Hlaudi's lawyer hits back: SABC can't 'mute' employees

Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

The SABC cannot silence views expressed by its employees‚ counsel for former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng told the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in Johannesburg on Thursday.

Thabani Masuku argued that his client‚ who is challenging his dismissal from the public broadcaster‚ had a constitutional right to hold any belief or view.

"No employee of the SABC should be muted‚" said Masuku. “They must be free to associate and express their views.”

He argued that labour law was designed to protect employees and that no employer should expel an employee because they held or expressed certain views.

Masuku said the statements made by Motsoeneng about interim SABC board member Krish Naidoo did not call into question the reputational rights of the broadcaster. "The SABC cannot embark on a war against an employee because he made remarks about a private citizen."

Masuku argued that there was nothing in the statements Motsoeneng made that suggested he had brought the SABC into disrepute. "There is nothing he said that undermines the SABC."

Masuku contended that Motsoeneng's rights‚ including that of freedom of expression‚ were "completely" secure.

He also told the CCMA there was no basis for SABC counsel Anton Myburgh to argue that Motsoeneng should not be reinstated because he did not have qualifications. "He is more than qualified to occupy any position at the SABC - except in the finance department. He [Myburgh] has no basis to make that submission.

"We ask that you give a ruling to that effect‚" Masuku urged CCMA commissioner Terry Moodley.

"We ask that you find that the SABC substantially acted in an egregious manner that ought to be frowned upon for abusing the power to discipline its employees."

Myburgh earlier argued that Motsoeneng should not be reinstated because he was not qualified‚ and that Motsoeneng's relationship with his former employer was irreparable.

"If his dismissal is found to be procedurally unfair‚ a continued working relationship is not possible... He can't have his job back‚" said Myburgh.

Motsoeneng was fired by the public broadcaster in June 2017. His dismissal followed a finding by a disciplinary committee‚ chaired by Nazeer Cassim SC‚ that he was guilty of bringing the broadcaster into disrepute after a controversial media conference he called in April 2017.

At the briefing‚ which lasted four hours‚ Motsoeneng defended his 90% local music content quota‚ criticised a parliamentary ad-hoc committee probe into the fitness of the SABC and insulted Naidoo.

The hearing continues.

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