SABC board fires mis­sive of bias at Parly

CityPress - - News - ANDISIWE MAKINANA andisiwe.makinana@city­press.co.za

The SABC fired the first salvo this week, ac­cus­ing Par­lia­ment’s over­sight com­mit­tee on com­mu­ni­ca­tions of bias. It also ques­tioned the com­mit­tee’s abil­ity to pre­side in­de­pen­dently and fairly over its in­quiry into the fit­ness of the broad­caster’s re­main­ing three nonex­ec­u­tive board mem­bers to hold of­fice.

On Tues­day, SABC board chair Mbu­la­heni Magu­vhe wrote to Humphrey Max­eg­wana, chair­per­son of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­mit­tee, ob­ject­ing to the in­quiry be­ing con­ducted by the same com­mit­tee mem­bers “on the grounds that there is rea­son­able sus­pi­cion that the com­mit­tee will be bi­ased against the re­main­ing mem­bers of the board”.

The move forced Par­lia­ment to take quick cor­rec­tive mea­sures by es­tab­lish­ing an ad hoc com­mit­tee, made up of MPs who had not pre­vi­ously made state­ments about the SABC.

Magu­vhe said he was writ­ing on be­half of, and with the con­sent of, the two other re­main­ing board mem­bers, Nomvuyo Mh­lakaza and Aaron Tshidzumba.

Re­fer­ring in his let­ter to the Oc­to­ber 5 meet­ing be­tween SABC board mem­bers and the com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­mit­tee – dur­ing which two SABC board mem­bers re­signed – as well as to sub­se­quent meet­ings, Magu­vhe wrote that mem­bers of the com­mit­tee had “clearly in­di­cated an un­will­ing­ness to hear what the [SABC] board had to say on the ques­tions that it was called to ad­dress”.

He added that MPs had dis­missed the board’s pre­sen­ta­tion, say­ing it did not an­swer any of the ques­tions raised. “The pre­sen­ta­tion was la­belled a tech­ni­cal re­sponse, smoke and mir­rors, lousy, su­per­fi­cial and a piece of pa­per,” wrote Magu­vhe.

List­ing 35 state­ments made by MPs dur­ing the Oc­to­ber 5 meet­ing, Magu­vhe went on to say they made it “per­ti­nently clear that a de­ci­sion to dis­solve the board has been made and that the in­quiry will be con­ducted purely to ful­fil the law”.

Magu­vhe, Mh­lakaza and Tshidzumba re­fused to re­sign when Par­lia­ment asked them to do so af­ter the Oc­to­ber 5 meet­ing.

The in­quiry into the board’s com­pe­tence has now been post­poned to give new com­mit­tee mem­bers time to fa­mil­iarise them­selves with the SABC’s af­fairs.

On Thurs­day, the Na­tional As­sem­bly adopted a res­o­lu­tion to es­tab­lish the ad hoc com­mit­tee. The mo­tion, tabled by ANC chief whip Jack­son Mthembu, stated that the House noted the need to en­sure its pro­cesses were fair and rea­son­able, and would give ef­fect to the rules of “nat­u­ral jus­tice”.

The in­quiry will look into the abil­ity of the SABC board to dis­charge its du­ties, as pre­scribed in the Broad­cast­ing Act. This in­cludes prob­ing the fi­nan­cial sta­tus and sus­tain­abil­ity of the pub­lic broad­caster.

The in­quiry will also ex­am­ine the SABC’s re­sponse to the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor’s 2014 re­port, ti­tled When Gov­er­nance and Ethics Fail; its com­pli­ance with re­cent court judg­ments, in­clud­ing the rul­ing by the In­de­pen­dent Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Au­thor­ity of SA to halt its ban on screen­ing violent protests; and the cur­rent board’s abil­ity to make legally bind­ing de­ci­sions in light of the Oc­to­ber 5 res­ig­na­tion of two nonex­ec­u­tive board mem­bers.

The ANC will de­ploy se­nior MPs to the ad hoc com­mit­tee and rec­om­mend that Vin­cent Smith, the for­mer chair of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Pub­lic Ac­counts, chair the in­quiry.

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