Suspension of Mpofu declared unlawful

JOHANNESBURG — The May 7 suspension of South African Broadcasting Corp. CEO Dali Mpofu by the pubcaster’s board was declared unlawful by the Johannesburg High Court on Monday — but he’s unlikely to be reinstated any time soon.

Judge Moroa Tsoka ruled that “the board meeting at which the decision was taken to suspend Mpofu did not follow the correct legal procedures.”

Mpofu was suspended for failing to implement the board’s decisions the day after he himself had suspended news head Snuki Zikalala for allegedly leaking sensitive documents to the media.

Trouble had been brewing at the SABC for several months as the pubcaster became embroiled in the battle for the leadership of the ruling ANC between President Thabo Mbeki and challenger Jacob Zuma, elected as ANC head in December.

The SABC had been accused of being pro-Mbeki, with Zikalala one of his inside men.

The board itself is under fire. Trade unions and parliamentary committees allege political interference has created a pro-Mbeki board and they are demanding board members’ resignations.

Board chairperson Khanyi Mkonza came in for strong criticism from Judge Tsoka.

He said the matter had been handled badly by Mkonza, with her behavior “falling short of a director who should act independently.”

Tsoka said it appeared that a deliberate decision had been taken to exclude Mpofu and two other executive directors from the SABC board meeting where his suspension was decided.

Speaking outside court after the judgment, Mpofu held out an olive branch to the SABC board, saying he hoped to resolve the issues amicably.

However, Mkonza was not in a conciliatory mood.

“We remain convinced that our action against Mr. Mpofu is legitimate and justified,” he said. “We will carefully study the High Court judgment and the reasons given by the judge before issuing a comprehensive statement on our planned course of action in response to the judgment.”

The judge ordered the SABC to pay the costs of both parties.

Meanwhile, Zikalala intends taking legal action against the SABC for his suspension.

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