SABC inquiry defers Muthambi's fate to Zuma, ethics committee

ANC MPs head off opposition demands to make definitive findings against minister

SABC inquiry defers Muthambi's fate to Zuma, ethics committee

Cape Town - The SABC inquiry agreed to defer the fate of Communications Minister Faith Muthambi for her role in alleged mismanagement at the SABC to Parliament's ethics committee and President Jacob Zuma.

The DA, which wanted the matter to be deferred to the Public Protector as well, was outvoted nine to one in the early hours of Friday morning.

The ad hoc committee conducting the inquiry worked well past midnight on Thursday trying to fine-tune its observations and negotiate its recommendations for its final report.

Opposition parties lobbied hard during a marathon 12-hour session to get the final report to recommend that Zuma consider dismissing Muthambi for amendments she had made to key legislation at the broadcaster.

They also said Muthambi was "central" in the decisions that allowed former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng to flourish under the new legislation, as well as in his permanent appointment to the post in July 2014.

ANC MPs argued that although everyone was in agreement that Muthambi's role was a serious concern and could possibly represent mismanagement, it was not the ad hoc committee's job to make definitive findings.

It was up to the President to decide the fate of one of his Cabinet, they said.

DA MP Mike Waters argued that any violation of the Executive Members Act must be reported to the Public Protector by law.

ANC MPs Makhosi Khoza and Hlomane Chauke said that was not in the ad hoc committee's mandate, and that the ethics committee must make that call after its own investigation.

The matter was put to a vote, with the minority parties supporting the ANC on the grounds that "anyone" can now report Muthambi to the Public Protector due to her public evidence under oath.

Race against the clock

ANC MPs were a lot firmer on other management issues at the broadcaster, with most other issues being reached by consensus.

The committee has until February 28 to adopt and table a final report before Parliament, leaving Friday as the last working day to complete both tasks.

At around 23:00 on Thursday MPs finally started negotiating recommendations after eight hours of finalising their observations, based on a framework provided by ANC MP Juli Kilian.

The 12 proposed draft recommendations included:

- The formal dissolution of the SABC board and the appointment of an interim board in line with the Broadcasting Act.

- The validity of the board's memorandum of incorporation must be investigated by the interim board in conjunction with the portfolio committee on communications.

- Parliament must amend the Broadcasting Act to make it legally clear that it supersedes the Companies Act, which has always been the view of the ad hoc committee.

- A reputable company must conduct an independent forensic investigation into all irregular appointments, suspicious contracts, salary increments and performance bonuses paid during the period in question.

- The interim board must ensure that the top three senior management positions (GCEO, COO and CFO) are filled by suitably qualified and experienced professionals.

- Current editorial policy must be scrapped and public participation must be sought in formulating new editorial guidelines that are conducive for journalists to work without fear.

EFF MP Fana Mokoena stressed the need to adopt the report before the Broadcasting Amendment Bill currently sitting before the portfolio committee on communications is also considered.

The committee will meet at 11:00 on Friday to consider the final draft of its report in view of adopting it.