‘I did not steal the money’ — Hlaudi Motsoeneng to appeal pay back ruling
“The judge should have given me credit for thinking outside the box, for being innovative. Why should I be punished for that and not given credit?’ bemoans former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng is adamant that he did nothing wrong in receiving a “success fee” from the broadcaster.
If anything, Motsoeneng says he should be given credit for negotiating a deal with MultiChoice for broadcast rights, including access to the SABC archives.
“The judge should have given me credit for thinking outside the box, for being innovative. Why should I be punished for that and not given credit? That’s my dilemma,” he asked on Thursday.
“I believe the payment was lawful because it was approved by the board of the SABC. I was not part of that, and I didn’t steal money, I was paid the money,” he added.
Motsoeneng is appealing a ruling by the high court in Johannesburg that he should repay the R11.5m the broadcaster paid him with interest calculated at the rate of 15.5% per annum, calculated from September 13 2016, to the date of payment.
The court declared that the decision by the former SABC board to pay Motsoeneng the fee was unlawful and invalid and set it aside. It gave him seven days to pay back the money. The seven days ended on Wednesday.
Speaking to TimesLIVE, Motsoeneng said that, having gone through the judgment, he could not understand what informed the judge to come to her conclusion.
“First, I did not steal money. I was paid by my employer who took that decision in my absence. I was not there,” he said.
He said in her judgment, judge JL Khan recognised that his innovation had created sustainable employment at the SABC because its 24-hour news channel (channel 404) was still operating and people were still employed there.
Motsoeneng said the SABC paid him because the news channel was a business.
“We took a business decision to have this channel operating outside the SABC to generate revenue. The judge misunderstood that SABC didn’t pay for content, they paid me for having the two channels,” he said.
Motsoeneng also argued that at the time he signed the MultiChoice deal, he was group executive responsible for provinces and stakeholders and was acting in the COO position. He said it was therefore incorrect for the court to find that it was part of his job to do what he had done, as he was not COO at the time.
Nowhere in his contract did it say he should not go and raise money, he said.
“On this, I believe the people of SA must give me credit. If I didn’t raise that money, the SABC would have gone to the government to get a bailout, but I came up with an innovation to make sure the SABC didn’t go that route.”
Motsoeneng also questioned whether it would be fair for him to return R11.5m when he allegedly only received R6.7m.
“I was paid R6.7m. That is the amount that came into my bank account. If the SABC paid R11m, I can’t dispute that, I can only say what I received.”
He questioned the court’s decision to give him seven days to pay back the money, especially at this time of the year when the courts were closing for Christmas holidays and some law firms had already closed.
“Where am I going to get lawyers? My lawyers have closed,” he said.
Motsoeneng said he has already lodged his appeal papers as he believes a different court would come to a different conclusion on the matter.