By Pinky Khoabane
The Labour Court this morning, ordered The Citizen to reinstate former editor Steve Motale and pay his legal costs.
Judge D H Gush said The Citizen’s Publisher, Eureka Zandberg had originally followed the company’s procedures but “during the course of the correspondence between the applicant (Motale) and second respondent (Zandberg), possibly having taken advice, decided that the issue was no longer one of misconduct on the part of the applicant but simply an issue of compatibility. The second respondent conveniently ignored the fact that what led to her alleging (a) breakdown of trust (in the) relationship was the alleged misconduct of the applicant”.
In correspondence to Motale, the publisher cited the article published on 4 October 2016, “Jonas is a Liar” as the trigger to the events that led to his suspension on 2 November and his dismissal on 28 November 2016. http://uncensoredopinion.co.za/citizen-lied-stories-jonas-manuel-hlaudi-everything-motales-sacking/
Emails between Zandberg and Paul Jenkins, Chairman of Caxtons and third respondent in the matter, indicate that he had intervened in the events which led to Motale’s sacking in what the former editor found to be editorial interference and what the chairman concluded was safeguarding the paper from “an agenda”.
The Judge said Zandberg and Jenkins had made an “unexplained and unjustified leap from accusing the applicant of misconduct to simply assuming he was guilty thereof and then decided this constituted an irretrievable breakdown (of) the relationship between the applicant and the first and second respondents”.
In so doing the newspaper had ignored its own disciplinary procedures and therefore violated Motale’s contractual rights, the judgement stated.
The Judge questions the decision by Zandberg to abandon the original proposal in which she afforded the former editor a properly constituted disciplinary hearing into his alleged misconduct.
It is clear from the emails between Zandberg and Jenkins that the chairman not only planted the seed for the decision to leap from misconduct to a breakdown in the relationship but also offered a veiled threat. In an email of Monday 24, October 2016, he wrote: “I expect that there has to be at all times a reciprocal relationship of trust between the publisher and the editor, but ultimately, you are responsible for the overall success of the our newspaper…..If we suffer from a credibility loss with our readers and this translates into falling circulation, because of flawed agenda-based reporting, we will not hesitate to take whatever remedial action is necessary”.
Zandberg’s response indicates she had heeded the chairman’s words: “Dear Paul, I had a follow-up discussion with my editor….I pointed out that after my meeting with him on Friday, I sent an email, which implied I support and trust my editor and his team. My view has changed since I received your last two-emails; I cannot but agree with everything you highlighted. I mentioned to Steve that it affected the trust relationship between him and me negatively, as it left me with the questions: Is there an agenda…”
Motale’s legal team has written to The Citizen proposing that he returns to work on Monday 30th January 2017.