Board: SABC COO's appointment rational

Cape Town - The decision to appoint SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng on a permanent basis was rational, the broadcaster's board told the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

"On the facts that the SABC has put up, the decision so far to appoint Mr Motsoeneng is not irrational. It is well justified," argued SABC board lawyer Ngwako Maenetje.

He said the board had considered Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's findings on Motsoeneng and found no basis so far to discipline him.

"We don't regret it [the appointment]. In our society, with all the criticisms, he is some kind of example for where he comes from," Maenetje said.

The Democratic Alliance wanted an urgent interim interdict suspending Motsoeneng pending a review of the decision to appoint him.

Motsoeneng sat stony-faced in court, surrounded by his supporters, as he listened to proceedings.

The DA believed the board followed an "unlawful" process in recommending Motsoeneng be appointed, that the decision to appoint him was irrational, and that the SABC would not abide by Madonsela's recommended remedial actions.

Both Maenetje and Norman Arendse, for Motsoeneng, argued that the SABC had never been misled about him not having a matric certificate.

They pointed out that it was incorrect to say Motsoeneng had lied or misrepresented his qualifications to get the position when, in fact, he was head-hunted.

The DA had "jumped the gun" because Madonsela said in court papers that organs of state had been given until Sunday, 17 August, to respond.

Mere recommendation

Maenetje said if Madonsela was not happy with this response, she could approach the court.

"She can come to court to control that exercise of public power by the SABC and the [communications] minister for failing to act rationally," he said.

"But until then, it is not correct that a mere recommendation by the public protector gives rise to disciplinary charges. There must be discretion on the employer."

In February, Madonsela released a report on Motsoeneng, while he was acting COO, titled When Governance and Ethics Fail.

She found his salary increased from R1.5m 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 at 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.

The DA then launched a high court bid to have his appointment set aside. Muthambi and the SABC filed opposing court papers.

SABC board chair Ellen Tshabalala, in her court papers, reportedly rubbished Madonsela's report.

Tshabalala said the broadcaster knew from day one that Motsoeneng did not have matric.

She said he was not dishonest, had never misled the SABC, and was not responsible for any irregular spending.

Arguments continue on Wednesday.