The SABC’s requirement to reply to the public protector’s report on its then acting chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng was unrelated to his permanent appointment, the public broadcaster said on Wednesday.
“The public protector has nothing to do with this [permanent appointment of Motsoeneng],” SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said. “The two are not together. I don’t know how the two are related.”
Kganyago said any attempt to draw inferences about Motsoeneng’s appointment from the report were subjective. “You read what you want to read.”
He said Madonsela’s report stipulated only that the chief operating officer position had to be filled; not who should fill it.
On Wednesday, public protector Thuli Madonsela expressed her surprise at Motsoeneng’s appointment. “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,” Madonsela told SABC radio news.
Communications minister Faith Muthambi announced Motsoeneng’s appointment in Pretoria on Tuesday night, saying she had made the appointment following a recommendation by the SABC board.
In February, Madonsela released a report that found Motsoeneng’s SABC appointment irregular.
At the time of releasing her report, Madonsela recommended that a new chief operating officer be appointed within 90 days. This deadline has since elapsed.
After a previous request for extra time, the SABC board was given until 17 August to respond to Madonsela’s report.
On Wednesday, Madonsela said she had had no response from either the communications department or the SABC.
Kganyago declined to say when a reply to the protector would be issued, only that it would occur when the board finalised its response.
In an SABC statement on Wednesday, Kganyago said the broadcaster was pleased to announce the chief of operations position had been filled. He said the minister had “applied her mind” to the board’s recommendation in appointing Motsoeneng.
In the statement, SABC board chair Zandile Tshabalala was quoted as saying the appointment would help move the organisation forward. Tshabalala said “further stability” was being created.
Civil rights group Afriforum said the appointment indicated the SABC board had “refrained from heeding” the public protector’s earlier proposals.
Deputy CEO Alana Bailey said in a statement the move was “a further example of disrespect for the constitution and constitutional institutions that exist to protect the public against abuse of power and mismanagement”.
The Economic Freedom Fighters was “distraught” by Motsoeneng’s appointment.
“Motsoeneng does not deserve to be COO, because he is a liar and a conman,” EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said in a statement.
Ndlozi said the decision to appoint Motsoeneng raised concerns about Muthambi’s capabilities.
“Either the minister is weak or intentionally misled the public about making sure to restore the public confidence on the leadership of SABC.”
He said the EFF would take the matter to court.
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.
In Madonsela’s report issued in February, she found Motsoeneng’s salary increased from R1,5m to R2,4m in one year, that he had purged senior staff, and misrepresented his qualifications — that he passed matric — to the SABC. — Sapa