Communications minister Faith Muthambi has “noted with disgust” media reports on the removal of three SABC board members in terms of which she has been accused by a parliamentary legal team of acting unlawfully.
“First and foremost and most important to note is that the minister does not participate in board meetings where such decisions are processed, and in this case, in the board meeting where such decisions were taken, the minister neither sat nor participated,” Muthambi said in a statement issued by her spokesman, Ayanda Hollow.
“The minister received the recommendations of the board and exercised her oversight by, among others, verifying whether the provisions of the governing legislations and instruments outlining the processes have been adhered to,” the statement said.
“The ministry will want to categorically indicate that the minister is fully adept with the provisions of both the governing legislation and instruments that direct and govern the operations of the public broadcaster.
“Although the minister of communications is the sole shareholder as prescribed by the Broadcasting Act, she does not and will not interfere with SABC board operations and decisions on any matter, since the minister does not micro-manage the SABC, but only ratifies lawful decisions taken by the board.”
On Tuesday, TechCentral reported that parliament’s constitutional and legal services unit had found that Muthambi effectively acted unlawfully when she threatened SABC board members with removal and again when she removed them.
In a statement, parliament’s portfolio committee on communications said any removal of an SABC board member that is not effected in line with the provision of the Broadcasting Act is “invalid and unlawful”.
The committee resolved to discuss the matter further with Muthambi.
Democratic Alliance MP Gavin Davis welcomed the legal opinion. “We have said all along that the minister acted irrationally and unlawfully,” he said.
Davis said that among the findings were that the SABC board had no power to remove one of its members. It also may not conduct an inquiry into a board member’s fitness to hold office. Only the president, acting upon the recommendations of the parliamentary committee, can remove a board member.
The legal opinion sought by parliament found that the Broadcasting Act supersedes the Companies Act when it came to the SABC board.
But in her statement on Wednesday, Muthambi reiterated her view that the removal of the board members was in accordance with the provisions of section 71 of the Companies Act. This, she insisted, “is the governing legislation applied in conjunction with the memorandum of incorporation”.
“The decision of the board to remove some board members is therefore the decision that the board arrived at following their own internal due process without any alleged interference from the minister,” the statement said.
“In the interest of the people of South Africa, the minister will support any endeavour by the public broadcaster that will ensure that the public broadcaster is stable and shall effectively and efficiently discharge its mandate. In this case, the minister supported the decision of the board to remove the board members following their due process as she found nothing untoward in the process followed.” — (c) 2015 NewsCentral Media