Report from the office of the Public Protector reveals that the irregular staff axing by the board of the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), has cost the broadcaster lots of funds running into millions.
SABC has for some months now, been faced with controversial issues surrounding its censorship on violent protests, a board decision which has brought huge internal division in the broadcaster.
The SABC this week sacked eight journalists for disagreeing with a decision to censor coverage of protests, before the disciplinary cases against some of them had been concluded. But in a released report titled When Governance and Ethics Fail, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that Motsoeneng’s irregular termination of the employment of senior employees had cost the broadcaster millions due to its “procedural and substantive injustices”.
Thuli said most of the cases were handled without following proper procedure. All 14 suspensions and terminations were successfully challenged in court and at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
“The substantial amounts of money paid to SABC’s employees as settlements during protracted suspensions, terminations and/or long, drawn-out labour dispute proceedings and protracted litigation caused unnecessary and avoidable costs to the national broadcaster, thus resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure,” Madonsela revealed.
Madonsela recommended the SABC board take disciplinary action against Motsoeneng for misrepresenting his qualifications, abusing his power and for the purging of senior staff, adding that the avoidable legal fees and settlement awards contributed to an unprecedented R29 million salary bill escalation.
Despite recommendations by Madonsela’s office and the lengthy court processes, the SABC is still yet to act on this.
Meanwhile, the eight journalists who were fired this week have approached the constitutional Court for intervention over their dismissal.
The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) ruled on July 11 that the SABC had to withdraw its resolution to ban the broadcasting of violent protests.
But in reply, SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng said no one could tell the SABC what to do and that they would challenge Icasa’s decision in court.
Meanwhile, secretary-general of the African National Congress (ANC), Gwede Mantashe has condemned the broadcaster’s firing of its staff. He said workers cannot live in fear in the workplace. We can’t support this mass dismissal of journalists.”
Mantashe said yesterday, that the ANC’s view that the latest policy decisions at the public broadcaster bordered on censorship, still stood.
R280K Raised For the SABC8
The eight fired SABC staff have shown immense gratitude over the R280K raised for them by kind-hearted South Africans.
The donation which was initiated by News24 editor, Adriaan Basson, had the aim of securing $6 000 (around R86 000) which would be distributed between them and by 10:30am today, $20 224 (R288 685) had been raised.
Basson who explained that he planned to give each journalist R10 000, said he was overwhelmed by the huge turn out of donors.
“It’s really amazing, it shows that South Africans care about media freedom, about journalists’ right to express themselves and that the people love and value the SABC and know that it’s important that such an institution is allowed to operate in an environment free from intimidation and fear,” he said.
The fundraiser will stay open for the next two weeks until the month ends and judging by the response just in the last 24 hours, it may very well get to R500 000.
The money will be distributed with the help of attorney Willem de Klerk, who has offered to facilitate the process through his firm.