Johannesburg – Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s “triumphant” return to the top echelons of the public broadcaster might be shortlived.
Shortly after SABC board chairperson Professor Mbulaheni Maguvhe announced Motsoeneng had been appointed to his old job as group executive of corporate affairs, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela indicated she would scrutinise the decision.Maguvhe also said Motsoeneng was free to apply for the position of chief operating officer, which he held until Monday, when the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) upheld the Western Cape High Court ruling that Motsoeneng’s appointment to that position was irrational and must be set aside.
This was as a result of the public protector’s findings that he had misrepresented his matric qualification and hiked his salary from R1.5 million to R2.4m in a single year, among other adverse findings.
SABC acting group chief executive officer James Aguma said Bessie Tugwana, who had been replaced by Motsoeneng as group executive of corporate affairs, would be deployed to the chief executive’s office as a project manager.
Madonsela appeared taken aback by the decision to appoint Motsoeneng as group executive of corporate affairs.
“The starting point will be to find out what was the process of appointing him,” Madonsela said, speaking at an unrelated media briefing in Pretoria, which coincided with the SABC’s announcement of Motsoeneng’s appointment.
“Was the position vacant?” Madonsela asked, adding that a query would be sent to the SABC to explain its decision and that, if not satisfied, action would be taken.
She also pointed out that the SABC could face personal legal costs for Motsoeneng’s reappointment.
Should Motsoeneng’s appointment turn out to be illegitimate, Madonsela’s office would seek legal costs from the SABC board, which signed off on it.
Buoyed by his appointment, a spirited Motsoeneng was spitting fire on Tuesday as he used a media briefing at the SABC’s Auckland Park headquarters to lash out at his detractors.
The media were his target, as he lashed out at them for waging “a malicious” campaign” against him and “misleading the public”. He said South Africa needed to be saved from this onslaught.
He said he would not allow politics to interfere with his crusade to transform the SABC, “which he said did not exist and had been “a disaster” before he took over.
“I am a different animal. I wasn’t produced by an individual. My future is in my hands,” said Motsoeneng, who regularly spoke in the third person and referred to himself as a wonderful person.
“I don’t care what people say about Hlaudi. It’s their business. People who are ready to transform South Africa are targeted. I don’t care when dogs bark (at) you.I have my own brains and vision. My future is in my hands. I was not produced by anyone.”
Motsoeneng said he was aware that newspapers were in the habit of profiting from his name, which he said was “a brand” that was trending on social media. He vowed to do “miracles” in his job to ensure that all radio stations in the nine provinces reflected the 11 official languages.
Maguvhe echoed Motsoeneng’s sentiments, saying: “We would like the opposition parties not to interfere with SABC processes. They are destabilising this institution.”
But political parties were quick to criticise the SABC’s latest decision, and called on the current board to be dissolved.
The DA said it would seek legal advice on Motsoeneng’s appointment, saying it “smacks of irregularity”.
“The speed and apparent secrecy with which the process was carried out raises questions about the credibility of the appointment hot off the heels of the SCA”s dismissal of leave to appeal,” it added.
EFF MP and acting spokesperson Fana Mokoena said the SABC board was out of control and called on the government to take more responsibility in reining it in.
The board’s decision, he said, had a complete disregard for the courts and the country”s morale.
“What’s happening is as a result of the non-effectiveness of the Department of Communications in reining them in,” said Mokoena, also accusing the ANC-led government of being complicit in the shenanigans at the public broadcaster.
ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa had called on the SABC board to uphold the rule of law, saying its decisions must not be seen to be undermining or circumventing court decisions.