COMMUNICATIONS Minister Faith Muthambi has set the cat among the pigeons in Parliament by defending the SABC’s R411 million loss and insisting the current three-member board can take binding decisions despite not having a quorum.
MPs in the National Council of Provinces were struggling to understand Muthambi’s answers that three members of a dysfunctional board have the powers to take decisions.
Muthambi argued in the House yesterday the SABC board was governed by both the Broadcasting Act and Companies Act.
For the board to form a quorum and take decisions, it must have nine members.
But so far, nine of the 12 members of the board, who were non-executive directors, have quit the public broadcaster.
Muthambi said while the Broadcasting Act calls for a quorum the Companies Act said the board did not need a quorum to take decisions.
She said the Companies Act trumped the Broadcasting Act, and the current three-member board was using the Companies Act to make decisions.
However, she would not say what decisions have been taken since most of the members have resigned.
Opposition MPs questioned Muthambi’s explanation.
IFP MP Muntomuhle Khawula said Muthambi was fishing for answers, that three members of the board have powers to take decisions.
DA MP Chris Hattingh said he hoped Muthambi did not get advice from SABC head of corporate affairs, Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Muthambi insisted the board was within its rights to take decisions.
“The SABC board has been sitting and taking decisions because the Companies Act takes precedence over the Broadcasting Act,” said Muthambi.
She said decisions taken by the board were valid.
But the portfolio committee on communications warned that the board could not take any decisions since it did not have a quorum. It is facing an inquiry.
The inquiry will begin next Tuesday in the National Assembly, and will last for three days.
Of the R411m loss suffered by the SABC in the 2015/16 financial year, Muthambi said the money was lost during the coverage of the local government elections and unplanned national events such as funerals and sporting events.
Muthambi proceeded to defend the appointment of Motsoeneng despite his lack of qualifications.
She said that while she was not involved in his reappointment despite a Supreme Court of Appeal judgment, the SABC had made the appointment.
She refused to discuss recent attacks by Motsoeneng on ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu.
Hattingh wanted to know if Motsoeneng could face disciplinary action for his conduct.
“You will remember that the SABC is governed by the Broadcasting Act, an act of Parliament, and the SABC is run by the board and executive management,” Muthambi said.
“My role as minister is oversight of the SABC.”
The SABC has been in chaos for the past two years, with infighting in the board leading to the resignations and axing of nine of the 12 non-executive directors of the board.