Supreme Court set to clarify Mandonsela's powers over SABC

The lawyer for the SABC COO agrees legal clarity is needed on the extent of Madonsela’s powers.

FILE: Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Picture: Siyabonga Sesant/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Parties involved in the complicated legal wrangle between South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Chief Operating Officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the Democratic Alliance (DA) expect the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to provide legal certainty on the powers of the Public Protector.

Motsoeneng's lawyers are expected to go to Bloemfontein in September to appeal a ruling, compelling the SABC board to serve charges on him and to suspend him, pending a disciplinary hearing.

But this case is about much more than the COO of the public broadcaster, as lawyers and commentators have pointed out.

When handing down judgment during the first leg of Motsoeneng's legal battle in October 2014, Western Cape High Court Judge Ashton Schippers ruled the Public Protector's findings were not binding and enforceable, but he added there should be a rational reason for ignoring them.

There has been much political debate around Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's powers with reference to her report on the Nkandla spending debacle.

Last year, she found President Jacob Zuma unduly benefited from the R246 million project to bolster security measures at his KwaZulu-Natal homestead.

She identified several non-security features that formed part of the project, including a swimming pool, visitors' centre, cattle kraal, chicken run and an amphitheatre.

Madonsela said National Treasury, in conjunction with the Police Ministry, had to determine the amount the president was to repay.

The DA's James Selfe said legal certainty was needed in light of the Nkandla report.

"Judge Schippers's judgment may be quoted in part to support which ever argument you wish to pursue; but we want legal finality on it and the Supreme Court of Appeal and ultimately the Constitutional Court are the courts that need to give a definitive ruling."

Motsoeneng's lawyer, Zola Majavu, agrees legal clarity is needed on the extent of Madonsela's powers.

"Now if we are right or she is right, only the SCA, or at the most the Constitutional Court, should make that pronouncement; so I think all lawyers seem to agree it needs to go that way."

Last year Madonsela said the SABC board should take corrective action against Motsoeneng following her probe into a raft of damning allegations including abuse of power, that he purged staff at the broadcaster and gave himself massive pay hikes.

She also said he was dishonest about having a matric qualification.

In response to her findings, the board appointed a law firm to investigate the issues and that firm cleared Motsoeneng of any wrong doing.

His appointment as COO was made permanent soon after. The DA launched a two-part legal challenge to have the board's decision reviewed and set aside.

The first part of the application gave rise to the Schippers judgment last year.

The second part looks set to be argued in the Western Cape High Court in October.