Suspended CEO to Take SABC to Court

Frans Matlala

The SABC’s suspended chief executive officer Frans Matlala is ready to take the public broadcaster to court, unless his suspension is lifted.

Barely four months after appointing its next CEO, Frans Matlala has warned the SABC in a lawyer’s letter that his suspension must be lifted by Tuesday. Matlala is the embattled South African Broadcasting Corporation’s ninth CEO since 2009.

Matlala was suspended by the SABC without giving any valid reasons, but he is now fighting his suspension and has obtained legal representation. He wants to reveal the SABC’s reasons for his suspension and he wants it lifted.

Through his lawyer, Joe Mothibi of Norton Rose Fulbright, Matlala wrote to the SABC on November 17 demanding that he be reinstated as CEO by this coming Tuesday. If this doesn’t happen, Matlala plans to take the SABC to the high court.

SABC did not respond to media enquiries.

Matlala’s lawyer told the SABC that the public broadcaster did not follow the legal process by suddenly suspending him. “Our client views your conduct to be unreasonable, unlawful and not in the best interest of the SABC,” his lawyer told the SABC.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng, SABC’s chief operating officer (COO) has not been suspended after almost two years since the Public Protector’s report implicated him in gross maladministration and abuse of power.

Yet, Matlala got barred from the SABC after just four months.

He was involved in an investigation requested by the Treasury with regards to a new SABC studio to the value of R40 million, which was never put out to tender as required. The studio was constructed for the Rugby World Cup and to use as news coverage studio by DStv 404, and the contract was given to Vision View Productions without ever going out to tender as it was supposed to.

Ordered to Stop Helping

According to Frans Matlala, the SABC’s chairperson Obert Mbulaheni Maguvhe ordered him on November 11 to stop helping Treasury with the investigation into the SABC studio procurement process. It is not clear why the SABC chairperson would allegedly prevent a SABC CEO from helping with a Treasury investigation.

In another revalation, Matlala is directly criticising the SABC, saying the process to appoint the attorneys of Werksmans Attorneys to act in the disciplinary hearing of Hlaudi Motsoeneng is flawed.

Matlala also said he was given no chance to make any representation before he was abruptly served his suspension letter, and that he was suspended after Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi gave the green light for his suspension.

Matlala also said the gutted SABC board, which has six vacant seats following resignations and firings, doesn’t have a quorum to suspend him or to start disciplinary proceedings against him.

Matlala said SABC policy and his contract states he as SABC CEO is the main point of contact between the public broadcaster and the government. Yet his suspension includes a charge that he was allegedly “not authorised” to be in contact with Zuma.

The SABC, lurching from crisis to crisis, just posted a R401m loss in its latest financial report.

While its CEO is suspended, its COO is facing a postponed disciplinary hearing now set for December 1 and the process to find replacements for the first two out of the six vacant SABC board seats have been further delayed.

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