Ellen Tshabalala, Ben Ngubane to face the music

Ellen Tshabalala
Ellen Tshabalala

Former SABC board chairpersons Ben Ngubane and Ellen Tshabalala will be in the hot seat this Friday as they appear as the last witnesses before the parliamentary inquiry into the public broadcaster.

Vincent Smith, chairperson of the ad hoc committee looking into the SABC, told City Press that the inquiry would no longer resume today as Ngubane and his lawyers requested a few more days to finalise their preparations.

“We have therefore moved him and Tshabalala to Friday the 13th,” said Smith.

Friday’s hearings will be followed by the compilation of a draft report that will be sent to the SABC board’s three executive members – the group chief executive officer, chief financial officer and chief operating officer (COO) – for comment.

“Our mandate has never been to get rid of [anyone] or to come to a conclusion on just the board members as warm bodies. It is about compliance with the Public Protector and compliance with human resource policies. It was more than just about warm bodies and we won’t narrow it down and say because warm bodies have resigned, we will stop…” said Smith.

“Many things have revealed themselves and we will have to comment on them and make recommendations that the House will have to consider,” said Smith.

Ngubane’s board was dissolved by Parliament in March 2013 following wholesale resignations by board members, some of whom were accusing him of taking “illegal” and unilateral decisions without the approval of the board.

In February 2013, the SABC board, in Ngubane’s absence, met and removed then acting COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng, sending him back to his old post as the group executive of stakeholder relations and provinces.

It appointed veteran journalist Mike Siluma to act as the public broadcaster’s COO.

Days later, Ngubane announced Motsoeneng’s reinstatement as COO, saying that Ngubane’s then deputy, Thami ka Plaatjie, who had chaired the board meeting that resolved to remove Motsoeneng, had made a mistake in announcing Motsoeneng’s removal.

Ka Plaatjie later withdrew the letter he wrote to then communications minister Dina Pule to tell her of Motsoeneng’s removal.

This prompted the SABC board to issue a media statement saying it was regrettable for Ngubane to unilaterally change a decision taken at a “properly constituted meeting” of the board.

Ngubane and Ka Plaatjie resigned shortly after the saga, and six other board members, aligned to the ANC, also submitted resignations a few days later.

Tshabalala will be facing her second parliamentary inquiry in just over two years. She never got to say a word the first time around, leaving that to her lawyers as she sought to stop the process.

City Press exposed Tshabalala in 2014 as having lied about her academic qualifications. Parliament launched an inquiry into her qualifications and after months of delaying tactics from her side, she was found guilty of misconduct for lying to Parliament about her qualifications and she resigned.

Meanwhile, the portfolio committee on communication will begin the process to appoint an interim SABC board following the resignation of nonexecutive board members over the past few months.

Committee chairperson Humphrey Maxegwana was not certain whether the committee would have to wait for the inquiry into the SABC before doing so, but told City Press that his committee would be ready any time it is called upon to provide names for the interim board.

Maxegwana said at its next meeting on January 24, which is an ordinary meeting, the committee would talk about getting ready for the names as a way of starting up the process.

“We will have to come up with the five names and then wait as to whether we will be called to the House to present the names,” he said.

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