Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi and former SABC board chairman Mbulaheni Maguvhe. File photo: Jeffrey Abrahams/Independent Media

Cape Town - Parliament has taken a hard line against SABC lawyers who penned a letter demanding answers from the ad hoc committee probe into the SABC.

The committee on Tuesday also insisted that former SABC board chairperson Mbulaheni Maguvhe must pay legal costs for his case last year, where he challenged the inquiry into the public broadcaster.

Chairperson of the committee Vincent Smith said this was in line with the judgment of Judge Siraj Desai of the Western Cape High Court.

It is estimated that the legal bill for Maguvhe will run into hundreds of thousands of rand, although it was reported last year that Maguvhe’s bill was expected to rise to R2 million.

Turning to the lawyers, who advised Maguvhe and the SABC not to hand over documents, Smith said they will deal with the lawyers.

He asked lawyers for Parliament to deal with the letter from the lawyers, explaining that they were acting on the instructions of the SABC.

The committee has criticised the lawyers for giving the SABC bad advice.

Smith said: “We will not be dictated to as Parliament. We will respond appropriately as Parliament, and we are saying we are dropping this with the legal team.”

The SABC lawyers were last week accused of giving bad legal advice after the public broadcaster refused to hand over “commercially sensitive” documents. The lawyers also represented Maguvhe in his case against Parliament.

The ad hoc committee insisted that the judgment was clear that he must pay legal costs from his own pocket.

The SABC board disintegrated after infighting that lasted three years.

Maguvhe was the last board member to go after he lost his court challenge in December.

He had succeeded Ellen Zandile Tshabalala, who quit in December 2015 after a scandal ovder her qualifications.

Tshabalala had taken over from Ben Ngubane, who left in March 2013 after more infighting in the board.

The financial situation at the SABC has also been a subject of recommendations by the ad hoc committee.

The committee said the new members of the interim board must immediately investigate malpractices, fraud and corruption at the SABC.

They also want the interim board to implement the findings of the public protector.

Then-public protector Thuli Madonsela published her report into governance at the SABC in February 2014.

In it she accused then-chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng of purging staff members and inflating his salary by 63%.

The ad hoc committee said it would finalise its draft report by the end of the week.

It will give it to implicated parties so that they are able to respond to the allegations against them.

Meanwhile, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi’s attempts to amend the Broadcasting Act to give her more powers on SABC board matters could be clipped.

This followed the proposed recommendations by the ad hoc committee yesterday to curtail Muthambi’s powers.

The Broadcasting Amendment Bill is currently in limbo in Parliament with the portfolio committee on communications getting legal advice on it.

During deliberations in the ad hoc committee on the SABC, MPs came out strongly against the minister and also her stance on the Companies Act superseding the Broadcasting Act.

EFF MP Fana Mokoena said they would not allow Muthambi to get more powers on the SABC.

He said the ad hoc committee must recommend in the draft report that the minister cannot have the final word on the act, and that area was reserved for Parliament.

Hlomane Chauke of the ANC said the National Assembly will decide on what happens to the Bill.

“The portfolio committee on communications has the power to reject the Broadcasting Amendment Bill,” Chauke said.

Political Bureau