22 August 2014

South Africa: Little Co-operation Over SABC Report - Lawyer

Photo: SABC
Hlaudi Motsoeneng, SABC Chief Operating Officer.

Cape Town — There has been little co-operative governance so far in resolving conflict over Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's report on SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the Western Cape High Court heard on Wednesday.

"There has been an ostensible dragging of feet when it comes to compliance," Madonsela's lawyer Etienne Labuschagne said.

"The facts indicate that there has not been co-operative governance so far."

Madonsela's submissions as a respondent were being heard during the Democratic Alliance's urgent application to have Motsoeneng suspended pending a review of the decision to permanently appoint him.

Madonsela released a report on Motsoeneng in February, while he was acting chief operating officer, titled "When Governance and Ethics Fail".

She found his salary increased from R1.5 million to R2.4m in one year, that he had purged senior staff, and misrepresented his matric qualifications to the SABC.

While she did not direct that he be immediately suspended, she said a new COO should be appointed at the SABC within 90 days.

Labuschagne said Madonsela's remedial action in the report was binding, not a proposal or recommendation.

The SABC had provided for the appointment of senior officials to review the report.

"It [the SABC's report] is a denial and a giving of reasons why there won't be compliance and a few instances of compliance. The reports we have received do not constitute actual compliance. It has an undermining effect," her lawyer argued.

Lawyers for Motsoeneng, the SABC board and Communications Minister Faith Muthambi had argued the DA was "jumping the gun" and undermining the rule of law because Madonsela, Muthambi, and the board were still in talks.

Labuschange said the onus was on organs of state to officially declare an intergovernmental dispute if they disagreed with Madonsela.

"The process of intergovernmental engagement regarding a dispute is not to be confused with the public protector's process of supervising the implementation of her remedial action," Labuschagne warned.

Madonsela met Muthambi in Pretoria on Wednesday after issuing her a subpoena to appear.

In a joint statement released on Wednesday afternoon, they said they had agreed on a way to address Motsoeneng's alleged irregular appointment.

The meeting was described as "cordial, fruitful and informative".

"In conclusion, the public protector and the minister committed their respective offices to work in a spirit of co-operative governance in line with the provisions of chapter three of the Constitution.

"Both the minister and the public protector agreed on a way forward in addressing the matter as well as other issues of mutual concern," they said.

Judge Ashton Schippers reserved judgment.

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