SABC chair failed badly at Unisa

Ellen Tshabalala (centre) outside the Cape Town high court in August this year with Hlaudi Motsoeneng (centre left). Both are accused of lying about their qualifications. (M&G, David Harrison)

Ellen Tshabalala (centre) outside the Cape Town high court in August this year with Hlaudi Motsoeneng (centre left). Both are accused of lying about their qualifications. (M&G, David Harrison)

This is said to be the startling evidence that Tshabalala would have been confronted with on Thursday at an inquiry set up by Parliament’s communications portfolio committee.

But after months of evasion and requests for postponements, Tshaba­lala’s lawyers slapped Parlia­ment with an 11th-hour interdict and will take the matter to court on November 3, arguing that the inquiry does not constitute a fair disciplinary process.

Unisa confirmed that Tshabalala does not hold either the BCom or postgraduate degree she has claimed to have on her CV, City Press reported in July.

Two MPs close to the process told the Mail & Guardian this week that they have seen evidence that Tshaba­lala failed almost all her modules.

“She does not have even one course of the courses she refers to. She failed all the five level ones [modules] of the BCom. We have seen that. She failed all the modules that she had registered [for],” said an MP who did not want to be named.

Unisa’s head of legal services, Jan van Wyk, said that Tshabalala had registered at various stages at the university but had never completed any qualification. “She registered in about the early Eighties, the late Eighties and at one stage she even registered at the SBL,” he said, referring to Unisa’s Graduate School of Business Leadership.

He would not say whether she had failed her courses.

One of Tshabalala’s lawyers, Michael Tilney, would neither confirm nor deny that his client had failed all her courses. “I think that will be addressed in due course when the forum is correctly constituted,” he said, referring to his team’s attempts to declare the inquiry null and void.

Missed deadlines
Parliament’s legal team has repeatedly flown Van Wyk to Cape Town for the inquiry, to no avail. It has been postponed three times, and Tshabalala has missed two deadlines to provide her qualifications to Parliament. She has maintained that proof of her qualifications was stolen during a burglary.

The MP who spoke to the M&G said Tshabalala registered for seven modules towards a diploma in labour relations, but passed only two.

“Apart from that, she’s got nothing. She will never present her ­qualifications to the committee because she has got nothing. That is why she is going to the lawyers,” the MP said.

The M&G understands that Parliament’s legal team has obtained detailed evidence of Tshabalala’s academic record from Unisa, which would have been presented at the inquiry and sealed its attempt to recommend her removal. 

The committee has been united across party lines in its attempts to hold her to account. But President Jacob Zuma is thought to be protecting Tshabalala and the SABC’s chief executive, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, a close ally, who has also run into problems over claims of false qualifications.

The communication portfolio committee initially recommended in September that Zuma suspend her, but no action was taken and the presidency denied receiving the request. The inquiry was convened soon after. 

‘Delaying’ tactics
Tshabalala’s legal team has taken issue with section 15(a) of the Broadcasting Act, which outlines the inquiry process. They believe that part of the Act, which is being tested for the first time, may be faulty.

“The inquiry represents a disciplinary hearing. If that were the case, she has certain procedural rights to fairness and also the right for an unbiased and objective committee,” said one of her lawyers. 

Her team has also said that the person who laid the initial complaint, Democratic Alliance MP Gavin Davis, sits on the committee and should not judge her.

But Davis said he does not represent an aggrieved party and is simply doing his job as a parliamentarian.

He believes that Tshabalala is delaying.

“It’s a cynical ploy to tie up a legitimate process in legal knots so she can avoid facing justice,” Davis said. “I am assured by Parliament’s legal team that we have gone absolutely by the book.”

SABC chair failed badly at UnisaEllen Tshabalala’s lawyers slap Parliament with an 11th-hour interdict to prevent inquiry

 
Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay is the editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian. She grew up in Laudium, Pretoria, learned her trade at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, spent a spell in Cape Town as an online journalist, and now loves living in Jozi. Her interests are broad but include a focus on politics and multi-platform storytelling.
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