Moffet Mofokeng

A top supporter of President Jacob Zuma, with neither a matric certificate nor top management experience is set to land the R2m job as chief operating officer (COO) of the financially-crippled SABC.

And the SABC has decided to advertise the strategic, second-most powerful post only internally, for only three working days and, according to newly appointed group chief executive officer Lulama Mokhobo, matric is not a requirement for the post.

The requirements for the job, one of the key positions in the corporation’s turn-around strategy, have been tailor-made to suit Hlaudi Motsoeneng – essentially an ANC deployee at the SABC – because he has no matric and has no managerial experience at that level, according to insiders.

He is the same man fingered by an SABC internal audit probe as having lied about having a matric certificate when he applied for a position at the broadcaster’s Bloemfontein office several years ago.

Should Motsoeneng land the job, he would possibly become the only COO of such a major public institution without matric.

The move has plunged workers in the financially struggling organisation into panic, asking how a person without an undergraduate qualification could be the second in command of an organisation with a R4.7 billion turnover.

At e.tv, for example, Bronwyn Keene-Young is the chief operating officer. She has a masters degree from Wits University and an LLB.

Before her appointment at e.tv, she co-founded the Media Monitoring Project in 1993. Another COO Graham Wayne Dempster, of Nedbank, one of the country’s top banks, is a qualified chartered accountant and has experience in retail banking.

The Sunday Independent learnt that Mokhobo advertised the COO job on Friday, but apparently deleted parts where academic qualifications were required ostensibly to ensure that Motsoeneng, who does not even have a matric but has strong political backing, qualified for the position.

Staff at the SABC are now questioning the deletion of the academic qualifications from the advert and the three working days allocated to prospective candidates to apply for the job. Applicants have until Tuesday to apply.

They argue that the position needed someone with suitable qualifications and Motsoeneng, who is said to have Zuma’s ear, was not the right candidate.

The advert states that the person who would be appointed to the job should be a “commercially astute executive, with broad ranging experience of success in broadcasting”, have “well developed negotiation and relationship-building skills at the most senior level” and the “ability to translate and promote the integration of new business objectives into financial, human capital and organisational development changes on an ongoing basis”.

Approached for comment, Motsoeneng said “I don’t want to comment on this issue” and added: “speak to the CEO. She is here with me” before handing over his cellphone to Mokhobo.

The CEO said the job did not require a degree and was open only to all SABC employees. “We are looking for a candidate who understands the business of the SABC. We don’t have the time to be in a state of inertia. It does not require a degree to run a business operation. That does not require an MBA. Anybody internally can apply for this job. We are very clear that we are not opening it to everybody,” she said.

She said the position did not require technical skill but an understanding of how business operations are run.

“You need the ability to oversee complex situations”. Responding to claims that the advert is tailor-made to suit Motsoeneng, Mokhobo said: “If we (had already) decided on Hlaudi, we would not have advertised the position. We would have given it to him.”

For over four years now, the SABC has not had a permanent COO and a chief technology officer.

In stark contrast to Motsoeneng, Solly Mokoetle, the last person to occupy the position permanently in 2006, had a masters degree in journalism from Canada’s Carleton University and 25 years experience in broadcasting. Twelve of those years were spent in executive management at the SABC. He also obtained advanced management and finance qualifications.

His successor Charlotte Mampane, who occupied the COO post temporarily, had a masters degree in management from Wits University, an honours degree from Unisa and management certificates from Wits Business School.

Mokhobo is the sixth SABC CEO – including those who were appointed on an acting capacity – to be in charge of the broadcaster since 2009. Before her, there was Dali Mpofu, who quit after accepting a R14 million settlement, Gab Mampone, who left under a cloud, and Mokoetle, who was also paid millions of rands before his departure.

Former chief financial officer Robin Nicholson, who also acted in the CEO’s post, has taken the SABC to court for unceremoniously terminating his contract. Phil Molefe, who was the last executive to act as CEO, has returned to his job as group executive responsible for TV and radio news.

Communications Minister Dina Pule has now given Mokhobo until March to fill the vacant posts. The vacancies are so contested within the ANC because each faction is looking at controlling the broadcaster and the people who are in charge of it.

A senior staff member not authorised to speak to the media, said: “Where have you seen such a senior position advertised for three working days? This is really bad. Where have you seen a big corporation like the SABC with a COO without qualifications?”

“It is very clear from the way this matter is handled that it is tailor-made for Hlaudi. He simply tells us at meetings that he does not have matric. He says: ‘I don’t care. I don’t have matric and I don’t need matric to be where I am.’ He openly says this in meetings all the time. It is shocking.”

Hannes du Buisson, the president of the Broadcasting, Electronic Media and Allied Workers Union, confirmed that his union received “concerns and complaints” about how the advertisement was worded.

“I have received quite a lot of complaints from staff about why there is no qualifications requirement in the advertisement.

“It is vague. I can’t say it was drafted for him but there is suspicion. There is a perception it is fait accompli, he will get the job,” Du Buisson said.

Communication Workers Union spokesman Matankana Mothapo said they would support Motsoeneng’s appointment.

“Let’s not talk about his qualifications. Let’s talk about skills. He understands the SABC. In the shortest time he has been at the SABC, he has done well. We are happy with him,” Mothapo said.

In May 2008, the SABC was plunged into turmoil when its board suspended former CEO Dali Mpofu, who had a day earlier suspended ex-news chief Snuki Zikalala for allegedly leaking a confidential document to ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa.

The document in question related to a labour case involving Motsoeneng, who was at the time a current affairs executive producer for Lesedi FM. Motsoeneng was fired in 2007 and Mpofu pushed Zikalala to reinstate him, but Zikalala refused.

Motsoeneng, according to an internal audit document, misled the SABC about his qualifications when he landed a job as a junior reporter in 1996. The SABC had tried, at least on more than two occasions, to obtain Motsoeneng’s matric certificate but failed.

The Zuma camp, which triumphed in Polokwane in 2007, needed to take control of the SABC in a bid to clean up his image. In the run-up to the Polokwane conference, those in the Zuma camp complained Mpofu, who was said to be in Thabo Mbeki’s camp, favoured the former president with positive coverage, and Motsoeneng was his nemesis.