File photo: Independent Media

JOHANNESBURG - One of the candidates vying to become a member of the SABC board yesterday came under fire after she was accused of corruption while at a state-owned regulatory body.

Nomvuyiso Batyi, who is a former councillor of Icasa, was among 12 candidates interviewed on the second day and last day of interviews. Batyi was initially in control of the interview until Cope's Willie Madisha pulled out the ghost from her past. 

"I put it to you that you believe in corruption and unless you prove and give me the antithesis of this, I remain with that kind of belief," Madisha said. He then referred to article by the Sunday Times which had reported that former communications minister Faith Muthambi had allegedly unduly influenced Batyi by offering her the position of chairperson at Icasa in return for awarding a television licence to a Gupta-linked company. At the time it was reported that Batyi had threatened legal action against Muthambi over her failure to appoint her as the chairperson. Yesterday, Madisha said her failure to report Muthambi to the police was proof she was corrupt.

Batyi confirmed she had instituted legal proceedings against the former minister, which she had later abandoned. "There was no need to go to the police. There was no fraud that happened,” Batyi said. “No one was licenced during that time – so I have never been corrupt and I will never be corrupt," she said.

"I hold myself highly and ethically in everything I do," she said. But, Madisha would hear none of that saying her failure to act against Muthambi "is a major problem".
Batyi insisted that she had taken legal action, but had abandoned it due to the high cost involved. "There was an offer that was made for chairperson of Icasa and it was withdrawn the same day,'" she said. 

The DA's Phumzile van Damme told Batyi that the committee wanted board members who have a backbone of steel and could stand against unethical conduct.
She questioned why she had not reported the alleged offer for the post of chairperson in return for a licence for the  Guptas to oversight bodies like Parliament after abandoning her legal action.

"You let it go despite political pressure, despite undue pressure and illegality. You did nothing to pursue the matter," she said. Van Damme also said parliamentarians relied on board members to raise instances of illegal actions at entities. 

"Why must we trust you?" "The story that there was pressure on me to licence a Gupta-linked entity is not true. I was given a letter that complied with Icasa legislation," she said.

MPs tried to impress on her that she could either "redeem or implicate herself". "I never met with the minister. Whatever appeared in news was not discussed with me.," she said, adding that she had received the letter a day before the December 2015 cabinet reshuffle. She insisted that the letter had set out no conditions for the appointment that had not taken place. Batyi assured the MPs that she would not allow political interference if she was appointed to SABC board.

"I will be able to stand pressure from anyone and I have been able to in the last couple of years," she said. Earlier Batyi told the committee about how, while she was at Icasa, she had stood her ground against Muthambi when she introduced a memorandum of incorporation (MOI) at entities. “Icasa wrote and ...said, ‘No, the MOI is changing the legislative framework’,  and we ended not signing it,”she said.

- POLITICS HUB