Sunday, August 16, 2009

Axed SABC head costs SABC R22m

The cash-strapped SABC has forked out more than R22 million in salaries, bonuses and legal fees to end Dali Mpofu's 18-month nightmare at the corporation, which began with a suspension by the former board at 1am on May 6, 2008.

His four-year tenure at the SABC ended on Friday with a settlement costing the corporation millions of rands, which it says was in the interests of helping to shape a better public broadcaster.

Mpofu was given R6.7 million, a R4.4 million restraint of trade payout from the department of communications, R900 000 in bonuses, and R2.1 million for legal fees. The SABC has to foot its own legal costs against its former group chief executive, amounting to almost R5 million.

In addition, the corporation's previous board, led by former chairwoman Kanyisiwe Mkonza and Christine Qunta, the deputy chairwoman, spent thousands of rands on advertisements to replace him, even when it was unable to do so in terms of a labour court ruling.

Mpofu, who was suspended for 18 months and received a R2.1m bonus in December when the SABC's cash crisis worsened, agreed on Friday to withdraw all outstanding claims against the corporation, including his request for reinstatement.

Irene Charnley, the interim board chairwoman, said on Friday that advertisements for a new chief executive would go out on Sunday and in terms of the agreement Mpofu would not be allowed to work in, or start, any company that is in competition with the SABC.

She said Mpofu would be given the restraint of trade payment by the Department of Communications because the broadcaster had no money.

"I come from a corporate background and I can tell you that restraint of trade payments are normal, especially for a CEO, to safeguard the organisation.

"We can look the public in the eye and say, this is the right thing to do," she said.

Charnley said the settlement was an important step towards stabilising the corporation.

"Both Mpofu and the interim board agree that the ongoing costly legal battles are not in the interests of public broadcasting in South Africa. We want to thank Mpofu for the co-operative spirit in which he has approached these negotiations," she said.

She said the previous board had paid Mpofu R6.7m, which he had not banked because of the dispute with them.

"The restraint of trade payment is based on potential loss of earnings arising from restrictions placed on Mpofu," she said.

Charnley said the final settlement amount might have been higher had the SABC challenged Mpofu in court but the board's legal advisors suggested that, as in the Vusi Pikoli matter against the state, it would be a costly and futile exercise.

Board member Lesley Sedibe said continuing the fight started with Mpofu by the previous board would have been unwise.

"If Mpofu had taken us to court he would have won. Prolonging the matter would have been a waste of taxpayers' money," he said.

Mpofu said he was relieved that the nightmare of the past 18 months had ended on a positive note.

"It was not about money: fairness was the principle I have been fighting for. The repeated vindication of the rights of the underdog should remind us that nobody is so powerful as to be above the law. Our courts must remain a bulwark against power," he said.

Mpofu said he would advise the broadcaster on any matter on which they required assistance and that he would also be happy taking part in the investigation by the Office of the Auditor-General into irregularities .

"I've endured most painful abuse over the past months. I have been accused of abusing a PetroCard, which I never used. In fact, the SABC owes me about R100 000 in petrol fees. I don't have a single corrupt bone in my body," he said.

"You can have a thousand probes, I know I can sleep at night. During the past 18 months, my mom once said, 'You didn't steal any money and they have not accused you of taking any money. You are still the son I raised'."

Asked about his legacy at the corporation, Mpofu said in his first two-and-a-half years, the corporation had been profitable and had achieved its goals of being a true public broadcaster.

"I would gladly accept responsibility for any decisions made during my tenure but I won't take responsibility for the mess over the past 18 months," he said.

Mpofu said he had been ill-treated by the previous board - a fact borne out by the courts, which found he had been victimised because of the board's support for former news head Snuki Zikalala. The board's conduct against him was described in court as being dishonest and vindictive.

"I am relieved this is over. I can get on with my life. It has been a nightmare for my me and family," he said.

While former colleagues hugged and bade Mpofu farewell on Friday, Phillip Dexter, spokesman for Cope, said the payout to Mpofu was an insult to hard-working SABC officials who had kept the public broadcaster operational during the battle between management and the previous board.

He said the SABC should not have allowed Mpofu "to simply walk away" from the legal and financial crisis at the public broadcaster.

From Sunday Independent

5 Opinion(s):

Exzanian said...

Pay your TV licence "It's the right thing to do"

FishEagle said...

Laugh or cry? Funny, Exzanian.

FishEagle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Exzanian said...

Bang my head against a brick wall

FishEagle said...