The African National Congress (ANC) in parliament on Wednesday said it was “dismayed and shocked by the disrespectful and contemptuous” conduct of an SABC delegation that walked out during an ad hoc committee probing the public broadcaster’s board’s fitness to hold office.
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The representatives, led by the only remaining board member and chairperson, Professor Mbulaheni Maguvhe, including acting SABC CEO James Aguma and chief executive of corporate affairs Hlaudi Motsoeneng, staged the walkout after Maguvhe demanded that all documents to be considered by the committee be converted to Braille because he was partially blind.
However, the committee’s chairperson, Vincent Smith rejected the request, saying the ad hoc committee had been notified by SABC secretary Theresa Geldenhuys that Maguvhe would convert the documents to Braille himself before appearing in parliament.
A scathing statement released by the office of ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said the walkout and “irrational” request by the board chairperson and other SABC representatives were “the latest in a series of stalling tricks aimed at frustrating the work of the ad hoc committee”.
“The ad hoc committee had written to Prof Maguvhe asking him to indicate five days ahead of his appearance if he would require any assistance with translation, to which he responded by stating that he would have the documents converted himself.
“However, today Prof Maguvhe demanded that parliament convert the documents to Braille on the spot. When this was rejected, he summoned his entourage and staged a walkout in the middle of the committee meeting,” said ANC caucus spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.
Mothapo said the committee was already behind schedule due to Maguvhe’s fresh court interdict late on Tuesday to appeal a decision by the Western Cape High Court to dismiss his request to block the inquiry from going ahead.
He said the defiant board chairperson also refused to hand over certain documents necessary to the probe as requested by the committee, saying the ANC would strongly urge parliament to act decisively and “nip this abhorrent conduct in the bud”.
“Today’s [Wednesday] walkout, including refusal to provide parliament with documents, was designed to disrupt the work of parliament and show contempt for parliament’s constitutional powers.
“In terms of section 7 of the Powers, Privileges, Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, a person may not, while parliament or a House or committee is meeting, create or take part in any disturbance within the precincts.”
Depending on the gravity of the conduct, such disruptions are punishable by a fine or an imprisonment for up to three years.
“The act also prescribes a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months against a witness who is before a committee of parliament, who refuses to ‘produce any document in his or her possession or custody or under his or her control, which he or she has been required to produce’.”
Mothapo added: “The utter disrespect that the SABC chairman and his lackeys continue to demonstrate against parliament, including the very institution they lead, represents a serious attack against these public institutions and the people of South Africa.”