A delegation from the SABC has walked out of a parliamentary inquiry into the fitness of their board after saying that documents had not been made available in braille for the public broadcaster’s last remaining board member Professor Mbulaheni Maguvhe.
FYI: the SABC’s walkout does not affect the work of the committtee. We’re being briefed today by the AG, PP & ICASA, not SABC. #SABCinquiry
— Phumzile Van Damme (@zilevandamme) December 7, 2016
The Parliament ad hoc committee is continuing its hearings on the SABC board after the SABC delegation, including head of corporate affairs Hlaudi Motsoeneng, packed up their bags and left. Before the walk out, ANC MP Vincent Smith said he had received a complaint from the SABC’s lawyers that important documents had not been available in braille for SABC chairman, Maguvhe.
— Scapegoat (@AndiMakinana) December 7, 2016
“I have just now received a request from the legal team of Prof Maguvhe indicating that in the absence of these documents that we are talking about – the Public Protector’s report, the auditor general’s report, and the ICASA report – that those documents are not in braille or he doesn’t have a braille copy in his possession, and the seriousness of this inquiry, that that might just jeopardise him and they don’t want to address the committee on that matter,” Smith said.
Smith said, however, that the SABC legal team had notified him of this complaint at the last minute during a break in the proceedings. Smith had enquired how long it would take to translate the documents, but he had also written a letter to the SABC on 17 November notifying them that if an interpreter is required, a request should be made via the committee secretary.
Smith said that the SABC board had asked the ad hoc committee to send all documents in a Word document format so that Maguvhe could translate them to braille himself.
“The practical reality that we faced with now is that we all agreed when we left here that we’re going to start at [11am] and this matter gets brought to us as we’re about to resume,” Smith said.
Input from other members of parliament in the committee suggested that the inquiry should continue, as the SABC had access to all the reports that were being presented beforehand. Democratic Alliance MP Phumzile van Damme said that as chair of the SABC, Maguvhe should have read all three reports by now as they had been released months ago.
“I think as a committee we should take serious exception to what has just happened. It is nothing more than a vexatious, pathetic attempt to try and delay this committee,” she said.
The IFP’s Narend Singh made similar remarks.
“The first report that we are going to see is the report of the auditor general. I would take it that this report has been made available not only to the board of the SABC as it existed at that time and the management but also to the portfolio committee on comms. If that is the case, this is nothing new before many members of the SABC. I think we should proceed,” Singh said.
Smith ruled that the inquiry would proceed.
“We are continuing with this process. AG – it’s yours,” Smith said.
Wednesday marked the first day of hearings after numerous delays. Maguvhe had applied for an interdict to halt the inquiry, but the case was dismissed with costs in the Western Cape High Court last week. He has since filed papers to appeal the ruling.