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'I thought Hlaudi would raise millions elsewhere to pay legends'

Former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng. File photo.
Former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng. File photo.
Image: Masi Losi

A retired former SABC group executive has accused the public broadcaster of attempting to benefit from its own undue delays to recover money unlawfully spent.

Former group executive of corporate affairs Bessie Tugwana, one of 10 former executives facing a court challenge in the Special Tribunal which seeks to recover R2.5m the SABC paid to 53 “music legends”, said she had been under the impression that former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng was going to raise funds from outside.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the SABC have hauled the former executives, including Motsoeneng and former GCEO James Aguma to the Special Tribunal in a bid to set aside the controversial 2016 decision and recover the R2.5m.

Tugwana argued that the SABC was aware in September 2017 that the decision to pay the musicians was irregular but waited until January 2021 before instituting legal steps to recover the money.

Tugwana said the debt was already prescribed in terms of prescription laws.

Advocate Steven Budlender, for Tugwana, argued that the SABC was trying to benefit from its own undue delay by attempting to recover money from a retired 67-year-old.

“The Prescription Act provides that the period for most debts is three years and that period starts running as soon as the debt is due ... it's common cause that the payments at issue were made between October 2016 and February 2017,” he said, adding that the application was made in January 2021 — long after three years.

It was a mandatory provision of the act that debt be considered prescribed after three years.

The SABC knew in 2017 that the decision was found to be irregular in an internal forensic investigation.

“The SABC received a report pursuant of a forensic investigation as early as August 3 2017 and that report said the decision was irregular and breached the PFMA [Public Finance Management Act] and the operations committee has to be held accountable, and that was reported to the SABC executive committee on September 14 2017.”

The application was lodged more than three years after the SABC was aware of the wrongdoing.

Budlender said Tugwana's understanding was that the decision, which was announced on national television with the involvement of the minister [of communications], was already approved by the executive committee.

“We plead that Ms Tugwana's understanding was that the decision had been taken and had been announced live on TV by the minister, the COO and the CEO in the presence of the board.

“Her understanding was that it would be tabled before the [operations committee] as [it] was the responsibility of the committee to implement it.”

Budlender said though Tugwana was part of the meeting which agreed to implement the decision, she believed the decision had already been taken.

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