SABC shouldn’t be let off the hook for journalists’ legal fees

06 September 2017 - 13:31 By Neo Goba And Claudi Mailovich
SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
Image: Waldo Swiegers. (C) Sunday Times.

The Broadcasting‚ Electronic‚ Media & Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) says the SABC should be held liable for the legal fees resulting from the unfair dismissal of seven SABC journalists.

The union has joined Solidarity in the Johannesburg Labour Court in order to force the SABC and two former managers to pay the legal fees resulting from a wrongful dismissal case.

The unions also want former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the former acting group executive for News and Current Affairs‚ Simon Tebele‚ to be held personally liable for the fees.

Bemawu is representing Busisiwe Ntuli‚ Lukhanyo Calata and Thandeka Gqubule who are among the eight journalists targeted for speaking out against changes to editorial policy.

Among the changes to the policy was a ban on showing visuals of protests leading up to the 2016 local government elections.

Ntuli‚ Gqubule‚ Calata‚ Foeta Krige‚ the late Suna Venter‚ Jacques Steenkamp‚ and Krivani Pillay were all dismissed by the SABC for speaking out against the policy and organisational culture.

The SABC ended the contract of the last member of the so-called SABC 8‚ Vuyo Mvoko.

Bemawu did not have their day in court against the SABC‚ as the public broadcaster reversed the dismissals following a Labour Court judgment on the case Solidarity brought.

The seven dismissed journalists were reinstated before the Bemawu case was heard‚ but they are still asking for costs.

Bemawu wants the cost to be shared equally between the SABC‚ Motsoeneng and Tebele.

“It's clear that he (Motsoeneng) took the decision‚” Advocate Hans van der Riet argued on behalf of Bemawu.

He also said the SABC was liable of “unacceptable conduct.”

"As far as the personal liability and concern of individuals‚ we conclude that the primary person that should held liable is the second respondent (Motsoeneng) but we also say as an alternative‚ the third respondent as a person who was prepared as a senior manager to give effect to what the (Motsoeneng) manipulated‚ must also be held liable" Van der Riet said.

He argued that the SABC should also not be let off the hook because Motsoeneng took this decision while working at the public broadcaster.

Solidarity has argued that Motsoeneng should be held liable because he made the decision that led to seven journalists being fired from the public broadcaster after they spoke out on issues within the SABC.

Solidarity is representing Steenkamp‚ Krige‚ Pillay and Venter.

The union has argued that the SABC and Tebele can not escape liability for the costs‚ amd that they support the relief sought by Bemawu.

Adv Corné Goosen for Solidarity said Motsoeneng at no point said that the allegations against him is a lie‚ and that he takes a technical approach on the admissibility of the evidence‚ instead of denying it.

A confident Motsoeneng was in court on Wednesday‚ after he failed to appear during the previous court appearance. He said he was confident that “justice will be done” and that his legal team was well prepared.

During a tea break‚ Motsoeneng posed for pictures with his supporters.