Two SABC board members want CEO suspended, probed

Mohlala and Socikwa cite numerous bungles. 

SABC board deputy chairperson Mamodupi Mohlala and her fellow board member Dr Marcia Socikwa have set off a massive bomb by calling for the suspension of the public broadcaster’s Group CEO Madoda Mxakwe.

The two have also called for the establishment of a commission of inquiry, to be chaired by a retired judge, to look into numerous transgressions allegedly committed by Mxakwe and Group CFO Yolande Van Biljon. They argued that some of these alleged failures by the two executives have cost the broadcaster up to R6m in litigation. Among some of the transgressions listed, the board members said Mxakwe should fully account for the bungling of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation, which they said amounted to disrespect to the head of state, as he was the editor-in-chief of the SABC. The duo also said in their 20-page letter to their fellow board members that there was a clear case of victimisation of staff by Mxakwe and Van Biljon which led to numerous resignations. Other issues raised in the memo seen by Sunday World include the SABC’s continued payment of salaries amounting to R3.3m in one year to two suspended staff members
without charges being preferred against them, and the SABC’s legal costs incurred following numerous labour cases involving their employees.

Mohlala and Socikwa argued that all these decisions were taken under Mxakwe’s watch without basis and without considering the financial position of the public broadcaster. Instead of responding to questions sent, the SABC released a statement to the media yesterday in which the board condemned the leaking of the memo and reiterated that they were behind Mxakwe and his executive team. Mxakwe was also quoted saying that the allegations contained in the memo were “unfounded, baseless and defamatory” to him.

“In pursuing matters of fraud, mismanagement, sexual harassment, irregular salary increases or irregular appointments, the SABC is doing so to ensure that it instills proper governance and a culture of accountability,” said Mxakwe. The board also gloated about what they said were their successes including the securing of the R3.2 billion bail out from the government and receiving a qualified audit for the 2018/19 financial year. The internal memo, dated September 9, also questioned the appointment of consultant Ryan Till for a fee of about R20,000 per day.

In the memo, Mohlala and Socikwa urged other SABC board members to consider taking strong action against Mxakwe and head of news Phathiswa Magopeni over the Ramaphosa debacle. The two also called on their fellow board members to issue a written apology to the president.

“The consequences of this incorrect broadcast are, among others, as follows: breach of our public mandate which is to keep the South African public informed with accurate and factually correct information; the competition is seen as more reliable and efficient because they broadcast the correct information … and again affects staff morale and the ability to attract and retain new talent,” read parts of the memo.
In the same memo, the deputy chairperson also blasted Makhathini, accusing him of protecting Mxakwe during board meetings when board members tried to discuss complaints laid against the CEO with the board. She said Makhathini once snapped at her when she had asked for an explanation on allegations that the SABC CEO had allowed the former CEO of SABC Foundation Iris Cupido to earn a three months salary amounting to R300,000, despite a dismissal verdict issued against her with immediate effect by a chairperson of a disciplinary hearing. Other issues raised by the pair included the complaint laid by Western Cape general manager James Shikwambana and other employees against the CEO.

“We again believe that the Chairperson is again protecting the GCEO unduly to the detriment of the affected employees,” reads the memo. In the memo, the two said Mxakwe failed to employ a cost benefit analysis and to comply with the court order and instead chose to appeal the decisions while adding to the existing legal

They further charged that the SABC was forced to pay R1.2m in settlement to two freelancers after it was found to have terminated their contracts illegally by the CCMA. They said the public broadcaster was also facing a R11.7 million lawsuit in another case for its “illegal decisions”.

By Aubrey Mothombeni

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