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.
SABC board chairperson Mbulaheni Maguvhe