Cape Town - An opinion from parliamentary legal advisers on Communications Minister Faith Muthambi’s interpretation of legislation governing the SABC has been handed to Speaker of Parliament, Baleka Mbete.
The chairwoman of Parliament’s communications portfolio committee, Joyce Moloi-Moropa, confirmed on Saturday that the opinion, which she sought after Muthambi responded to questions from MPs relating to the removal of members of the SABC board last month, had been handed to herself and the Speaker.
She said it was now the property of the Speaker as head of the institution and she would be directed by Mbete on the way forward.
This comes after the SABC board removed three members – Hope Zinde, Rachel Kalidass and Ronnie Lubisi in two meetings last month.
Section 15 of the Broadcasting Act says board members may be removed only by the “appointing body” on account of “misconduct or inability to perform his or her duties efficiently after due inquiry and upon recommendation by the board”.
The president appoints board members after a public nomination, shortlisting and recommendation process handled by the portfolio committee. Commentators have argued this means Parliament and the president are the appointing body mentioned in the act.
But Muthambi argued before the committee that the Companies Act empowered the board to remove a member, provided its procedures had been followed.
“I want to put it on record that the board members have complied and (Zinde) was afforded an opportunity to explain her conduct, in writing and orally,” Muthambi said.
Acting board chairman Obert Maguvhe said due procedure had been followed in removing Zinde.
“The matter is closed. From our side, once we remove a person, they are removed. If she strongly believes she has a case, she can go to the courts as her next step,” Maguvhe said.
Kalidass and Lubisi were removed only after the meeting of the portfolio committee.
Members of the portfolio committee challenged Muthambi on her understanding of the law, arguing that the public broadcaster could not be understood as an ordinary state-owned company and the Companies Act could therefore not trump the Broadcasting Act.
Moloi-Moropa closed the meeting by saying she would seek a legal opinion.
Zinde and Kalidass have disputed the validity of their removal.
“I was shocked to learn from the media that I have been removed from the SABC board,” Zinde said.
She had not been served with any documentation or informed of her removal, she said.
She said she had been accused of divulging board matters that she was not mandated to discuss at the ANC communications stakeholder lekgotla.
Kalidass told Business Day the removals were motivated by malice and amounted to a purge.
On March 30, the Presidency said President Jacob Zuma had “noted the issues”.
“The president, who appoints members of the SABC board on the advice of the National Assembly, views stability and good corporate governance at the SABC as being of paramount importance. He is looking into the matter with a view to finding a solution.”