Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi Photo: GCIS

Parliament - MPs on Tuesday resolved to call legal experts to help them plan what to do with people who potentially lied during an official parliamentary probe into the affairs of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

Parliament's portfolio committee on Communicaitons has been given the responsibility of what to do with a report compiled by Parliament’s Legal Services Unit identifying five people, including cabinet minister Faith Muthambi, as possibly misleading the ad hoc probe.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) wanted criminal charges to be laid against the five - Muthambi, former SABC board chairpersons Mbulahen Maguvhe, Ellen Tshabalala and Ben Ngubane, as well as former company secretary Theresa Geldenhuys.

Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, an MP for the Economic Freeom Fighters (EFF), said this could be a risky move, saying Parliament's lawyers should advise them first.

"We have a lot of power, often more than police stations...in relation to our members and the people who appear in front of us...in our entities that [Powers and Privileges] Act is a very powerful act, so I would want the indulgence of our honourable members here, what is the legal advice to us and then take a decision as to whether we take it to the police station....," he said.

The DA's Phumzile van Damme said she was not opposed to the idea of getting a legal opinion first.

"I was just mentioning that the recommendation was that anyone who violated the Powers and Privileges Act, our instruction from the recommendation of the [SABC inquiry] report is that criminal charges should be laid," said van Damme.

ANC MP Nokuzola Tolashe said lawyers would be best placed to take MPs through the process so end of the day they don't take a "decision that is emotional" but rather legally above-board.

The report from the Parliament's legal unit outlines how Muthambi, in her former portfolio as Communications Minister, may have misled the committee when she denied putting pressure on then board members to appoint her friend, the ever controversial Hlaudi Motsoeneng, as SABC chief operating officer.

If found to be true, it would be a breach of the Powers and Privileges Act.

“In paragraph 23.2.2 [of the SABC inquiry report] reference is made to the Board minutes of 7 July 2014 which appear to contradict the then Minister’s evidence that she did not pressurise the Board to appoint Mr Motsoeneng in the COO position,” the report from Parliament’s lawyers said. 

Maguvhe was also found to have possibly lied when he told the inquiry in December last year he had no knowledge of the firing of the “SABC 8”, the group of journalists who were fired and then rehired after objecting to changing editorial policies at the broadcaster. 

“Ms. Muthambi, however, indicated that Prof Maguvhe himself had led a 5 October 2016 presentation to the Portfolio Committee which included feedback with regard to the labour dispute. This could be indicative of Prof. Maguvhe misleading the Inquiry.”

One of Maguvhe’s predecessors, Ngubane, also the former Eskom chairman, is also on the list in the report.

“The testimony offered by Dr. Ngubane could be seen as an attempt to mislead the inquiry and that false information was presented to the Inquiry.”

Ngubane testified that former CEO Phil Molefe had pursued a contract with rival television station ANN7, a Gupta-owned company, though the contract was signed after Molefe had left the SABC.

The alleged failure of former company secretary Theresa Geldenhuys to table key documents to the ad hoc committee meant she also made it on to the list.

The lawyers suggest a probe be done into former SABC chief financial officer, who has since resigned, James Aguma’s submission of an email stating that a new memorandum of incorporation, which gave Muthambi more powers at the SABC, was in fact authentic. 

While the report stated that no guilty finding had been made against the five, those who give false evidence before a committee could be liable to a fine or jail time not exceeding two years or both.