Taxpayers could fork out almost R1 million for the costs of a case involving four journalists who were unlawfully fired by the SABC, according to their attorney.
However, this is only if the journalists’ direct seniors at the SABC are found not to be personally liable for the court costs, which would swing the onus of the costs on to the public broadcaster.
This would then translate into taxpayers “having to fork out” for the costs, an attorney for the fired journalists, JD Claassen, said yesterday.
“That’s the bare minimum. That’s conservatively calculated,” he said.
The Labour Court yesterday found in favour of the journalists, ruling that their dismissal was unlawful and they needed to be reinstated.
Journalists Foeta Krige, Suna Venter, Krivani Pillay and Jacques Steenkamp had taken the broadcaster to court after being fired for speaking out against the SABC’s editorial policy banning the broadcasting of the destruction of public property in protests.
The court further issued an interdict against any more disciplinary action against the four. The court also ordered that, within five days, the SABC general manager of radio news and current affairs, Sebolelo Ditlhakanyane, and acting group executive of news and current affairs Malolo Tebele must explain to the court in an affidavit why they should not be held liable for part or all of the costs of the application.
Commenting on the costs for the SABC’s counsel, Claasen estimated that with “three counsel, two of which are senior, fees range between R25 000 and R45 000 per day”.
“With the two days they spent in court, this could be between R100 000 and R120 000 per day of taxpayers’ money.”
That was without the time spent out of court with the SABC, he added.
“Those two days without preparation could be over R250 000.”
He put the entire cost of the application at about R1 million for applicants and respondents.
The SABC has indicated it intends going to a high court or as far as the Constitutional Court in a bid to overturn the Independent Communications Authority of SA ruling that it reverse its decision not to show footage of violent protest action.
Dirk Hermann, trade union Solidarity chief executive, said: “What the court said is ‘you can’t continue like this and you must pay personally’. That is a strong message. Solidarity can go and take the car or home if they don’t pay.”
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the full judgment was being studied by the SABC’s lawyers.
“What people heard about was the order. The judgment is longer. We want to understand the rationale behind it. We will then talk about the way forward.”