ANC closes SABC board removal issue

Cape Town - The ANC says it is satisfied with Communications Minister Faith Muthambi's explanation that she and the SABC board followed all laws and procedures when board members were removed from their positions.

"The ANC study group within the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on communications has taken a decision to close the matter between the portfolio committee and the minister of communications regarding the legal opinion on the removal of SABC board members," acting chairperson of the ANC study group on communications, Dikeledi Tsotetsi, said in a statement.

"Since we have received no formal complaints from those who may have felt that they had been treated unfairly, we are of the view that it is time to close this chapter and allow the minister of communications space to continue with her work on the SABC and ensure that it delivers on its mandate."

The African National Congress was of the view that there had been no illegal conduct.

Muthambi briefed the portfolio committee in Parliament on Tuesday.

City Press reported last month that according to a legal opinion Muthambi had acted unlawfully when she interfered with the SABC’s board matters, which led to the dismissal of three councillors.

Parliament's legal service advised the committee that the Broadcasting Act trumps the Companies Act. This was the thrust of the legal opinion that Nathi Mjenxane of Parliament’s legal department gave the portfolio committee on communications. Muthambi used the Companies Act to fire the three board members. 

But before the committee could decide its next move, the ANC MPs first wanted to hear from Muthambi regarding the events that led to Rachel Kalidass, Ronnie Lubisi and Hope Zinde being removed from the SABC board.

In March, Muthambi had to explain the events to the committee. She said she had the authority to grant powers to herself to interfere in the public broadcaster in terms of a memorandum of incorporation – the document that sets out the relationship between the state and the SABC.

Muthambi said legally she was authorised to set up the memorandum – the last version of which was drafted last September – because she was the “sole shareholder” of the SABC.

She also had the power to, in the memorandum, outline her authority to make appointments at the SABC.

ANC does u-turn on legal opinion

The DA on Tuesday, however said the ANC had done u-turn on the legal opinion which undermined the rule of law.

"Today, in the communications portfolio committee, the ANC used its majority to squash Parliament’s legal opinion that the removal of three SABC board members was invalid," DA MP Gavin Davis said in a statement.

"It is unfortunate that the ANC today turned its back on the Constitution and South African people, choosing to side with Minister Muthambi instead."

Tsotetsi denied that the ruling party had made a u-turn saying the committee took no further decision except to engage with the minister on the matter before deciding a way forward.

"But true to their predictable character, the opposition parties, in the form of the DA and the EFF, sought to grandstand and make all sorts of frivolous accusations against the ANC component of the communications committee in another desperate attempt to secure prominent coverage in the media," she said.

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