Dene Smuts's speech on SABC Bill

Prepared text issued by Democratic Alliance August 19 2008

If this Bill truly dealt with bona fide cases where the removal of an SABC Board member for misconduct or incompetence might be found necessary, the amendment I proposed would have been enough.

That amendment brings the removal provision in line with appointment, which was drawn from the Constitutional arrangements for Chapter Nine Institutions because the public broadcaster enjoys Section 16 media freedom and, like the Commissions, must be independent from government, therefore selected by Parliament (or if necessary removed on the advice of Parliament).

However that removal provision now sits alongside a set of clauses that propose the dissolution of the entire Board and the installation of a small hand-picked interim board without any transparent process. That is offensive, intimidatory, and destructive of the security of tenure without which this body cannot protect Section 16 editorial independence and the right of the public to be informed.

It also puts on public display the intentions of the ruling portion of the ruling party.  Do not forget that the sitting Board, at age 4 months, was already declared guilty of, I quote, "failure and inability to fulfill its statutory duties" and of not being "in a position to execute its fiduciary duties" during the kangaroo court conducted by this same portfolio committee on 30th April.

Honourable members will recall that I described here how not a single aspect of either fiduciary or statutory duties enjoyed any attention during this Alice in Wonderland committee session, and they will remember that this House then declined to adopt the ANC majority report which called for a motion of no confidence.

There was, in other words, no due enquiry on 30 April (and it is therefore no argument to say that administrative justice is implicit). And sure enough, the requirement for due enquiry in earlier drafts of this Bill has been summarily removed.  

One would have to blind not to see that the Communist Party has had its way: the SACP's Mr Malesela Maleka, in a submission on this Bill, called due enquiry a counter-revolutionary attempt to protect bourgeois space with legal concepts.

The legal concept of the separation of powers is another constitutional concept ignored by this Bill, and it is especially on that concept that we will petition the President not to sign it into law.

 What was the ANC thinking?

What is the point of allowing the Hon. Speaker a veto right over the purely executive action of Presidential appointment or removal, when the one thing that (on the face of it) has survived is the National Assembly's binding power to select and , now, to remove?

Obviously the thinking is that the Polokwane faction in Parliament will decide and the new chairperson of that party will force the President to execute that decision. But that is the most primitive form of power politics. It cannot be the law because it is unconstitutional.

This is the text of a speech by Dene Smuts MP, Democratic Alliance spokesperson for communications, National Assembly, Cape Town, August 19 2008