The SABC is footing the legal bills of its chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, and its former chair, Zandile Tshabalala, as they battle charges against them, it has been revealed in parliament.
Replies to questions posed by the Democratic Alliance to communications minister Faith Muthambi show that the SABC has submitted claims to its insurance company to pay for the pair’s legal fees.
In effect, said DA MP Gavin Davis, this means that taxpayers are funding their legal costs.
“It is now clear why Tshabalala was prepared to use every tactic her legal team could dream up to delay the outcome of the parliamentary inquiry, including a court interdict,” said Davis.
“She had been guaranteed a bottomless pit of public money to avoid justice for as long as possible. Tshabalala stated last year that her legal fees came to more than R1m.”
Motsoeneng is appealing a high court judgment ordering the SABC to suspend and discipline him, as directed by the public protector, Davis said. “With the public paying his legal expenses, it is no wonder that he has vowed to take his case all the way to the constitutional court if his appeal fails.”
Davis said it may also not have been lawful for the SABC to indemnify Tshabalala and Motsoeneng from paying.
“Both lied about their qualifications before they joined the SABC. This means they committed wrongdoing in their personal capacity; it cannot be said that they committed these acts in the course and scope of their employment,” Davis said. “Indeed, the SABC should be taking action against Motsoeneng and Tshabalala, not funding their legal battles.”
In addition, in terms of the SABC’s memorandum of incorporation, directors may not be indemnified against liabilities where they have been found of “wilful misconduct”.
“It is quite obvious that, whichever you way you look at it, neither Motsoeneng nor Tshabalala can be lawfully indemnified from paying their own legal costs,” Davis said.
An SABC spokesman has been asked to comment on the allegations. — © 2015 NewsCentral Media