SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng was headhunted by the broadcaster and it is therefore incorrect to say he misrepresented himself to obtain a position, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Norman Arendse, for Motsoeneng, told the Western Cape High Court Motsoeneng was headhunted in 1995 while a Free State stringer (freelancer) and asked to complete a certificate course in radio journalism, which he duly did.
He worked for the organisation until 2006 when a hearing was held for alleged misconduct. Motsoeneng appealed, but it was never concluded and he was re-employed in 2008.
“In strict labour law, this issue of matric or not, is completely irrelevant to his employment post 2008.”
Motsoeneng was headhunted with the knowledge that he did not have a matric and was asked to upskill, which he did when he obtained certificates in leadership in 2003 and general management in 2012.
The Democratic Alliance was applying for an urgent interim interdict to remove Motsoeneng from his job pending a review of the decision to appoint him.
The court heard earlier he was a “toxic influence” in the organisation.
Motsoeneng sat stony-faced in court, surrounded by his supporters, as he listened to proceedings.
The DA’s application focused on the “unlawful” process that the board undertook in its recommendation of his appointment, the rationality employed in the decision, and the findings in Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report, titled “When Governance and Ethics Fail”.
In February, Madonsela released her report on Motsoeneng, while he was acting COO. She found his salary increased from R1.5 million to R2.4m in one year, that he had purged senior staff, and misrepresented his matric qualifications to the SABC. Madonsela recommended that a new COO be appointed at the SABC within 90 days.
In July, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi announced Motsoeneng’s permanent appointment. She said he was cleared of all wrongdoing by a legal firm before the decision was made.
The DA then launched a high court bid to have his appointment set aside. Muthambi and the SABC filed opposing court papers.
SABC board chairwoman Ellen Tshabalala, in her court papers, reportedly rubbished Madonsela’s report.
Tshabalala said the broadcaster knew from day one that Motsoeneng did not have matric.
She said he was not dishonest, had never misled the SABC, and was not responsible for any irregular spending.
Supporting this view, Arendse read out an affidavit by the managing editor of SABC news radio, Alwyn Kloppers, who was tasked in 1994 with appointing a more representative staff complement.
Kloppers said he recommended Motsoeneng be appointed in 1995 because of his commitment and passion, despite not having a matric certificate.
“Given his skills and credibilities, we thought this was not an obstacle in appointing him,” Kloppers stated in the affidavit.
Arendse said Madonsela and the DA ignored this information.
“What we have heard here today is further terrible insults against Mr Motsoeneng. It cannot be justified based on hearsay and based on a report which constitutes only the opinion of the public protector,” Arendse said.