Hope Zinde’s letters explosive - Gavin Davis

DA MP says former SABC board member wrote three times to complain to the Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Joyce Moloi-Moropa

Hope Zinde’s letters add new impetus for re-instatement of axed SABC Board Members

29 July 2015

Explosive new evidence in the DA’s possession indicates that former SABC Board Member Hope Zinde wrote a series of complaints to the Communications Committee Chairperson and Minister Muthambi regarding her removal – all of which appear to have been ignored.

This evidence rubbishes the argument made by Minister Muthambi’s legal advisor, Daniel Mantsha, at the Portfolio Committee on 23 June. At that meeting, Mr Mantsha claimed that the Committee had no legal basis to act against the removal of Rachel Kalidass, Hope Zinde and Ronnie Lubisi because:

1. Minister Muthambi had not received any complaints from the three former Board Members. 

2. The three former Board Members had never lodged a formal complaint to Parliament and that “silence meant consent.”

However, as this new evidence shows, axed Board Member Hope Zinde wrote no less than three letters of complaint to the Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Joyce Moloi-Moropa, and two to Minister Muthambi.

On 15 January, Hope Zinde wrote to Minister Muthambi seeking clarification on the reasons she was being threatened with removal. In the letter, Zinde mentions a meeting with Minister Muthambi on 30 October at which Zinde voiced her frustration at “Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s antics and shenanigans in trying to muscle the board.” Zinde also recalls that she and Muthambi “even enjoyed some Nandos together”, and that she had later received an SMS from Muthambi that said: “I love you so much.”

The next day, on 16 January, Hope Zinde wrote to Moloi-Moropa to register a complaint regarding the threatening letters that Minister Muthambi had sent to Zinde and other members of the SABC Board. “From my understanding of the Companies Act and the Broadcasting Act, what the Minister is doing is illegal,” wrote Zinde. She added: “…only the members who did not support the appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng received these threatening letters and are as such targeted.”

On 2 March, Hope Zinde again wrote to Minister Muthambi and reminded her of the letter sent on 15 January: “… I await my fate as per your last correspondence: reasons why you should not recommend my removal as a non-executive director of the board of the SABC.”

On 9 March, Zinde wrote to Moloi-Moropa to express frustration at the way that Minister Muthambi was treating her. In the letter, Zinde recalled that when she had raised concerns about the appointment of Motsoeneng, Muthambi had replied: “But baba (President Zuma) loves Hlaudi, he loves him so much, we must support him.”

In the same letter, Zinde accused SABC Board Chairperson Obert Maghuve of selectively targeting her and asked Moloi-Moropa to institute an inquiry into his conduct. “From where I sit, Professor Maghuve does not represent the Board. He is representing Mr Motsoeneng’s interests,” she wrote.

Hope Zinde was removed from the Board three days later on 12 March. Speaking to journalists, Zinde said that she was “currently awaiting a process to unfold through the appointing authority, Parliament and the presidency, to look into a matter I have been alleged to have committed."

In an eight-page letter sent to Moloi-Moropa on 14 March, Zinde raised a number of complaints relating to her removal from the SABC Board. She wrote that:

Her previous correspondence with Moloi-Moropa and Muthambi had been ignored.

The SABC Board meeting held to remove her was an illegal “kangaroo court” and that the removal of Board Members is the “prerogative of Parliament”, not the Board.

The SABC Board Meeting that resolved to remove her was not quorate and therefore had no power to make legally binding decisions.

The Board Members present at the meeting had been “unlawfully ordered to hand in all our electronic devices from laptops to phones.”

Motsoeneng had “hurled insults” at her during the Board Meeting that resolved to remove her.

She was not allowed to respond to the allegations against her and, when she tried, was “interrupted and scolded.”

No evidence could be provided that she had said “something bad about the SABC at an ANC Lekgotla” – one of the key allegations against her.

The public nature of the unlawful removal had “caused grave pain for me, my son and family.”

In the letter, Zinde asks Moloi-Moropa “as Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee” to revoke the removal on the “basis of falsehood, intimidation and illegality.” She adds: “I am also happy for your good office to rightfully institute an enquiry to establish the facts.”

In Zinde’s resignation letter of 7 July, she notes: “…the Portfolio Committee on Communications stated at the meeting of the 24th of June that I have not complained about my wrongful and illegal removal from the Board of the SABC, therefore, it means I am content. This couldn’t be [further] from the truth.” Later, she wrote: “I was never invited to come to the Portfolio Committee, in spite of my requests to the Chairperson, Ms. Moloi-Moropa.”

It is quite clear that, contrary to the assertions of Minister Muthambi’s legal advisor, Zinde lodged several complaints to the Minister and the Committee Chairperson regarding her removal. Reports in the public domain indicate that one of the other axed Board Members, Ronnie Lubisi, also lodged a complaint with Moloi-Moropa, but that this too was not tabled before the Portfolio Committee.

I have therefore written to Moloi-Moropa to request that she tables all correspondence from the three Board Members for discussion at the next meeting of the Portfolio Committee. 

The evidence that Hope Zinde, Rachel Kalidass and Ronnie Lubisi were removed illegally mounts by the day:

A legal opinion drafted by Parliament’s legal advisors indicates categorically that the process to remove the three Board Members was illegal because the Broadcasting Act was not followed.

Hope Zinde alleges that the Board was not quorate on the day she was removed, thus invalidating the resolution of the Board to remove her.

The process to remove is likely to be illegal in terms of the Companies Act as well, since there is evidence to suggest that the Board Members in question were not given an opportunity to present their case at the hearing.

Minister Muthambi overturned Parliament’s legal opinion on the advice of an attorney who was struck off the roll in 2007 for deceitfulness and unprofessional conduct.

Two of the three axed Board Members lodged complaints with the Portfolio Committee Chairperson and the Minister, and these complaints were ignored. This rubbishes the argument that the Board Members’ silence indicated consent.

Given the evidence, the DA believes that the Portfolio Committee should resolve to:

1. Demand the immediate re-instatement of the three Board Members;

2. Take legal action against the SABC Board should it fail to re-instate the three Board Members; and

3. Institute an Inquiry into the conduct of the SABC Board Chairperson for the manner in which the three Board Members were removed.

It is not clear why Joyce Moloi-Moropa ignored the correspondence that Hope Zinde and Ronnie Lubisi sent her regarding their removal. What is important now is for the Portfolio Committee, under the leadership of Joyce Moloi-Moropa, to re-assess the evidence regarding these removals and take the appropriate action.

Statement issued by Gavin Davis MP, DA Shadow Minister of Communications, July 29 2015