sheet against Motsoeneng should themselves be charged. They turned shoddiness into an art form.
Enter prosecutor Tumisho Phalane. He is a small man with a legal brain commensurate in size. He depended on Edeling to help articulate his line of questioning. “Is this what you’re trying to say?” Edeling would repeatedly ask Phalane.
There is no worse insult than an interlocutor asking one if this or that was what one was not saying, or not saying.
The SABC sure knew how to pick this one. Sandile July and Marooti Ledwaba proved quite a handful for the war room at the public broadcaster, who were canvassing for a pliant prosecutor.
Phalane ticked all the boxes for them. The less said about the witnesses, the better. It is their fault that “the born leader”, the inarticulate “intellectual”, is savouring this victory, however, Pyrrhic.
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