BEMAWU’s application for cost against former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and former GE, NEWS Simon Tebele was heard in the Labour Court on Wednesday, 6 September 2017.
The cost order against the two and the SABC have already been granted in principle, and they were directed to file affidavits as to why they should not be held liable personally for the legal cost of BEMAWU.
The SABC 8 were dismissed in July 2016 after they questioned the unlawful Protest Policy originated and championed by Hlaudi Motsoeneng, supported by the then SABC Board and enforced by Tebele, Maseko, Ditlahakanyane and Molete.
Seven of the 8 journalists were reinstated after an urgent application were brought by both BEMAWU and Solidarity.
To express the court’s displeasure with the manner in which the dismissals took place an punitive cost order were granted against the SABC and others responsible for the dismissal of the 8 journalists. The court directed the SABC to identify the individuals so responsible, and ordered those identified to file affidavits as to why they should not be held responsible for the cost of the applications.
The SABC identified Simon Tebele as the culprit, but an application was brought to join Hlaudi Motsoeneng as a Respondent due to overwhelming evidence pointing at him as the actual person responsible for the dismissals.
The SABC argued on Wednesday Tebele and Motsoeneng must be held solely responsible for the cost, and submitted if the SABC is liable, it should only be for 10% of the cost.
Motsoeneng’s lawyer differed, and argued Tebele and Jimmy Matthews must be held liable jointly with the SABC.
Tebele’s lawyer agreed with BEMAWU’s submission that Motsoeneng must be held liable. Tebele said he signed the dismissals after so instructed by Matthews. However, at the time of the dismissals, Matthews has already left the SABC.
On Monday 12 December 2016 members of the SABC 8 testified before Parliament.
Lukhanyo Calata gave details of instructions that disregarded journalistic principles. This he said came from, among others, Simon Tebele, Nothando Maseko and Nyana Molete.
Calata was dismissed by letter and no hearing on 18 July 2016 by Nyana Molete, who was the acting general manager of News at the time.
SAFM Current Affairs Executive Producer, Krivani Pillay, has told Parliament’s ad hoc committee into the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) how Hlaudi Motsoeneng and former acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jimi Matthews told journalists to toe the line or leave the public broadcaster.
Pillay was one of four witnesses testifying on behalf of the so-called “SABC 8”.
Pillay recounted how RSG Executive Producer, Foeta Kriege, challenged Motsoeneng to prove that the broadcasting of violent protests was a catalyst for more destruction of property.
Pillay says Head of Radio News, Sebolelo Ditlhakanyane, also attended the meeting.
Pillay outlines how Motsoeneng responded to Kriege – with the backing of Matthews: “This was Mr Motsoeneng’s reply and I quote, “You must defend the organisation; no journalist is independent. The COO has final responsibility of news. If people do not adhere, we get rid of them. We cannot dare question management”.
What really surprised us was the respond we got from Mr Jimi Matthews. He said, “It’s cold outside. If you don’t like it, you have got two choices: the door or the window,” explained Pillay.
SABC acting head of news Simon Tebele was fingered alongside Motsoeneng for firing the eight SABC employees and was brought to court to be held personally liable for the costs of the case that saw the journalists reinstated. In a previous affidavit, Tebele said he signed the dismissals after former SABC CEO Jimi Matthews gave him a directive. The SABC employees had spoken out against the policy not to cover protests and were side-lined for their views.
In court on Wednesday, Tebele’s lawyer, Paul Pio, told the court to disregard that affidavit. He said there is “substantial evidence that overwhelmingly suggests Motsoeneng was responsible for the dismissal”.
Despite his client’s previous affidavit, and the chance he could be held accountable for previously lying to the court, Tebele’s representative was adamant that Motsoeneng should in the main pay the legal costs for the SABC journalists who were fired.
Tebele has since left the SABC.
However, Maseko, Molete and Ditlhakanyane are still employed by the SABC.
Judgement has been reserved for Friday, 8 September at 10:00.
Some media reports: