SABC executives must pay back money given to music legends

Johannesburg – The special investigations unit (SIU) has hauled former SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng to the Special Tribunal Court demanding that he and other nine former SABC executives should pay back R2.4-million paid to music legends during their tenure at the public broadcaster.

The SABC, through Motsoeneng’s instruction and influence, initiated a project to reward South African music legends with a once-off payment of R50 000 to appreciate the role they played during the liberation struggle and in promoting the cultural identity of South Africa through their music.

As a result of this project, 53 music legends were each paid R50 000.

Among them was king of kwaito Arthur Mafokate, musician and actress Mara Louw, Blondie Makhene, William Mthethwa, Thomas Chauke, Ihashi Elimhlope, Abigail Khubeka, Steve Kekana.

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The SIU and the SABC have argued in court papers filed at the special tribunal court dated January 21 2021 that the monies should be recovered, stating, that the decision taken by the SABC management to pay the music legends was unlawful and had violated SABC policies.

110919w- News -Johannesburg- Hlaudi Motsoeneng is testifying at the Commission of Inquiry into Sate Capture in parktown chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo foto Felix Dlangamandla/Netwerk24

The SIU has asked that the court should review and set aside the decision taken by Motsoeneng and his team, arguing that it was irrational, arbitrary, unlawful and unreasonable.

The SIU also said that the decision amounted to abuse of power and irregular expenditure because it had not complied with the SABC’s internal policies.

The investigating arm of the state further said that Motsoeneng and his team were reckless and grossly negligent in the performance of their duties. It therefore asked the tribunal court to ensure that they are made to pay back the money paid to the legends.

“As a result, the applicants also seek an order that the sum of money that was paid from the first applicants’ coffers totaling R2 425 000 , pursuant to the impugned decision, be paid back to the first applicant’s by the respondents jointly and severally,” read the court papers.

In its papers, the SIU, also acting on behalf of the SABC, said Motsoeneng’s project had aimed to compensate 215 music legends at a cost of R10.7-million, R5-million of which was to be raised from private donors.

In a responding affidavit, Motsoeneng blasted the SIU, indicating that the entity has targeted its powers in an abusive manner to victimise him and those who served the SABC to advance political interests. “As we speak, the SIU has, in a manner intended to continuously harass me, brought numerous applications and civil actions, including targeting my pension in pursuance of its so-called mandate,” said Motsoeneng.

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He also challenged the SIU’s application, arguing that the state entity has failed to provide any evidence to support its “nonsensical allegations” that the decision to reward music legends was an abuse of power and that the executives flouted SABC internal policies. Motsoeneng said he had conceived the project to reward music legends after realising that most of them were dying as paupers, and that some were unable to afford to pay for their medical expenses.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – AUGUST 28: Song writer and musician, Blondie Makhene, on August 28, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Makhene is one of South Africa’s biggest music stars from the last decade and has sold thousands of albums and preformed at major festivals. He no longer has anything to show for his success squatting at his mother’s house in Soweto. African Musicians Against HIV/Aids (Amaha) will be giving the artist a free house. (Photo by Gallo Images / City Press / Leon Sadiki)

Mthethwa said the music legends were saddened by the SIU’s decision to demand the monies from the SABC executives.

“A black brother comes and says that we want to thank you, and he gives us R50 000 as a token of appreciation, and now he must be punished.

“It’s not fair because this decision is now going to discourage many other people from doing good things for others, knowing that they will later be punished for doing what’s right,” said Mthethwa.

His sentiments were also echoed by fellow muso Makhene.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago confirmed the court application against Motsoeneng and other executives stating that their decision was unlawful.

He said claims that the money was raised from private donors was unfounded, because the SIU investigations revealed the payments were made from the budget of the SABC Radio Finance division.

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