ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu has said that the walkout staged by an SABC delegation during a parliamentary inquiry into its board was “disgusting”.
Parliament’s ad hoc committee looking into the fitness of the SABC board met for its first hearings on Wednesday.
The board’s last remaining member, Mbulaheni Maguvhe, on Tuesday launched a last-minute appeal against the Western Cape High Court’s decision to dismiss his request for an interdict.
On Wednesday, he complained to the committee on its first day that the three documents they would be scrutinising were not in Braille. He is partially blind.
Committee chairperson Vincent Smith informed the SABC delegation that its secretary, Theresa Geldenhuys, had requested the said documents in Word format on November 18, in order to transcribe it to Braille.
He, therefore, denied Maguvhe’s request. Earlier, the committee resolved to continue its work, despite the High Court appeal, as there was no court order to stop.
The SABC delegation, including acting CEO James Aguma and Hlaudi Motsoeneng, then walked out.
‘Another stalling tactic’
Mthembu said in a statement on Wednesday that the SABC’s “stunt” was yet “another stalling tactic” aimed against the ad hoc committee’s work.
“The Office of the ANC Chief Whip is gravely dismayed and shocked by the disrespectful and contemptuous conduct of SABC representatives today.
“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.”
He said the walkout, as well as a refusal to provide Parliament with documents, was designed to disrupt its work and show contempt for its constitutional powers.
The Powers, Privileges and Immunities Act stated that a person may not, “while Parliament or a House or committee is meeting, create or take part in any disturbance within the precincts”, he said.
The Act also prescribed a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months against any witness before a committee of Parliament who refused 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”.
“The utter disrespect that the SABC chairperson 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,” he said.
“We will strongly urge Parliament to act decisively and nip this abhorrent conduct in the bud.”
The committee continued its work on Wednesday after the walkout. It interviewed representatives from the auditor general and the independent Communications Authority of South Africa.
It was still to interview representatives from the Public Protector’s office.