Taking defiance to new lows

2016-12-11 06:02
SABC board chairperson Professor Mbulaheni Maguvhe. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla

SABC board chairperson Professor Mbulaheni Maguvhe. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla

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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 had defied the committee twice in two days.

On Wednesday, he walked out of the inquiry after demanding (to no avail) that he be furnished with documents from three state institutions in braille.

A day later, he absconded and failed to arrive to give evidence at the inquiry.

Maguvhe has also refused to resign from the SABC, despite the fact that 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 unprecedented walkout from the parliamentary inquiry, Maguvhe told journalists this week that he had felt bullied, belittled and disrespected and that his Constitutional rights had been undermined by MPs who sit in the parliamentary ad hoc committee.

Maguvhe had tried to interdict Parliament from proceeding with the hearing, saying that two DA MPs – Phumzile van Damme and Michael Waters – were “infected with bias, partiality and lack of independence”, but that application was dismissed with costs by the Western Cape High Court.

When the inquiry started on Wednesday, Maguvhe’s lawyers requested on the spot that he be furnished with the relevant 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 immediately have these documents available, but chairperson Vincent Smith from the ANC revealed that it had previously advised all witnesses that the proceedings would be in English and anyone who would need translation should say so five days before the inquiry began.

He also read out an email from the SABC’s Theresa Geldenhuys in which she requested that all communication to Maguvhe be submitted in Word format, stating that he transcribed the documents into Braille.

So the committee proceeded with the hearing.

Maguvhe and his entourage, which included senior SABC executives and their lawyers, staged a walkout.

Maguvhe told journalists that he felt bullied as a person with a disability (he is blind) and that his rights as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities were undermined.

He also had misgivings about the committee, saying the process didn’t seem fair to him and that the inquiry appeared to be a done deal.

Maguvhe (49) was appointed chairperson of the SABC board in June last year, 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 in the field, Maguvhe began his career as a teacher at Tshilidzini Special School in Shayandima, Limpopo. He holds a PhD in education for the visually impaired.

The renowned educator co-founded the South African National Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted in 1986 and has worked extensively at the South African National Council for the Blind.

In a lecture he delivered to the association in June this year, titled Walking Down the Road of Academia: An Account of a Visually Impaired Person, Maguvhe revealed he was born fully sighted in a village called Vhufuli in Limpopo and that at the age of five, he had contracted measles, which led to his blindness.

The published version of the lecture also reveals his extensive work for the blind and education in general, including involvement in designing Braille, mass literacy campaigns, developing curricula and acting as an adviser to the department of basic education.

In June this year, Maguvhe conducted a study on the development of maths and science educators for blind pupils.

Whether he abides by the summons on Tuesday and submits to the ad hoc committee remains to be seen.

Read more on:    sabc  |  mbulaheni maguvhe  |  hlaudi ­motsoeneng

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