Pressly: Who’s Hlaudi’s unmasked protector? The untouchable tyrant.

He defies logic, having been called out by the Public Protector and the Parliamentary committee, yet Hlaudi Motsoeneng continues to serve as an SABC employee. The group reported a R400 million loss last year, yet Motsoeneng is still defiant, blaming simple accounting errors. And despite this loss he says theres enough money in the bank to pay staff 13th cheques. The situation is precarious, because it highlights a few things. Either the ANC lacks any bite and any threat is merely fobbed off by benefactors. Or Hlaudi really is under the protective umbrella of Jacob Zuma. And all this is really a circus show to keep media pre-occupied and merely another channel for state patronage to play out. Either way its not a good situation for taxpayers. – Stuart Lowman

By Donwald Pressly*

It defies all logic, what is happening at the SABC. Motsoeneng has been removed – as a consequence of court action – from his job as chief operating officer. But he has now been reappointed in a similar role – head of corporate affairs – with a different title.

Donwald Pressly, Cape Messenger editor.
Donwald Pressly, Cape Messenger editor.

At a lengthy press conference held by the SABC board  – what is left of it after two resignations this week – Motsoeneng dismissed stories that there was a R5 billion historic loss built up by the entity. This was “historical” accounting, he said. Those monies were simply the doing of previous chief financial officers which the current SABC inherited. The fact that the SABC board could invite him to speak at a press conference is an indication that there is something horribly wrong at the institution.

Referring to the last year’s R400 million rand loss at the public broadcaster, he said this was just an accounting matter. He pointed to four chairs and said these chairs were worth about R10 000, but in an accountant’s statement they would be valued at a loss of R4 000. That was how accounting worked, he said with a wry smile.

Stories that the SABC was being badly run was entirely wrong. In fact this was backed up by the Auditor General who had originally given the SABC a disclaimer then reduced this to nine qualifications and in the last year – there was just one qualification in the SABC audit. This was a sign that things were coming right at the entity, said Motsoeneng. It was a sign of great progress.

Protected from up high

People were bleating about the fact that the SABC had always had reserve capital of some R1.4 billion in the bank. This had been whittled down, but this was for good purpose, he argued. Black people and black contractors were now being paid – and they were producing content for the SABC and doing a good job. He was providing jobs to black people, he said.

Cartoon published courtesy of Twitter @brandanrey
Cartoon published courtesy of Twitter @brandanrey

While print media groups were retrenching and axing staff willy nilly, he had blocked the suggestion that over 800 people should be retrenched at the SABC. This had been stopped. The SABC, he said, had the money to pay salaries, help with employees’ children’s education and pay 13th cheques for the first time.

Having a certificate – a reference to the fact that he doesn’t have matric – doesn’t necessarily mean that one was qualified to do a job. While qualifications open doors, having these was not the basis upon which people should be judged. He was able to beat people who had degrees. People sitting in the audience – who had qualifications – could take him on, but he simply “mesmerises” them. He said journalists needed to be fair to report the facts correctly. The performance of Motsoeneng was like a Monty Python spoof but just lacking the humour. There was plenty of irony though.

Motsoeneng is an example of just how wrong governance of public entities can be. He is clearly unfit for the job, but somehow he survives court action and a flagrant display of wonton wastage at the SABC (including that he has apparently been awarded a R10 million bonus). He believes he is untouchable. He said he didn’t need the SABC to have a job. If he were to leave the SABC he would take considerable numbers of the staff with him, he charged.

Motsoeneng is an embarrassment to this nation. He must go. The fact that he hasn’t already been removed – despite indications from the African National Congress that the board should do just that and agreement by the national assembly communications committee that an investigation should be carried out at the SABC – is an indication that he is being protected by someone, or some people, up high.

One doesn’t have to wonder who that is very much, does one?

  • Donwald Pressly, Cape Messenger editor
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