Motsoeneng and Tebele must pay SABC 8 costs, not just SABC
“OUTA welcomes this decision. However, the embattled public broadcaster should not have to cough up money to pay for the actions of rogue elements who operated the SABC with tyranny while in power,” says Dominique Msibi, OUTA’s Portfolio Manager for Social Services and Special Projects.
“We urge the SABC to remember its rights should it pay the full amount in respect of the cost order and hold Motsoeneng and Tebele liable to the extent of their involvement.”
Furthermore, those responsible for making the decision that SABC should oppose the SABC 8's action should be held accountable for maladministration.
The Labour Court cases arising from the July 2016 dismissals of the SABC 8 were brought by the unions Solidarity and BEMAWU, and the fired staffers Foeta Krige, the late Suna Venter, Krivani Pillay, Jacques Steenkamp, Busisiwe Ntuli, Lukhanyo Calata and Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki. The eighth, Vuyo Mvoko, was a contractor. The journalists were fired after they challenged the broadcaster’s controversial editorial policies particularly the ban on broadcasting violent protests which was effectively censorship.
The Labour Court reinstated them and, in September 2016, the court ordered that the SABC, Motsoeneng and Tebele jointly pay the SABC 8’s legal costs. The order was for SABC, Motsoeneng and Tebele to pay “jointly and severally, the one to pay the others to be absolved”.
Motsoeneng claimed he was acting in accordance with the SABC policy and was within his rights as the COO to support the banning of broadcasting protests. This led to the eight journalists being put through untold trauma and misery. “It is ironic that after making these claims, Motsoeneng then tried to back peddle, saying that he fired the journalists on the directive of former acting CEO Jimi Matthews,” says Msibi.
There are multiple investigations, including a Public Protector’s report and parliamentary inquiry, which suggest that despite board oversight and Motsoeneng not being CEO, it’s clear he was able to run the SABC with the support of former communications minister Faith Muthambi and, allegedly, the President. The Public Protector’s report into the SABC found he had effectively given himself irregular pay increases, promoted allies and purged opponents.
“It is time that Motsoeneng is held liable in his personal capacity for all these irresponsible actions. He wielded a lot of power and rode roughshod over helpless employees who were just doing their jobs,” says Msibi.
OUTA laid criminal charges against Motsoeneng and the former Chairman of the SABC, James Aguma, in December 2016 due to their abuse of authority at the SABC. The case is currently under investigation by the Hawks.