Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane File picture: Antoine de Ras/The Star

Parliament – Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says the SABC has defied her office on remedial actions that include the appointment of controversial former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and salary increases that drained R29 million from the coffers of the cash-strapped public broadcaster.

These details emerged on Wednesday after a widely criticised walkout by an SABC delegation on the first day of the parliamentary inquiry set up to investigate the viability of its board.

Mkhwebane said very few of the remedial actions recommended by her predecessor from a 2014 report were implemented.

The report had deemed a lot of senior appointments, including that of Motsoeneng, irregular and recommended disciplinary action. The increase in salaries, which amounted to R29m was deemed wasteful expenditure.

“We feel that they defied all remedial action and we cannot allow a situation where there are remedial actions, but certain departments are not complying.

“We have highlighted this as the undermining the public protector,” charged Mkhwebane.

The drama that earned Mkhwebane’s ire unfolded at a sitting of the ad hoc committee proceedings yesterday when the public broadcaster’s sole board member, Professor Mbulaheni Maguvhe, walked out, accompanied by Motsoeneng and acting chief executive officer James Aguma and their legal team.

This follows endless delays to the hearing, which began with the news that Maguvhe had launched an 11th-hour appeal motion in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday to set aside Judge Siraj Desai’s decision to dismiss his initial application to halt the inquiry.

Maguvhe approached the court on the basis that some members of the committee were biased against him and that the inquiry would not be a fair and just one. But Judge Desai dismissed this.

On Wednesday, members of the committee blasted Maguvhe’s actions, calling them delaying tactics and a “disgusting” and “pathetic” move to once again delay proceedings.

“This is nothing but a pathetic attempt to delay proceedings,” said the DA’s Phumzile van Damme.

In a statement, ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu’s office called the stunt pulled by the SABC’s delegation disgusting.

He added that he was shocked by the disrespect and contemptuous behaviour of the SABC delegation.

“The walkout and the irrational request by Maguvhe and other SABC representatives are the latest in a series of stalling tricks aimed at frustrating the work of the ad hoc committee,” a statement said.

“The utter disrespect that the SABC chairman and his lackeys continue to demonstrate against Parliament represents a serious attack against these public institutions and the people of South Africa.”

In an attempt to explain why they walked out, Maguvhe said he was not against the inquiry taking place, he just objected to being bullied for demanding what was right.

“The attitude that prevailed (on Wednesday) as the inquiry was commencing was very negative and hostile, and as the chairperson I felt bullied, I felt belittled and disrespected,” he said.

“Subjecting myself to an inquiry where it is crystal clear my rights won’t be respected serves no purpose.

“The inquiry has commenced and I was also told that I have the right to witness statements, and I don’t have those statements as we speak.

“I feel my constitutional rights are being violated. I am not happy with how things are unfolding.

“I am not stalling the process, I need documents. It’s my right. I don’t need to be bullied. They should lead by example and not belittle, intimidate and bully.”

Lawyers representing Maguvhe also indicated that he was not willing to appear before a committee that was “poisoned” and disrespectful of his rights.

In response to Maguvhe’s claims, the committee’s chairperson, Vincent Smith, said his utterances were unfounded.

“This issue about not respecting him because he is partially blind and needs Braille it is a delaying tactic and we must call it as it is and we reject it with the contempt it demands,” he said.

“Parliament will summons him if needs be, and I don’t think it is his call to decide,” Smith added.

The Star