Former SABC CEO says her suggestion to remove Hlaudi Motsoeneng got her into ‘serious trouble’

Lulama Mokhobo says the former SABC COO was disruptive and wanted her removed from the position of CEO.

Former SABC CEO Lulama Mokhobo on Wednesday told the commission of inquiry into state capture that her suggestion that former SABC COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, should be removed from his position at the time got her into “very serious trouble”.

Mokhobo told the commission that she made the suggestion to SABC board members, however, this was “not in a formal meeting”.

“I was feeling a sense of urgency and serious frustration,” Mokhobo said, accusing Motsoeneng of being “disruptive” and of “blocking” her from doing her work.

Mokhobo said an evaluation of the public broadcaster done by SizweNtsalubaGobodo pointed out that at the time there were two centres of power at the SABC, one centred around herself and the other around Motsoeneng and that the evaluation spoke of challenges that arose from this, including the “haphazard” way in which documents were being submitted.

Mokhobo told the commission that Motsoeneng wanted her out of the SABC and so allegedly frustrated her work so that the board would declare her incompetent and subsequently fire her.

She added that rumours of her axing at the time were doing the rounds.

“So they were a lot of attempts to discard me,” Mokhobo said.

However, she told the commission that the board – on which some of its members had backed Motsoeneng – eventually woke up to the fact that Motsoeneng was not “okay”, was “very, very dangerous” and could get them fired.

This happened after the former COO told the board at the time that all its members were implicated in wrongdoing which resulted in the board suggesting that he should be removed, Mokhobo said.

On 26 February 2013, the board unanimously resolved that Motsoeneng should be removed as the COO of the SABC, however, this failed to come to fruition because he had been appointed by the minister of communications at the time, Dina Pule, Mokhobo said.

Subsequently, Dr Ben Ngubane and others resigned from the board, Mokhobo said, and Motsoeneng was reinstated and thereafter continued with his “disruption”, Mokhobo said.

The chairperson of the commission, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo asked: “Why was what you refer to as disruptive conduct on his part, why was that not being addressed, was that because you would have needed the support of the board and unless you did not have that support there was nothing you could do, or there was very little you could do?”

Mokhobo responded by saying Motsoeneng’s disciplinary matters were dealt with by the board but “there was no appetite for that”.

She told the commission that she had repeatedly said that she could not work with Motsoeneng who occupied a “critical position”.

Mokhobo added that Motsoeneng did not understand “the power relations” at the SABC and that she was his superior and that he had befriended the chair of the board and took orders from him which “made it impossible” for her.

In her final remarks, Mokhobo said the SABC was a “microcosm” of the country and was directly impacted by the political climate during her tenure.

She said different political parties with different expectations wanted their own people in the SABC.

Mokhobo said the public broadcaster had had to deal with a number of challenges which included the appointment of board members by members of parliament who represent different political parties with differing agendas.

Mokhobo said another challenge was how ministers of communication were changed regularly, with some spending short periods within the portfolio, while others were removed because they did not satisfy a particular agenda.

Zondo said the latter case was of interest to him, in particular, if it fell with the commission’s terms of reference and that “who were the role players”.

ALSO READ: Former SABC CEO claims Hlaudi Motsoeneng boasted about being close to Zuma

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