Saturday, December 12, 2015

BREAKING. SABC's controversial COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng found not guilty on the 3 charges brought in his disciplinary hearing.

On Saturday evening the SABC's controversial and famously matricless chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng was found not guilty on the three changes brought against him in a disciplinary hearing, the outcome of which the SABC decided to broadcast live in primetime.

It means that Hlaudi Motsoeneng will be back at the SABC as its chief operating officer (COO) after taking a "voluntary special leave of absence" with the SABC's head of news Jimi Matthews who stepped in as acting COO and then as acting CEO when Frans Matlala was abruptly suspended last month for another unrelated disciplinary hearing.

On Saturday night in Sandton, following the week's disciplinary hearing, chairperson Willem Edeling said "Hlaudi Motsoeneng is discharged on charges one to three".

Someone in the room in Sandton loudly screamed "yes!"

Hlaudi Motsoeneng, dressed in a blue tuxedo jacket and a bow tie, looked extremely irritated having to sit through the judgment while he hardly ever looked in chairperson EJ Edeling's direction.

He most stared vacantly in the opposite direction and up as if waiting for the inevitable conclusion.

After being told that the three charges against him were "discharged", Hlaudi Motsoeneng launched into another one of the mostly non-sensical rants he's become known for, saying that that "I am still the COO" of the SABC and that he knows that people want to "outset me and I know their motives".

"Some are business, some are political, some are to influence which people should be appointed within the organisation. I have been rejecting that because I am an independent person. I can't be influenced by an outsider".

"No one but God can stop me," said Hlaudi Motsoeneng, calling himself an intellectual.

"I'm an intellectual strategist. No one can take that away from me except God. No one can stop me to go up and up because I have brain in me. I am a visionary. I am a born leader," he said.

The disciplinary hearing saw 6 initial charges against Hlaudi Motsoeneng inexplicably reduced to just 3.

The "not guilty" verdict followed a rushed few days of testimony from just 6 current and former SABC employees - Jabulani Mabaso, Lorraine Francois, Bernard Koma, Motlanyane DipopoPaul Tati and Alwyn Kloppers - and mostly centred around just the one issue and charge of Hlaudi Motsoeneng's lack of matric.

The SABC's bizarre disciplinary hearing of Hlaudi Motsoeneng suddenly resumed this week after it was "terminated" and "cancelled" last week.

The disciplinary hearing which lacked credibility, oddly changed chairpersons twice without any explanation.

On Monday this week first advocate William Mokhari who abruptly disbanded the disciplinary hearing last week on Thursday saying it would serve no purpose other than being an "academic" exercise was suddenly gone and replaced with a new chairperson, Willem Johannes (EJ) Edeling.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng's disciplinary hearing also changed prosecutors three times.

First labour lawyer Sandile July was fired after alleged irregularities with the appointment, then Mponyana Ledwaba abruptly left last week, and then Tumisho Phalane took over as the 3rd prosecutor to work on the disciplinary hearing.

Tumisho Phalane told the hearing and chairperson on Monday this week that he doesn't have enough to prepare. Chairperson EJ Edeling said the case must proceed.

Strangely, the disciplinary hearing that was postponed multiple times since it was supposed to start at the end of October, became a rushed and truncated since it raced to meet a High Court imposed deadline of 60 days which ended today, or the SABC would have been held in contempt of court.

As a result of the sudden pressure and multiple delays and postponements, key witnesses were simply not available and were not called.

Some said they can't testify until January 2016 on such short notice but handed documentation.

At least one set of documents, Exhibit F, was dismissed, not entered into evidence and not read, sent by a possible witness who was in Mpumalanga and said she could only attend a disciplinary hearing in January.

Chairperson EJ Edeling on Saturday evening said that "there was not sufficient evidence before me".

The outcome of the disciplinary hearing was broadcast live and uninterrupted on South African television on MultiChoice's DStv on two South African TV news channels: The SABC's own SABC News (DStv 404) and the Infinity Media and Gupta owned ANN7 (DStv 405) from just after 19:00.

The disciplinary hearing was not shown on Sabido's eNCA (DStv 403) which ran a red scroll in the lower third after the announcement.

The outcome was initially set to be announced at 14:00 on Saturday - then suddenly to 19:00 in primetime with the SABC announcing that it would broadcast the summary and the outcome of the proceedings live on television.

While the Public Prosecutor issued a lengthy and incredibly detailed report in February 2014 with multiple findings that implicated Hlaudi Motsoeneng is maladministration and abuse of power at the SABC, the bulk of those findings and evidence were not available, used or incorporated into the disciplinary hearing.

The disciplinary hearing this past week mostly centered around whether or not Hlaudi Motsoeneng lied about having matric or not, when he applied at the SABC in Bloemfontein in 1993.

The Public Protector has a recorded interview that the Public Protector Thuli Madonsela did with Hlaudi Motsoeneng in which he admitted that he lied about having a matric.

One of the witnesses, a former SABC HR manager, also testified how Hlaudi Motsoeneng twice lied to him about having a matric certificate, and finally in a third conversation "admitted" that he doesn't have a matric certificate and lied.

Yet the disciplinary hearing has now "discharged" Hlaudi Motsoeneng on the charge of having lied about having a matric certificate.

In a mindboggling way, no evidence was given, no witnesses called and no interrogation and discovery took place into issues and related charges of Hlaudi Motsoeneng unilaterally increasing his salary and that of other SABC executives, dismissing employees who disagreed with him, and of purging all SABC staff who testified against him at an earlier disciplinary hearing held against him.

Of the three remaining charges out of an original six - charges relating to unilaterally increasing salaries and creating a new position for a staff member as well as gross abuse of power - virtually no evidence was heard or anything discussed.

Only 6 witnesses were called, some of whom still work at the SABC and one whose company is in negotiations with getting a contract from the SABC. Several testify in camera.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng reportedly has close ties with South Africa's president Jacob Zuma; a former fired SABC board member revealed that the minister of communications Faith Muthambi wrote that "Baba loves him", with Baba referring to Jacob Zuma and "him" being Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

On Saturday night the Democratic Alliance (DA) political party was first to react, saying the the disciplinary hearing and the outcome "has been exposed to be the whitewash we always suspected it would be".

"It is completely preposterous that the chairperson can, erring in due process, come to the determination that Hlaudi Motsoeneng is a suitable person to hold his position as COO."

"We submit that this farcical stitch-up job and its outcome are exactly what Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the SABC and the minister of communications, Faith Muthambi, concocted from the very beginning," said the Democratic Alliance in a statement.