Cape Town – Communications Minister Faith Muthambi on Wednesday dodged and ducked all questions pointedly asking her for opinion on the current, and only, SABC board member.
Instead, she called on Parliament to fast-track the process of determining the SABC board’s fitness to hold office, and appoint an interim board.
One thing she was unwavering about was that she was “fit and proper to be a shareholder representative” of the SABC, she told the ad hoc committee investigating the current board’s fitness to hold office.
Committee chairperson Vincent Smith and ANC MP Fezeka Loliwe asked her if she thought the current chairperson and the only member of the board remaining, Mbulaheni Maguvhe, was fit for the job.
Smith said Maguvhe had been disrespectful to Parliament and government.
“There is a board of SABC that defies you, Parliament, breaks the law, and there is a legal person complicit in doing these things. Is that collective worthy of being a board?” he asked.
It had taken three weeks and R500 000 of taxpayers' money to get documents from the SABC, Smith said, which could not be allowed.
“This alone, minister, is the death knell of everybody that serves on that board. There can be no question about it,” he said.
Muthambi repeatedly said it was up to the committee to decide if Maguvhe was fit for office.
“It’s within the purview of Parliament, and I couldn’t have been seen to be interfering with processes of Parliament,” she said.
She called on the committee to deal with the process with the urgency it deserved. She admitted that there was currently no board at the SABC.
Board removal too cumbersome
She called on Parliament to fast track a bill before the communications committee, which would make it easier to remove the current board.
“There must be an interim board appointment. This Broadcasting Act is cumbersome, with regards to removal of the board. In the portfolio committee, we tried to introduce a bill, which would deal with the shortening of the process of the removal of the board,” she said.
Armed with the Broadcasting Act, the Companies Act, the SABC’s memorandum of incorporation, minutes of meetings and notes on all witness accounts given to the committee, Muthambi systematically denied all allegations against her during the inquiry.
Muthambi took the committee through the “historical context” of the troubles facing the SABC, some of which started before her time, she said.
These included the resignation and removal of SABC board members in 2014 and 2015.
‘I do not run the SABC’
She denied all allegations that she had interfered with the SABC’s editorial interference.
“I do not run SABC,” she said.
She found the personal attacks by the SABC 8 disheartening. She said the board decided to increase former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s salary.
She had not known about the R11.4 million bonus Motsoeneng was allegedly paid for his handling of the controversial R500m SABC deal with MultiChoice to air SABC channels on DStv.
She read about it in newspapers and then asked the company secretary to send her more information.
She was also not aware of any complaints about Motsoeneng’s conduct.
“This was never brought to my attention. I don’t recall anyone complaining about the conduct of Motsoeneng.”
She was criticised for “downplaying irregular expenditure” at the SABC.