Hlaudi Motsoeneng says he does not need to be chief operating officer of the SABC to keep on transforming the lives of black people.
“Actually I don’t need that title to change South Africa,” said the SABC’s group executive of corporate affairs on the steps of the Western Cape high court in Cape Town.
“I just need myself to change South Africa,” said Motsoeneng.
Speaking after a round of rousing salutations from supporters, he said he was not worried about the Democratic Alliance’s court bid to have him kicked out of his job at the public broadcaster.
“The DA is so stressed, but I am not stressed,” he said waving his arms theatrically to the delight of the Friends of Hlaudi watching adoringly and echoing the last words of his sentences loudly.
They had waited outside in the icy wind that followed much-needed rain in Cape Town for a sighting of Motsoeneng, singing so loudly that they could be heard inside court one, which was jam-packed with lawyers.
“I can tell you today I’m very glad to come back here,” said Motsoeneng, who went from acting COO to COO then to group executive of corporate affairs in spite of findings by the public protector against him, previous SABC board chair Ben Ngubane and previous communications minister Dina Pule.
“I am very glad that [judge Dennis] Davis said … they should reappoint me to occupy the position of the COO as long as they can follow the process.
“And I am ready to apply and occupy that position,” he said, referring to a previous judgment by Davis saying his appointment was irrational, but that only a disciplinary inquiry could decide if he should be fired.
The subsequent internal disciplinary inquiry cleared him and he was moved up from acting COO to full COO, to the chagrin of the opposition party.
The DA believes he should go because the previous public protector, Thuli Madonsela, found that there was credence in complaints about him.
The protector found that he was dishonest about his matric certificate and got pay rises irregularly from R1,5m to R2,4m. He purged senior staffers, some of whom had complained about him, and had escalated the SABC’s salary bill by R29m by not following procedure when giving employees salary increases.
Motsoeneng’s supporters praised him for his transformation efforts, particularly his decree that 90% of the SABC’s content should be local. This includes music and television shows.
“Needle time royalties are being paid through his efforts,” said Dodo Monamodi of the Independent Music Performance Rights Association (Impra).
“We remember those days of one-year contracts,” said Setshwana Chabeti of the Friends of Hlaudi.
An application by Impra to be a friend of the court was dismissed earlier after judges Owen Rogers and Andre Le Grange said the case was about corporate governance, not about performers’ rights or transformation.
Impra advocate Richard Mkhabela said before the case was heard that he hoped to present submissions by artists indicating that they are happy that more royalties were now being distributed to local musicians and performers instead of global corporations that collect for overseas stars.
A similar application by former government spokesmann Jimmy Manyi’s Decolonisation Foundation and the Musicians Association of SA was also dismissed. Both said they also support Motsoeneng’s efforts to recognise local talent, indigenous culture and to make sure local artists get the lion’s share of the royalty’s kitty.
Former national director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe was representing the foundation and was ready to back up claims that Motsoeneng is a hero for supporting black talent.
Alice in Wonderland
The DA’s advocate, Anton Katz SC, said inside the court that he was “feeling like a stuck record” because the issue had dragged on for more than two years at a cost of R29m to the taxpayer.
The DA also wants Motsoeneng to pay the legal costs of the application out of his pocket. “It’s a charade,” Katz repeated over and over. “It is like Alice in Wonderland.”
But as far as Motsoeneng was concerned, it was the DA’s resistance to change that was the real problem. “I do understand the noise, where it is coming from,” he continued outside court. “The noise is coming from people who don’t support transformation and change.”
And if anybody thought he was getting tired of the whole thing, they were wrong. “I have more energy than yesterday. The DA should be ready. [It] is not going to be easy for them to get rid of Hlaudi. Hlaudi is capable of taking on the DA.”
The matter continues on Thursday.