Hlaudi Motsoeneng was appointed as the SABC’s COO without the position being advertised or other candidates being considered, the Democratic Alliance argued in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.
The court was hearing an application by the party to have his appointment as Chief Operations Officer set aside.
DA lawyer Anton Katz said Motsoeneng, or “the chosen one”, was also not interviewed for the position.
“That fact on its own is sufficient to render the appointment of Mr Motsoeneng unlawful and invalid,” he told Judge Dennis Davis.
“The only conclusion is that the rule of man is more important than the rule of law.”
The broadcaster announced in July 2014 that Motsoeneng would be permanently appointed to the post. This was despite the Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s remedial action recommendation that he be suspended pending a disciplinary inquiry.
Madonsela found he lied about having a matric certificate, and that both his appointment as acting COO and his one-year salary hike from R1.5m to R2.4m were irregular.
Last week, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled that Madonsela’s findings could not be ignored and upheld an order that Motsoeneng should be suspended for 60 days while a disciplinary hearing into his alleged malfeasance was conducted.
Respondents have since launched an urgent appeal with the Constitutional Court.
According to Motsoeneng’s court papers, the party’s application was premature given that clarity was still required on the constitutional issues around Madonsela’s powers, and that internal disciplinary steps could still be taken.
Putting aside Madonsela’s office for a moment, Katz argued that the court should consider the SABC board and the minister “acted in Motsoeneng’s interests” rather than the public broadcaster’s.
“The most plausible explanation for their conduct is that the board and the minister are, for some reason, biased in favour of Mr Motsoeneng.”
As remedy, the DA wanted a new and suitably qualified COO to be appointed within 60 days.
It also wanted the court to declare that the board and the minister acted unconstitutionally in that they “acted with complete disregard for the public protector”.
Lawyers for the responding parties had yet to argue their points before the court.