MPs split over Madonsela SABC inquiry appearance

2016-11-15 15:51
Thuli Madonsela. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

Thuli Madonsela. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

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Cape Town - Parliament's ad hoc committee looking into the fitness of the SABC board was split over whether former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela should be called as a witness during the committee's inquiry or not.

Committee chairperson Vincent Smith, who was elected unopposed at the beginning of the meeting, said the proposed witness list contained up to 30 names.

Opposition MPs stressed that Madonsela, who wrote the 2014 report into the SABC “When Governance and Ethics Fail”, should be invited to appear before the committee.

Democratic Alliance MP Phumzile van Damme wanted to know why two advocates were representing the office of the Public Protector instead of Madonsela herself.

"The portfolio committee on communications had agreed previously that the Public Protector who had written the report must be included in the list of witnesses," Van Damme said.

"We need information from primary sources. We're dealing with big problems at the SABC and we cannot rely on someone else to provide hearsay information."

'She is the author'

READ: Date set for 'urgent' SABC parliamentary inquiry

However, African National Congress MPs Patrick Chauke and Makhosi Khoza said the committee needed to defer the matter and look at the legalities around Madonsela appearing now that her term as Public Protector has ended.

Chauke said the committee should be wary of having a "parallel process" where Madonsela could potentially act on behalf of her successor Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Economic Freedom Fighters MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi dismissed their concerns, saying the matter does not need to be deferred.

"We did not leave our minds at home. Our minds are here, we must apply them," he said.

"Advocate Madonsela must come. She is the author, she understands. We shouldn't be scared of allowing as much information and key experts to come and share with us."

He said there was no reason Parliament, which elected Madonsela, should not be able to listen to her.

DA MP Mike Waters said it was important that Madonsela, as the primary source for the report, should account for it.

ANC MP Juli Kilian said Madonsela should appear before the committee in her capacity as author of the report and not in connection with the office of the Public Protector.

SABC political editor, Muthambi on list

Another debated potential witness was the SABC's current acting political editor Sophie Mokoena, who Ndlozi proposed as a witness.

Khoza wanted to know what Mokoena would add compared to the other journalists listed.

"Sophie Mokoena is probably the most senior journalist at the broadcaster at the moment. We want to hear as well what she has to say," he replied.

"All of the other journalists listed here have probably been led by her."

Both Madonsela and Mokoena were added to the list.

Other witnesses to be asked to appear included former board members and employees, current journalists, including the SABC 8, company secretary Theresa Geldenhuys and Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi.

They will be invited by the committee this week. Smith said witnesses had the right to decline and the list will only be finalised once replies to the invites were received.

Dates set, resignations confirmed

The ad hoc committee met for the first time on Tuesday to begin formalising the inquiry following controversial top appointments, censorship policies and the resignations of multiple board members at the broadcaster.

The committee will begin its hearing into the broadcaster on November 29 and will continue for two weeks.

Two more members of the SABC board resigned on Tuesday, the broadcaster reported.

The resignations of Nomvuyo Mhlakaza and Aaron Tshidzumba were reportedly tendered over the weekend, meaning chairperson Professor Mbulaheni Maguvhe is the only non-executive member remaining.

Maguvhe said he would not be stepping down.

Smith told journalists after the meeting adjourned that the ad hoc committee will continue with its mandate while Maguvhe still holds the position.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  eff  |  public protector  |  sabc  |  thuli madonsela  |  media freedom  |  media

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