SABC to sue Hlaudi Motsoeneng in a bid to recover R11.4m

Picture credit: Freddy Mavunda
Picture credit: Freddy Mavunda

The SABC's interim board is on a mission to claw back millions of rands paid to disgraced former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

It is also thinking of laying criminal charges against the fired boss. The board, appointed by President Jacob Zuma in March, plans to sue Motsoeneng for the return of a R11.4-million bonus he received in 2016.

The bonus was linked to a deal that granted MultiChoice access to the public broadcaster's archives without the authorisation of the then SABC board. The deal, worth R533-million, gave MultiChoice control of the SABC's archives for five years and also involved the creation of two new channels on DStv.

The total amount for Motsoeneng's bonus on this deal was R33-million, to be paid out over three years. The R11.4-million was the first portion and was paid in August.

"We have handed over Mr Motsoeneng's matter to the SIU [Special Investigating Unit] to fast-track [the investigations] so that we can go to [lay] criminal charges and ... we do intend to follow whatever avenues are available to us using the legal criminal justice system to recover [money] if the end of the investigations is that there are recoveries to be made," SABC interim chairwoman Khanyisile Kweyama told Sowetan's sister publication The Times.

"Where it is determined that there is a debt due, if you can't recover [the debt] from the person, you obviously go after the assets ... We met with them [SIU] about two weeks ago and they have told us they are doing the necessary follow ups."

Another employee privy to the SABC discussions said Motsoeneng would not be off the hook even if he paid back all of the bonus as that was not the only irregular decision he had made.

"Besides the R11.4-million bonus, he could also be asked to repay funds he put up and made available to the 'Thank You SABC' concert held in Orlando, at which an impression was created that the artists were paying for the show," said the source.

"In fact, Motsoeneng arranged the payment from the SABC and he also - without approval from anyone - paid musicians R50000 each, which amounted to about R9-million in total, from SABC funds."

The concert was designed to applaud the public broadcaster's 90% local content policy, which was ordered by Motsoeneng. Motsoeneng's 90% policy made him a hero to many local artists who saw the move as empowering musicians.

"We are not going to wait for the SIU to finish their investigation. If there are allegations of fraud and corruption the SABC can directly open criminal charges because these payments were made without the board's approval," said the source.

The SABC board recently told parliamentarians that the 90% local content policy was a flop and had caused losses for the public broadcaster. The policy had a negative impact of R29-million on radio and R183-million on television, it said.

Motsoeneng was fired from the SABC on June 12 after being found guilty of misconduct for comments he made at a media briefing in which he criticised SABC board members and a parliamentary committee that was looking into alleged irregularities.

When asked for comment, Motsoeneng said: "I don't want to get involved in those things, mshana. I am busy and I don't want to talk about those issues. You must just wait and see."