Monday, September 21, 2015

SABC paying Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Ellen Tshabalala's legal fees by submitting claims to the SABC's insurance company.

It's come to light in parliament that the SABC is paying the large legal fees of Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the public broadcaster's controversial and famously matricless chief operating officer (COO) and the disgraced former chairwoman Ellen Zandile Tshabalala who lied about qualifications she doesn't have.

South Africa's minister of communications, Faith Muthambi, in response to questions by the Democratic Alliance (DA) political party, revealed that the SABC has been submitting claims to the public broadcaster's insurance company to pay for Ellen Zandile Tshabalala and Hlaudi Motsoeneng's legal fees.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng is mired in a protracted court battle over his appointment as COO and after the Public Protector's scathing report in February 2014 according to which he admitted in a recorded interview that he lied about having matric and made up symbols for a matric certificate he knew he couldn't produce.

The Public Protector's report implicated him in serious maladministration and several instances of abuse of power and found that Hlaudi Motsoeneng should "never have been appointed at the SABC" and that a disciplinary hearing should start immediately.

The SABC never did and the court case that  will now likely determine the powers of the Public Protector has now reached the Supreme Court of Appeals.

According to Gavin Davis, DA member of parliament and member of parliament's portfolio committee on communictions, the SABC paying Ellen Tshabalala and Hlaudi Motsoeneng's legal fees means that taxpayers are funding their legal costs.

"It is now clear why EllenTshabalala was prepared to use every tactic her legal team could dream up to delay the outcome of the parliamentary inquiry, including a court interdict. She had been guaranteed a bottomless pit of public money to avoid justice for as long as possible. Ellen Tshabalala stated last year that her legal fees came to more than R1 million."

"Hlaudi Motsoeneng is appealing a high court judgment ordering the SABC to suspend and discipline him, as directed by the public protector, says Gavin Davis. "The exact cost of Hlaudi Motsoeneng's legal fees so far is not known, but it is likely to be in the region of R1.5 million - and counting".

"With the public paying his legal expenses, it is no wonder that he has vowed to take his case all the way to the constitutional court if his appeal fails."

"Not only is it morally unjustifiable for the public to pay Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Ellen Tshabalala's legal costs, there are serious question marks over the legality of the SABC's decision to indemnify them from paying."

"Both lied about their qualifications before they joined the SABC. This means they committed wrongdoing in their personal capacity; it cannot be said that they committed these acts in the course and scope of their employment. Indeed, the SABC should be taking action against Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Ellen Tshabalala, not funding their legal battles".

In April, Hlaudi Motsoeneng's lawyer, Zola Majavu, said that Hlaudi Motsoeneng had been paying his own legal fees in the case which had already run into millions of rands.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday morning.