The report of the parliamentary ad hoc committee into the affairs of the SABC reads like a horror story. It is a story of maladministration and corruption; of fear and intimidation; of nepotism and of abuse of power.
At the centre of this story sit two malignant individuals: Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the minister of communications, Faith Muthambi.
Like so many public institutions, the SABC has failed the public. Viewed cumulatively, the report portrays an SABC that is indistinguishable from that which existed under apartheid: biased, partisan, irresponsible, profligate and unaccountable.
As MPs, to whom this institution reported, we need to introspect about how we allowed it to happen.
Ultimately, it was left to the public protector to expose the rotten state of the SABC in her report, When Governance and Ethics Fail. This report was released in February 2014.
When we realised that the government and parliament would not implement the public protector’s remedial action about him, the Democratic Alliance approached the courts in a two-part application: first, to suspend Motsoeneng and subject him to a disciplinary hearing, which had been ordered by the public protector; and secondly, to declare that his appointment as the SABC’s chief operating officer was irrational and therefore illegal.
On 24 October 2014, we got an order compelling the SABC to suspend Motsoeneng and to subject him to a disciplinary hearing. He and the SABC sought leave to appeal. On 23 April 2015, Motsoeneng was granted leave to appeal, but the SABC was ordered to implement the disciplinary hearing pending the appeal. He and the SABC appealed again. The case was adjudicated by the supreme court of appeal on 8 October 2015, and the appeal was dismissed.
On 27 November 2015, the Western Cape high court reviewed and set aside the appointment of Motsoeneng as COO. He and the SABC appealed. On 23 May 2016, leave to appeal was dismissed. The SABC and Motsoeneng petitioned the supreme court for leave to appeal. In September 2016, these petitions were dismissed.
The SABC convened a sham disciplinary hearing against Motsoeneng in December 2015, which predictably exonerated him, as key witnesses were not called. The DA again approached the courts to review and set aside this disciplinary hearing. The SABC, in turn, applied for a stay of these proceedings. That application for a stay was dismissed on 14 June 2016.
Judgment in the DA’s case was delivered on 12 December 2016. The disciplinary hearing of December 2015 was set aside and a new one ordered, and Motsoeneng’s appointment as group executive for corporate affairs was set aside, and the court ordered that he could not occupy any senior position in the SABC until after his disciplinary hearing. Motsoeneng and SABC CEO James Aguma were ordered to pay our costs personally to demonstrate the courts’ displeasure.
Guess what? The SABC and Motsoeneng applied for leave to appeal. On 7 February 2017, this application was dismissed.
At every stage, the SABC and/or its executive directors were ordered to pay the DA’s costs, which run to millions of rand. We hope that the new board will root out this culture of impunity.
- This is an edited version of a speech that was delivered in parliament by DA federal executive chairman James Selfe on 7 March 2017 during the discussion on the adoption of the final report of the ad hoc committee on the SABC board inquiry