'It wasn't me‚' Hlaudi tells Labour Court

06 September 2017 - 15:33 By Neo Goba
Current chief operating officer of the SABC Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Current chief operating officer of the SABC Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Image: Gallo Images

SABC former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng is not responsible for the costs incurred during the dismissal of eight journalists last year.

This is according to his legal representative Advocate Thabani Masuku‚ who argued that Motsoeneng was not the decision maker. He said that the directive to dismiss the journalists was taken by former acting group CEO Jimi Matthews‚ who ordered former acting group executive for news and current affairs‚ Simon Tebele‚ to fire the eight employees.

"The court had not identified Mr Motsoeneng as the decision maker responsible for terminating the employment contracts of the applicants. [The] SABC itself had not identified Mr Motsoeneng as the decision maker [and] the applicants themselves did not identify Motsoeneng as the decision maker‚" argued Advocate Masuku.

He further argued that if Solidarity believed that Motsoeneng was responsible‚ they would have joined him to the main applications.

"The sole reason and purpose for joining Mr Motsoeneng after judgement on the merits was not to revisit the merits of the application and determine again whether or not the applicants had unlawfully and unfairly dismissed‚" he further argued.

Trade union Solidarity‚ who brought the application to the Labour Court‚ has argued that Motsoeneng‚ who is the second respondent‚ made the decision that led to eight journalists being fired from the public broadcaster after they spoke out on issues within the SABC.

Solidarity wants the former SABC chief operating officer to be held liable for the legal costs as he introduced the 90% local content policy and also banned the airing of violent protests on the public broadcasters television channels.

"He would have participated in those proceedings by providing a version on the role that he is alleged to have played in the termination decisions. That way the court would have been empowered to make just and equitable orders having regards to all the facts relevant to the questions of unfair and unlawful dismissals‚" said Advocate Masuku.

Earlier on Wednesday‚ Advocate Hans van der Riet SC‚ representing the Broadcast Electronic Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu)‚ told Judge David Gush that all three respondents should be held personally liable for the costs of the dismissal of his clients.

"It’s clear that [Motsoeneng] took the decision." He also said the SABC was guilty of "unacceptable conduct". Advocate van der Riet is representing Busi Ntuli‚ Thandeka Gqubule and Lukhanyo Calata.

Ntuli‚ Calata‚ Gqubule‚ Vuyo Mvoko‚ Jacques Steenkamp‚ Foeta Krige‚ Krivani Pillay and the late Suna Venter were fired by the public broadcaster in July 2016 for speaking out against Motsoeneng's policy of no longer airing footage of violent protests.

Solidarity's legal representative Advocate Corné Goosen said Motsoeneng at no point said the allegations against him were a lie‚ and that he took a technical approach on the admissibility of the evidence‚ instead of denying it.

A confident Motsoeneng clad in a navy blue check suit‚ white shirt‚ red tie and leather shoes‚ said he was hopeful that he would not be held liable for the costs orders that had been imposed on him.

Notably‚ controversial Pastor Paseka "Mboro" Motsoeneng was present after lunch to show support to his "comrade".