Public broadcaster the SABC has denied it’s been paying the legal fees of its chief operating officer (COO) and former chairperson.
On Monday, opposition political party the Democratic Alliance (DA) accused the SABC of paying Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Ellen Tshabalala’s recent legal fees.
The Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi’s replies to the DA’s recent parliamentary questions said that the SABC submitted claims to its insurance company to pay for Motsoeneng and Tshabalala’s legal fees.
SABC COO Motsoeneng is appealing a high court judgment ordering the SABC to suspend him as directed by the public protector. The public protector found that Motsoeneng lied about his qualifications. Meanwhile, former chairperson Tshabalala was also found to have lied about her qualifications and she subsequently stepped down in December 2014.
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told Fin24 that the DA are “lying” to the public.
“They’ve made assumptions because the minister is talking as a matter of principle,” Kganyago told Fin24.
“The legal insurance is something that is outside of the SABC,” Kganyago said.
In the parliamentary replies, the SABC said that King III and the introduction of ‘The Companies Act of 2008’ has rendered “directors’ and officers’ liability insurance crucial for all companies regardless of size or incorporation”.
The SABC confirmed in its replies that all legal fees for Motsoeneng and Tshabalala were submitted to insurers for payment.
The SABC further said in its replies that it has not paid any amount towards the legal fees of either Motsoeneng or Tshabalala.
However, the DA’s Gavin Davis told Fin24 that it’s “disingenuous” for the SABC to say it’s not paying these legal fees.
“Just like you pay into your car or household insurance, you pay a premium every month. And then when an incident happens you will claim and then your premiums will probably go up because you claimed and there’s more risk,” Davis told Fin24.
Meanwhile, Davis said Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi has also been found wanting in terms of a recent SABC Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI) which she signed.
The MOI said the SABC could take “insurance to protect a director against any liability or expenses for which the corporation is permitted to indemnify.”
But Davis said the MOI excludes indemnifying directors found guilty of “willful misconduct”.
“The key point here actually is that Hlaudi can keep appealing and keep dragging this out for as long as he can because he has a bottomless pit of public money to pay for it,” Davis told Fin24.
“And he never has to dip into his pockets at all to pay for his own legal case because the public is paying for him, which is precisely why he gets to keep appealing all of these judgments,” said Davis.