SABC to take 34 employees to court over 'irregular' appointments

SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
Image: Waldo Swiegers.

Thirty-four employees at the SABC will have to go to court to explain why they should retain their jobs as the public broadcaster deals with irregular appointments from its "ugly past".

The announcement was made by SABC head of legal Ntuthuzelo Vanara during the release of the report into editorial interference at the public broadcaster. Veteran journalist Joe Thloloe led the investigations into the interference and released his report on Monday.

Thloloe found that there was interference from people who had no authority to influence editorial decisions.

Among his recommendation was that former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s instructions to human resources to institute disciplinary hearings against employees, dismiss, promote or appoint others must be reviewed.

He further recommended that the appointments of senior news management Nothando Maseko, Sebolelo Ditlhakanyane and Charles Matlou be audited by human resources.

Vanara told SowetanLIVE that the three would join 31 other employees whose appointments will be taken to the Labour Court.

“The organisation in the course of dealing with the ugly past of the company conducted a number of investigations. One of the issues that came up from investigations is the irregular appointments. These are individuals who have been appointed inconsistently with the regulatory framework of the company,” said Vanara.

“The company now needs to approach a court of law because on its own it cannot just get these people out of their positions. That is the process that we are embarking on. It entails bringing an application to the Labour Court. We will have the applications served on the individuals implicated and they will get an opportunity to defend themselves in court and an independent judge will make a decision on their future,” said Vanara.

The report follows an investigation by the public protector, another by an ad-hoc  committee of parliament and complaints lodged with the Independent Communications Authority of SA.

"The evidence shows that from the year 2012 till 2017, SABC executives took instructions from people with no authority in the newsroom, for example SABC board chairperson [Ellen Tshabalala] and the minister of communications [Faith Muthambi]. The executives thus failed to execute their duties in terms of editorial policies," Thloloe said in his report.

Thloloe found that the SABC suffered from "capricious" use of authority and power to terrorise staff and deflect the broadcaster from its mandate and editorial policies.

Despite the findings, the inquiry found no evidence of a direct line between decisions at Luthuli House and decisions in the newsroom. However, the commission said "the spectre of the ANC hovered over the newsroom".

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