The DA’s bid to have the appointment of SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng set aside is not urgent and ought not be granted, the SABC argued in court papers.
“There is simply no urgency. Any alleged urgency is self-created and unjustified,” stated board chairwoman Zinhle Tshabalala in her answering affidavit.
“In these circumstances the relief sought is inappropriate or incompetent and ought not be granted.”
The application by the Democratic Alliance was launched in the Western Cape High Court. It is expected to be heard on August 19.
Tshabalala said the DA had done nothing to approach a court regarding Motsoeneng, despite the allegations emanating from Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report having been in the public domain for a substantial period of time.
In February, Madonsela released a report on Motsoeneng, while he was acting COO. She found that 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 to 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.
Tshabalala said the board procured the services of Mchunu Attorneys, a legal firm to assist in considering and investigating “the veracity of the findings and Madonsela’s recommendations” as well as to assist the board to respond to the report.
“Mchunu Attorneys reviewed the public protector’s report and investigated its findings. Mchunu Attorneys prepared a report in respect of its task and gave advice to the board.”
The lawyers’ report was received on June 5, she said.
She stated that the Mchunu report was not attached with the court papers, as it was legally privileged.
Before appointing Motsoeneng, the board considered the lawyers’ report and that of Madonsela.
“The SABC is satisfied that Mr Motsoeneng did not defraud it or mislead it. The public protector’s findings of dishonesty and fraud are at variance with objective facts,” she said.
In her answering affidavit, Muthambi said the DA could have requested Parliament or its portfolio committee on Communications, other than a court, to investigate whether there were sufficient grounds to suspend or remove Motsoeneng.
“It has failed to explore and pursue that remedy without providing an satisfactory explanation.”
Motsoeneng lawfully discharged his duties as acting COO for a three years, she said.
“The report of Mchunu Attorneys shows that the SABC has not ignored the public protector’s findings… based on the advice it received, it is appropriate to conclude that Motsoeneng did not mislead the SABC about his qualifications.”
Muthambi said, based on documentation submitted by the SABC together with the recommendation that Muthambi should consider Motsoeneng’s appointment, she was satisfied Motsoeneng had performed satisfactorily, and had brought financial and corporate stability to the public broadcaster.
The application was not urgent, she said.
“I therefore submit that the urgency contended by the applicant is of its own making.”