Former public protector Thuli Madonsela will not be able to give evidence before parliament’s ad hoc committee looking into the SABC board, as she will be travelling during the hearing dates.
The committee met for the first time on Tuesday to begin its work of scrutinising the fitness of the SABC board to hold office.
Chairman Vincent Smith informed the committee that six witnesses from their list of approximately 30 had indicated that they would not be able to give testimony during the two weeks set down for hearings.
Smith said they had attempted to contact Madonsela a further three times after she initially declined, but have not heard back from her yet due to her travels.
The other five are former SABC employees and board members: former group CEO Jimi Matthews; former board members Thembinkosi Bonakele and Nomvuyo Mhlakaza; former employee Verona Durwakhah; and former audit executive Lorraine Francois.
Matthews said he would also be travelling during the hearing dates.
Bonakele and Mhlakaza said they would add little to the process as they are no longer board members.
Durwakhah is currently involved in a dispute with the broadcaster at the labour court. Francois said her work requires 100% confidentiality.
Twenty-four other witnesses were successfully contacted by parliament’s evidence leader, and will appear before the committee. Four members of the “SABC 8” will appear as one group.
Smith informed the committee that witness testimonies would have to be postponed by a week, as SABC chairman Mbulaheni Maguvhe had filed for an emergency interdict over the weekend.
Maguvhe, who is the last remaining board member, cited “bias and prejudice” from opposition MPs Phumzile Van Damme, Floyd Shivambu and Liesl van der Merwe.
Smith told the committee that parliament’s lawyers would argue the merits of Maguvhe’s case on Friday in the Western Cape high court.
He was confident that the court would rule in their favour, and in that event, the committee will be “ready to roll” 24 hours later.
The SABC also failed to deliver pertinent documents to the committee by the requested date, 21 November, he said.
MPs registered their displeasure at the SABC’s failure to comply and said the committee needs to use all the tools it can to release the requested documents.
Another issue raised by MPs was current public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s desire to have three staff members testify on behalf of her office in camera.
The Democratic Alliance’s Van Damme said her predecessor Madonsela’s 2014 report on the SABC, When Governance and Ethics Fail, was a public document, and they should therefore defend it publicly and not behind closed doors.
Economic Freedom Fighters MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said it was disrespectful of Mkhwebane to try and dictate to the committee regarding the interview processes.
Smith described the start of the process as the beginning of a marathon, a seemingly daunting task that would ultimately be fulfilling.
The committee has until 15 December to compile a report and present it before the national assembly.