SABC Board Members were removed illegally - Gavin Davis

DA MP says legal opinion found that this can only be done by President acting on recommendation of National Assembly committee

Legal opinion confirms that SABC Board Members were removed illegally

26 May 2015

The DA welcomes the legal opinion presented to the Communications Portfolio Committee today confirming that the removal of three SABC Board Members was unlawful.

We have said all along that the Minister acted irrationally and unlawfully when she threatened Board Members with removal, and again when she acted on that threat by having them removed.

The legal opinion found that:

1. The SABC Board has no power in law to arbitrarily remove a Member of the Board. (para.10)

2.The SABC Board does not have the legal competency to conduct an Inquiry into an SABC Board Member’s fitness to hold office. (para. 14)

3. Only the Portfolio Committee has the power to hold an Inquiry into a Board Member’s fitness to hold office. (para. 13)

4. The only legally valid removal of a Board Member is by the President acting on the recommendation of a Committee of the National Assembly. (para. 15)

5. The Minister has no power in law to remove SABC Board Members, since there is no provision in the Broadcasting Act for her to do so. (para. 17)

6. When it comes to SABC Board matters, the Broadcasting Act supersedes the Companies Act. (paras. 18-21).

7. The legal opinion concludes: “any removal of a SABC Board Member that is not effected in line with the provisions of the Broadcasting Act as stated above is invalid and therefore unlawful.” (para. 22)

The Communications Portfolio Committee agreed that the legal opinion was a valid basis upon which to take further action. Unfortunately, however, the Committee could not agree on what the next step should be.

For one thing, Members of the majority party argued that the Minister should be given an opportunity to come before the Committee to state her legal case for the removal of the three Board Members.

The problem with this proposal is that, as the legal opinion found, the Minister had no business interfering with the appointment and removal of Board Members in the first place. It therefore makes no sense for her to consulted any further on the matter.

The way forward, as far as the DA is concerned, is quite clear. The Portfolio Committee, as the appointing authority, should be pushing for the re-instatement of the three Board Members (Ronnie Lubisi, Hope Zinde and Rachel Kalidass) without delay. The Minister's only further involvement should be to issue an apology and an undertaking that she will not stand in the way of these Board Members returning to work. 

We hope that Minister Muthambi has learned a valuable lesson. If she wants to stabilise the SABC, she needs to stop interfering with the Board and the work of the Communications Portfolio Committee. 

Statement issued by Gavin Davis MP, DA Shadow Minister of Communications, May 26 2015