Self-claimed South African hero Hlaudi Motsoeneng has incurred upon himself another bulk of debt after court orders him to pay the legal cost of the eight SABC journalists he fired last year.
The axed South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng, former head of news Simon Tebele and the public broadcaster were ordered to each pay portions of the legal costs for the wrongful dismissal of the so called SABC 8.
The Labour Court handed down the judgment on Friday morning saying the three must pay for wrongfully dismissing of the SABC8.
The SABC boss, was held accountable in court for the legal costs of firing employees who opposed his censorship policies last year.
The sacked eight who were at that time were presented the Nat Nakasa award for fearless journalism then approached the Constitutional Court for direct access to reverse the SABC’s decision and the Labour Court ruled that their firing over their objection to Motsoeneng’s policy not to show footage of violent protests was illegal and reckless
Though Motsoeneng maintained he wasn’t at the meeting where the decision was taken to fire the eight SABC journalists, the labour court ordered that he pays a portion of the court bill.
Seven of the eight journalists were later reinstated after a High Court ruling and now the SABC, Motsoeneng and Tebele will have to pay unions Solidarity and Bemawu, which represented the dismissed journalists.
It’s unclear how much the total costs are but Solidarity says it amounts to just over R1 million.
SABC, before it appointed a new board, had backed Hlaudi Motsoeneng, known for treating the public broadcaster as a fiefdom, on Wednesday the public broadcaster and a key official involved turned against the fired acting leader.
In a previous affidavit, Tebele said he signed the dismissals after former SABC CEO Jimi Matthews gave him a directive. The SABC employees had spoken out against the policy not to cover protests and were sidelined for their views.
The new court ruling was a major blow for Hlaudi as his advocate Thabani Masuku kicked against it saying the rule will affect Hlaudi’s family finances.
“You’re affecting his family. You’re going to eat into what sustains his family,” said Motsoeneng’s lawyer, claiming that if he paid the costs for the legal fees of the fired SABC journalists his children and his ability to pay their school fees would suffer.
Masuku argued that the dignity of the eight journalists had been restored after they won their case to return to work but failed to mention Suna Venter, who died due to the stress and harassment she received over the case.