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The year 2016 was one of peo­ple act­ing with im­punity, but lone ranger SABC board mem­ber Pro­fes­sor Mbu­la­heni Magu­vhe took mat­ters to an en­tirely new level of de­fi­ance. This week, Par­lia­ment is­sued sum­mons to force Magu­vhe to give ev­i­dence and hand over SABC doc­u­ments to its ad hoc com­mit­tee prob­ing the af­fairs of the cor­po­ra­tion. Magu­vhe de­fied the com­mit­tee twice in two days. On Wed­nes­day, he walked out of the in­quiry after un­suc­cess­fully de­mand­ing doc­u­ments from three state in­sti­tu­tions in Braille. A day later, he failed to ar­rive to give ev­i­dence. Magu­vhe also re­fused to re­sign from the SABC, even though all his col­leagues on the board jumped ship after be­ing roundly crit­i­cised for be­ing dys­func­tional by Par­lia­ment, Cabinet, NGOs and or­di­nary South Africans. After the walk­out from the par­lia­men­tary in­quiry, Magu­vhe told jour­nal­ists he felt bul­lied, be­lit­tled and dis­re­spected, and that his Con­sti­tu­tional rights were un­der­mined by MPs on the par­lia­men­tary ad hoc com­mit­tee. Magu­vhe had tried to in­ter­dict Par­lia­ment from pro­ceed­ing with the hear­ing, but his ap­pli­ca­tion was dis­missed with costs by the West­ern Cape High Court. When the in­quiry started on Wed­nes­day, Magu­vhe’s lawyers asked for all doc­u­ments from the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral, Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor and the In­de­pen­dent Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Author­ity of SA in Braille. The three in­sti­tu­tions were go­ing to make sub­mis­sions to the com­mit­tee that day. The com­mit­tee didn’t have th­ese doc­u­ments avail­able, but chair­per­son Vin­cent Smith said it had ad­vised all wit­nesses that any­one who needed trans­la­tion should say so five days be­fore the in­quiry. He also read out an email from the SABC’s Theresa Gelden­huys in which she asked that all com­mu­ni­ca­tion to Magu­vhe be sub­mit­ted in Word for­mat, stat­ing that he tran­scribed the doc­u­ments into Braille. So the com­mit­tee pro­ceeded and Magu­vhe and his en­tourage of se­nior SABC ex­ec­u­tives and their lawyers staged a walk­out. Magu­vhe told jour­nal­ists he felt bul­lied as a per­son with a dis­abil­ity (he is blind) and that his rights ac­cord­ing to the UN Con­ven­tion on the Rights of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties were flouted. He also said the process wasn’t fair to him and the in­quiry was a done deal. Magu­vhe (49) was ap­pointed chair­per­son of the SABC board last June, six months after the res­ig­na­tion of Ellen Tsha­bal­ala, who City Press ex­posed as hav­ing lied about her aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions. Magu­vhe, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of In­clu­sive Ed­u­ca­tion at Unisa, was ap­pointed to the SABC in Septem­ber 2013, along­side 11 other nonex­ec­u­tive board mem­bers, after Par­lia­ment dis­solved the pre­vi­ous board ear­lier that year. An ed­u­ca­tion­al­ist with 23 years of ex­pe­ri­ence, Magu­vhe be­gan his ca­reer as a teacher at Tshilidzini Special School in Shayandima, Lim­popo. He holds a PhD in ed­u­ca­tion for the vis­ually im­paired. He co-founded the South African Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of the Blind and Par­tially Sighted in 1986. In a lec­ture de­liv­ered to the as­so­ci­a­tion in June this year, Magu­vhe re­vealed he was born fully sighted in Vhu­fuli vil­lage in Lim­popo and con­tracted measles at the age of five, after which he be­came blind. He also re­vealed his in­volve­ment in de­sign­ing Braille, mass lit­er­acy cam­paigns, de­vel­op­ing cur­ric­ula and act­ing as an ad­viser to the depart­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion. Whether he abides by the sum­mons on Tues­day and sub­mits to the ad hoc com­mit­tee re­mains to be seen.

Mbu­la­heni Magu­vhe

SABC board chair­per­son Mbu­la­heni Magu­vhe

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