A retired former SABC group executive has accused the public broadcaster of attempting to benefit from its own undue delays by hauling them to court to recover money unlawfully spent during their tenure.
Retired former group executive of corporate affairs Bessie Tugwana, one of the 10 former executives facing a court challenge in the Special Tribunal which seeks to recover R2.5m that the SABC paid to 53 music legends, stated that she had also been under the impression that former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng was going to raise funds from outside.
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the SABC has hauled former executives including Motsoeneng and ex-group CEO 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 well aware as early as September 2017 that the decision to pay the music legends was irregular but waited until January 2021 before instituting legal steps to recover the money.
At the time of the legal challenge, Tugwana argued that the debt was already prescribed in terms of prescription laws.
Tugwana is opposed to a repayment relief sought by the SABC and SIU of recovering the money from her as she’s accused of being collectively liable for the decision taken in 2016.
Adv Steven Budlender, representing Tugwana, argued that the SABC was trying to benefit from its own undue delay by attempting to recover money from someone like her, a retired 67-year-old.
“The Prescription Act provides clearly 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 in issue which are sought to be recovered were made between October 2016 and February 2017,” stated Budlender, adding that the application in the SIU was made in January 2021 — way after three years.
He argued that it was a mandatory provision of the Prescription Act that the debt is after three years considered prescribed.
Budlender argued that if court accepted that if the debt can only be prescribed when the unlawfulness was uncovered, 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 3 August 2017 and that report said the decision was irregular and breached the PFMA (Public Funds Management Act) and that the operations committee has to be held accountable and that was reported to the SABC Exco on 14 September 2017,” Budlender stated.
He said the application was still lodged more than three years after the SABC was aware of the wrongdoing in relation to the payment.
Budlender argued that Tugwana’s understanding was that the controversial decision, which was announced on national television with the involvement of the minister [of communications], was already approved by the executive committee.
“We plea 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 Ops Co (operations committee) as [it] was the responsibility of Ops Co to implement it,” stated Budlender.
Budlender said although Tugwana was part of the meeting which agreed on the implementation of the controversial decision, she had been of the understanding that the decision had already been taken.