There’s a famous poster showing a steam train engine most of the way out of an elevated train station window with the saying, Oh Shit. That is how Hlaudi ‘with a chance of millions’ Motsoeneng must have felt when the AFU (Asset Forfeiture Unit) came to attach his assets.
Hlaudi is a little man who was brought up in the arse end of the eastern Orange Free State. This was Qwa Qwa, a little Bantustan of a few hundred thousand people scrabbling a living. Not an auspicious start but what this man had in spades was ambition, self-belief and the will to kiss the arses of important ANC personalities. These qualities took him all the way to the top with his ultimate blesser being Zuma, Mr Big.
As a freelancer for Radio Lesotho, Hlaudi managed to ingrate himself with the Chief Minister of Qwa Qwa with puff pieces. Sensing the wind in 1992, he moved to Lesedi FM in Bloemfontein and cosied up to ANC heavyweights, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri and his ace in the hole, Magashule. He soon found himself in Mshini Wam’s orbit and landed a top job in the SABC as COO – not bad for an uneducated man from the foothills of the Drakensberg. He now enjoyed the patronage and protection of uBaba himself, and his ambition knew no bounds. He dispensed largess like a king throwing sweeties to his subjects and this extended to himself when he upped his own salary by 32% in 2015. There were unwarranted promotions and appointments and at one stage, he gave R25million to artists. Yes, part of SABC’s remit is to promote indigenous art and culture, but it is not a SASSA pay point. It is supposed to nurture and promote them, not give them money out of hand. Another one of his outlandish schemes in May 2016 was to insist on 90% local music content on radio stations. When asked whether that was a bridge too far, he stated he would force it to be so and his ego couldn’t resist adding that I am “Hlaudi Motsoeneng, baby! I am in charge.” But he committed his biggest sin when he sold off the family silver – all the SABC archives – to Multichoice for R650million. Stupid or not and perhaps that was within his ambit as COO, but he claimed a ‘success fee’ of R11.5million for just doing what he was paid to do.
However, his Tata My Chance (a lotto slogan meaning, take a chance) has become Ta, Ta My Chance when he lost his job and the protection of Zuma who was by now powerlessly gnashing teeth on the sidelines at Nkandla bedevilled by paranoia while plotting revenge. First his assets were attached, and then, in December 2021, the SIU (Special Investigative Unit) won their court case in the Gauteng High Court for the ‘success fee’ plus interest to be handed over. Hlaudi applied for leave to appeal but that was turned down on 15 July with costs.
Like Zuma, Hlaudi is an appealing fellow, but only in the legal sense, so I don’t think this is the end of the legal route much trampled by unrepentant ANC apparatchiks. Another case perhaps for the irrepressible Dali Mpofu and his grandstanding, misdirection, insults and dubious legal arguments.