The chairperson of the ad hoc committee looking into the SABC board says he is happy the Western Cape High Court dismissed the last remaining board member’s bid to halt the inquiry’s work.
SABC board chairperson Mbulaheni Maguvhe took the committee to court on Friday to argue for an interdict against the inquiry, citing alleged “bias and prejudice” towards him from opposition MPs.
Judge Siraj Desai dismissed Maguvhe’s application, saying he would make his reasons known at a later stage. Maguvhe was ordered to pay costs.
Ad hoc committee chairperson Vince Smith told News24 after the ruling that Parliament was always on the right side of the law.
“I feel vindicated,” he said outside the court. “I know that Parliament and the ad hoc committee always acted within the law and the judgment confirmed that, so I’m glad this part of it is over.”
Smith did not want to comment on Maguvhe or the SABC’s arguments in court, and is looking forward to getting down to “the real work”.
He said the committee will get started as soon as possible, which could be as early as Wednesday, depending on availability of witnesses.
The first batch of witnesses will be Auditor General Kimi Makwetu, a representative from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and current and former board members, Smith said.
The DA welcomed Desai’s ruling on Friday, saying the interdict was a last ditch attempt by one man seeking to cling to power for his own sake.
“This is a victory for parliamentary accountability and an important step towards restoring Parliament’s role as the constitutionally established body to scrutinise and oversee the actions of the executive,” it said in a statement.
‘MPs allowed to have strong views’
Maguvhe’s lawyer Thabani Masuku on Friday argued the inquiry needed an “independent and impartial” committee set up, claiming opposition MPs were biased towards his client.
He took issue with DA MPs Phumzile van Damme and Mike Waters specifically. On October 5, they had said the SABC board was “politically compromised”, dysfunctional, and should be dissolved after two of its members resigned publicly.
Parliament’s lawyer Denzil Potgieter earlier told the court it was perfectly okay for MPs to express strong views over the state of the SABC.
He said the ad hoc committee was “not a court of law”. Its role was that of a “post box”.
“This is purely an investigative process. There are no findings,” he told Desai.
“They are simply collecting information, for which they prepare a report to present to the National Assembly.”
Anton Katz, for the DA, said van Damme and Waters’ comments was what every “right thinking” South African would have concluded following the public resignations of Krish Naidoo and Vuyo Mavuso.
Parliament gave the ad hoc committee certain inquiry powers, and the court was not entitled to prescribe to the National Assembly how it may conduct its inquiry, he concluded.