DA piles on pressure over failure to fill SABC board vacancies

CAPE TOWN - The Democratic Alliance on Tuesday put pressure on the chairwoman of Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications for its failure to fill seats on the embattled SABC board, one of which has been vacant for some 14 months.

DA communications spokesman Gavin Davis sent a letter to Joyce Moloi-Moropa saying the committee had become a lame duck, seemingly incapable of fulfilling its obligations.

“The parliamentary term has all but come to an end and we are still no closer to filling the SABC Board posts vacated by Thembinkosi Bonakele (resigned in July 2014), Ellen Tshabalala (resigned 17 December 2014) and Bongani Khumalo (resigned 11 January 2015),” he wrote.

“Frankly, our failure to recommend three candidates for appointment to the SABC board is a dereliction of our duty to the South African public. It is immensely frustrating, not to mention deeply embarrassing, that our portfolio committee appears unable to fulfill one of its basic functions.”

Davis recalled that the committee had been scheduled to interview five candidates short-listed to replace Tshabalala in April but that this had never happened.

He said he raised the matter with Moloi-Moropa in August but she answered that she needed to consult on the matter.

“You responded on the 19 August as follows: ‘On the SABC Board matter, I am unable to respond at this point as I am still consulting and have not finalised as yet.”

The committee has grappled with two issues surrounding the filling of six vacant seats on the board.

Firstly, members from all parties were disappointed with the quantity and quality of nominations received to fill positions.

Secondly, it has found itself in a political tight spot since June when a parliamentary law advisor from whom a legal opinion had been sought on the lawfulness of the removal of three members – Hope Zindi, Rachel Kalidass and Ronnie Lubisi – firmly contradicted Communications Minister Faith Muthambi’s insistence that the Companies Act gave the board the right to remove its own members without the involvement of the president.

According to the legal opinion, which the minister termed “very wrong”, the Broadcasting Act is the governing legislation in this regard, and states plainly that only the president could remove board members of the public broadcaster, after proper inquiry.

Moloi-Moropa was absent from the meeting in June where Muthambi rubbished the legal opinion and has frequently been ill and unable to chair the committee in the last few months.

In July, the issue of the removal of Zinde, Kalidass and Lubisi took another turn when it emerged that one of them had written to Muthambi to object to her removal as well the sale of the SABC’s archives to Multichoice and the manner in which chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng was running the broadcaster.

This contradicted a statement by Muthambi’s adviser Daniel Mantshe to the committee that the removal of the three could not be reviewed because they never challenged it.

Moloi-Moropa was back in the chair at the beginning of September and told Davis that she was waiting for input from Parliament’s chair of chairs, Cedrick Frolick, on how to handle the issue of the vacancies.

The opposition has argued that the removal of Zinde, Kalidass and Lubisi should be reversed.

In his letter on Tuesday, Davis urged her to schedule an urgent meeting of the committee to fill the other three positions on the board before the end of the parliamentary term on September 28.

“If we do not, I fear that the public’s trust in our ability to fulfill our duties will be irreparably damaged.”

Moloi-Moropa said she had not yet received his letter.

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