Mkhwebane 'very disrespectful' of SABC inquiry – Ndlozi

2016-11-29 12:20
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Picture: Leon Sadiki)

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Picture: Leon Sadiki)

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Cape Town – MPs have registered their dissatisfaction with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's response to a request to appear before Parliament's ad hoc committee looking into the SABC.

DA MP Phumzile van Damme on Tuesday revealed Mkhwebane, one of approximately 30 witnesses requested to appear for public hearings, had told the committee that she didn't understand why they were still sitting, given that there was only one board member remaining.

SABC board chairperson Mbulaheni Maguvhe is the sole remaining board member.

Mkhwebane also reportedly said it was her prerogative to decide if she should come to Parliament, and that three staff members could speak on her behalf, provided it was 'in camera'.

EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said Mkhwebane shouldn't have a choice, as Parliament was her boss, "finish and klaar".

"We must take exception with how the new Public Protector is addressing us," Ndlozi told the committee.

"A lot of people we hire here in Parliament, but they don't want us to hold them accountable. They think someone else outside of Parliament may be the one.

"The new Public Protector must be told that this is the institution that constitutionally, she reports to."

Her insistence that the committee's work was irrelevant, due to the fact that only one board member remained, was "worrying", he said.

"That's very disrespectful. I'm worried about a Public Protector that speaks like that. Which public is she protecting?

"It's in the interest of the public that she comes to Parliament."

Process should be public, transparent

Van Damme said she was "very worried" about Mkhwebane's response, and said the committee should oppose her request to have her staff members testify behind closed doors.

She said former public protector Thuli Madonsela's 2014 report into the SABC, When Governance and Ethics Fail, was a public document and Mkhwebane should therefore defend it publicly.

IFP chief whip Narend Singh agreed, saying the inquiry was a Parliamentary process, and the committee should not allow anyone to have 'in camera' interviews.

"This committee has been set up by Parliament, and all evidence presented before us must be done publicly."

ANC MP Makhosi Khoza agreed Parliament's work should be transparent, but certain individuals should be given an ear to find a way to resolve their concerns.

Hearings postponed by a week

The committee was due to begin its witness interviews on Tuesday, but it was postponed by a week due to a last-minute court application filed by Maguvhe on Sunday to have the inquiry stalled.

Maguvhe cited alleged "bias and prejudice" against him from opposition MPs Van Damme, EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu and the IFP's Liezl van der Merwe.

Meanwhile, 24 witnesses have been successfully contacted and will appear before the committee once the court case has been concluded.

A further six, including former public protector Thuli Madonsela, either declined or were not available to appear due to travel commitments.

Committee chairperson Vincent Smith said he was confident that Parliament would win the court case against Maguvhe, and would be "ready to roll" thereafter.

The interdict would be argued in the Western Cape High Court on Friday.

Read more on:    public protector  |  da  |  eff  |  sabc  |  mbuyiseni ndlozi  |  busisiwe mkhwebane

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