Former SABC board chairperson Ellen Tshabalala testified at a parliamentary inquiry into the affairs of the broadcaster. File picture: Paballo Thekiso/Independent Media
Johannesburg – The South African Communist Party on Saturday threatened legal action against former SABC board chairwoman Ellen Tshabalala for making baseless allegations against the party to a parliamentary committee.

The SACP dismissed "with contempt the baseless allegation of interference levelled against the party" by Tshabalala on Friday before the parliamentary ad hoc committee investigating the governance decay and consequent collapse of good governance at the SABC, the SACP said in a statement.

"Ellen Tshabalala made the allegation, which she failed to substantiate, while she was under oath. The SACP strictly reserves its rights in law and will take her head-on legally. The disgraced former chairperson of the SABC who has lost due credibility still did not see any problem with lying.

"It is very clear that she fabricated the allegation because she harbours a grudge against the SACP. The SACP has played a resolute role and remains consistent in exposing and campaigning against corporate capture at the SABC, including the transfer of the public broadcaster's archives and associated programming influence or control to a private company MultiChoice, a subsidiary of Naspers, a colonial-era mouthpiece of the Broederbond, an ideological vanguard organisation of apartheid," it said.

"As the champion of democratic media transformation, and in this regard through its campaign to save the SABC from the governance decay that had been destroying the public broadcaster, the SACP had played a widely recognised decisive role publicly challenging Tshabalala to produce copies of the qualifications that she claimed to have obtained from the University of South Africa (Unisa) or failing which to resign or be removed for misinterpretation of facts leading to her appointment to the SABC board and to the position of chairwoman. In her CV that she submitted for her appointment, Tshabalala claimed that she graduated from Unisa with a BCom degree and a postgraduate diploma in labour relations."

President Jacob Zuma repeated the claim in his statement announcing her appointment "on merit" including the qualifications.

It however emerged in a letter by Unisa responding to a media inquiry under the Promotion of Access to Information Act that according to the university's records no qualification was awarded to Tshabalala. This was not the first time.

According to media reports in 2011 Mercedes Benz had requested confirmation of her qualifications from Unisa when she applied for a job at the company and the university informed an intermediary that she failed to attain the qualifications she claimed, the SACP said.

Tshabalala's failure to produce proof of the qualifications and public campaigning by, among others the SACP, calling for an inquiry into her claims culminated in Parliament's communications portfolio committee initiating the inquiry. She was subsequently found guilty of misconduct.

"The committee found that she lied to Parliament about her qualifications and that she further lied in a sworn affidavit that she submitted to Parliament in lieu of her academic records claiming that she lost her qualification certificates.

In response she claimed that there was a political agenda behind the finding.

Meanwhile, she continuously failed to produce proof for the qualifications – until now. A case of fraud must actually be brought against her in this regard.

"Ellen Tshabalala never bothered to mention any of these facts on Friday when asked why she resigned from the SABC. Instead she blamed the media for the so-called negative reports about her and repeated her unfounded allegation that there were political leaders who did not want her to be appointed to the SABC board. She further stated that the then chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee Joyce Moloi-Moropa, who is the national treasurer of the SACP, refused to give her attention when she approached her about the allegation on not having qualifications. The SACP congratulates Joyce Moloi-Moropa for doing the right thing. She refused to offer political interference," the SACP said.

Tshabalala suggested to the ad hoc committee that it was wrong for Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande to comment publicly about the process of digital migration.

Nzimande was the general secretary of the SACP and in terms of party's constitution it was his duty to publicly represent the party's decisions and express its perspectives.

The party's and the general secretary's rights to freedom of expression were provided for and protected in the country's Constitution. Exercising the rights by commenting publicly on the affairs of the SABC – the public broadcaster – and the country's communications policy, including digital migration, did not constitute political interference.

"The SACP will continue to publicly expose wrongdoing at the SABC and elsewhere at any of our public institutions, entities, and across our economy without any fear or favour," the statement said.