Parliament’s ad hoc Committee looking into the SABC board has agreed to finalise its draft report without any recommendations, until those implicated have been given a chance to respond.
Eight MPs voted against the inclusion of preliminary recommendations on Friday, with only two Democratic Alliance MPs voting for inclusion.
African National Congress MP Juli Kilian proposed on Thursday that the committee consider leaving out the recommendations until it had received a response from the SABC, to avoid potential litigation and claims of bias.
On Friday, a parliamentary legal adviser said there was not much precedent for this type of report, and that the committee should try and ensure that it was not perceived as having “pre-judged” the matter.
“Meaningful opportunity in case law means all the facts must be before you, before the process can be binding at the end,” the adviser said.
“In short, if the preliminary recommendations are fully ventilated before rebuttal has been given, it could be seen as having pre-judged the matter.”
ANC MPs agreed unanimously with the adviser.
DA MPs Phumzile van Damme and Mike Waters were not happy. Van Damme said she was disappointed with the legal advice.
She labelled the ANC MPs’ agreement with the advice as “nothing but a political ploy to shield people from accountability”, as the recommendations had already been discussed at length by the committee.
Waters agreed and said the recommendations were in the public domain, and it would not make sense to leave them out now.
He accused the ANC of “taking instructions from Luthuli House” and “changing the game” at the eleventh hour.
Economic Freedom Fighters MP Fana Mokoena and Inkatha Freedom Party MP Narend Singh supported the legal advice, and said they were in favour of not jeopardising the committee’s work.
Singh admitted the ANC would need to reassure the committee on their change in stance.
United Democratic Movement MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa and African Christian Democratic Party MP Steve Swart, who are only alternate members and have no voting rights, said there were cases for both sides of the argument.
Swart said he hoped the ANC would still be “strong” when the recommendations were eventually discussed in February.
‘We do not take orders’
Kilian, Dr Makhosi Khoza and Hlomane Chauke of the ANC said the opposition MPs did not have to worry about their intentions.
Khoza said they feared nothing and that no one would instruct them on what to do. She said the DA suffered from “Luthuli House post-traumatic stress symptoms”.
“All the time we work as a team and all the time you come in and divide us. The only thing we are saying is: Let’s be fair.”
ANC MP Fezeka Loliwe asked the DA MPs what they would gain from including draft recommendations in a report that was going to change. She said the two DA MPs were “looking for trophies”.
Committee chairperson Vincent Smith rebuked Van Damme for criticising the legal adviser, saying that criticism should only be levelled at the politicians.
He also said members of the support staff had worked very hard, and that it was unrealistic to give “another human being” one night to come up with a report more comprehensive than one they had received.
The committee adopted the final draft report just before lunch on Friday. It will be sent to the SABC, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and former board chairpersons Dr Ben Ngubane and Ellen Tshabalala, as requested.
It would also be made available to the public on Parliament’s website.
Public submissions for the draft report will end on February 16. The committee will meet again on February 14 to consider responses, concluding on February 22.
The National Assembly has until February 28 to adopt a final report.
‘Parliament failed SABC’
Another contentious point that came down to a vote was Parliament’s role in the failures at the SABC over the last few years.
The DA argued strongly that their MPs had, at the time, objected to the sacking of three board members in 2015, Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s COO appointment in 2014, and Muthambi’s general role in the proceedings.
They had “spent millions” going to court to have Motsoeneng removed from his post, and wanted it noted that Parliament’s failure was a “majority” failure, that is, an ANC failure.
ANC MPs and the smaller parties felt their mandate as an ad hoc committee was to make a pronouncement on Parliament as a whole, and not to politicise the issue.
Mokoena said the public already knew where each party stood, but if it mattered to parties, they could debate the issue in the National Assembly or at the portfolio committee on communications.
Singh said the evidence before the ad hoc committee suggested that Parliament as a whole had failed. They did not have evidence from the portfolio committee on how things had transpired, and so could not take a definitive stance.
Kwankwa and Swart said Parliament must step up to the plate.
The issue went to a vote, and the DA was outvoted.
Van Damme sent out a press statement after the committee wrapped, slamming the ruling party for “absolving their own”.