Johannesburg - Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has slammed under-fire SABC chairwoman Zandile Tshabalala for misrepresenting her academic qualifications, saying her conduct has the potential to discredit the country’s qualifications integrity abroad.
A defiant Tshabalala also hit back at her critics, in particular those in the tripartite alliance, accusing Cosatu and the SACP of having “vested interests” in the SABC.
While she would not elaborate, all Tshabalala would say was that “more is at play”.
Speaking on the sidelines of the the SACP public launch of its latest discussion paper, Nzimande was scathing about Tshabalala, stopping short of calling her a liar.
He was speaking in his capacity as higher education minister.
Nzimande, a close ally of President Jacob Zuma, is one of many senior members of the ANC and the alliance calling for her removal as SABC board chairwoman. One ANC NEC member told The Sunday Independent last week that Tshabalala was “just being silly”.
“It is a serious concern. This thing by the way, of forged qualifications or people claiming qualifications that they do not have, if we don’t rein it in, you know it can discredit our entire education system and our qualifications regime in particular,” said Nzimande.
He said South Africa has mutual recognition of qualifications with many countries.
“We are negotiating now, for instance, with Russia about mutual recognition of qualifications. These doubts begin to be thrown into our system, but we are going to be very tough,” said Nzimande.
He said the portfolio committee on communications needed to settle the matter as soon as possible.
On the portfolio committee’s chairwoman, Joyce Moloi Moropa, who is also the SACP national treasurer, Nzimande said she was not acting on any SACP mandate.
“She’s acting on her mandate as deriving from the ANC,” Nzimande said.
Moloi Moropa and the committee, along with Zuma and Speaker Baleka Mbete, have been taken to court by Tshababala and they are all respondents in her court application.
Tshabalala wants the Western Cape High Court tomorrow to rule on whether a parliamentary inquiry into allegations that she misrepresented her qualifications is admissible as a disciplinary hearing or not, in terms of the Broadcasting Act.
Tshabalala also wants the process before the committee to be postponed until finalisation of the nature of the inquiry.
A source within the ANC’s top six told The Sunday Independent that Tshabalala stood up to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on two occasions in defiance. She has also refused to take advice from the ANC to step down.
“We are concerned about that because, if you ask me, she very clearly doesn’t have the qualifications. She must speak the truth,” said Nzimande.
“Does she have the qualifications? You don’t need an advocate to answer for you? Do you have a B Com or not? From the standpoint of higher education, we are really concerned about this because our system can be discredited,” he charged.
Tshabalala said this week that the matter was more than just her qualifications.
“Who is trying to do what?” asked Tshabalala.
She accused a Sunday newspaper of “digging into my company, where I’m shareholder or I’m a director, and spoke very ill of me”.
“I don’t know what is the plan. But I know for a fact that there are people with a vested interest in some elements of the SABC and they are part and parcel of this thing,” said Tshabalala.
“It has been evident in the newspaper articles that Cosatu wants something. They also made comments. Find out what is their interest in the SABC. What is the interest of the Communist Party?
“There are too many things at play here. But now I am collating evidence and I think in the court they will be unpacked. It’s very surprising he doesn’t understand why. But from my side, for protection of my own name, I will definitely get to the bottom of it. It’s the court only that will give me fair judgment,” said Tshabalala.
Cosatu and the SACP released a joint statement earlier last month slamming Tshabalala and calling on her to produce evidence of her qualifications or to step down immediately.
“Tshabalala, save our country and the SABC from this rather embarrassing and shameful spectacle,” the two urged in a joint statement.
Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
The DA said it had found new evidence that proved Tshabalala did not have one of the qualifications she claimed to have.
DA communications spokesman Gavin Davis said last week that the party had enlisted the services of a company to check Tshabalala’s qualifications against the National Qualifications Register, a process referred to as “background screening”.
Tshabalala dismissed the DA’s claim, saying the company mentioned by the party had never been in contact with the DA.
“They want to be totally divorced from the topic,” said Tshabalala.