The arrogance of the “one-person board” of the SABC needs to be nipped in the bud, ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu believes.
“Some people have become too arrogant. Too arrogant to tell Parliament how it must do its work. We cannot agree to such arrogance. Utter arrogance from somebody who needs to be hurled before parliament, who is sitting there illegally,” he said on Thursday.
Mthembu, speaking to Parliament’s programming committee, was referring to SABC board chairman Obert Maguvhe, who has applied for an interdict to stop an inquiry into the board.
Maguvhe applied for a high court interdict on the grounds that some members on the committee were “prejudiced” against him.
This has led to a delay in the work of the SABC board ad hoc committee, which did not sit well with MPs.
Parliament and the Democratic Alliance are opposing the application.
Mthembu said the committee could not have people over whom they had oversight deciding who among them should be allowed to hold them accountable — and when and how.
“It just can’t happen in this world. I don’t know why would parliament get cold feet when people get to court? Before you even have an interdict, you decide not to continue with work that is before you,” Mthembu said.
There was no interdict yet, Mthembu said, so what was stopping the committee from working?
He said some people would try anything, no matter how spurious their applications might be.
“I have read that application. it’s very spurious. I don’t see any judge in this country adhering to this request by the SABC board of one person.”
In future, Mthembu continued, parliament should not be stopped by flimsy applications, especially when it was on the right side of the law.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen agreed with Mthembu, saying it would set a very dangerous precedent for people to decide who could hold them accountable.
He also made fun of the contents of the application, questioning the lawyers’ credibility.
“The papers are very poorly drafted — don’t know if that lawyer got his degree on the Internet. I wouldn’t get him to represent me on an uncontested divorce case.”
The board chairman was trying to attack individual members of the committee, Steenhuisen said, and he hoped “he got a hiding in court”.
“I hope their lawyer is embarrassed to go back to law school.”
Inkatha Freedom Party MP Narend Singh, who serves on the SABC ad hoc committee, said the decision to postpone their work was taken in deference to the courts.
Parliament’s legal team said it was the court order that required them to give the courts an opportunity to make a decision.
Mthembu also requested that the office of the chief whip help the SABC ad hoc committee with their request to “any other office” that had been asked to appear in front of the committee.
He would not mention which offices, but merely called for the office to persuade “some good offices in our country to support this action of parliament”.
The work of parliament was always transparent, he said.
“We don’t do work behind closed doors. There are some who have made these requests that they would like to do this under certain conditions.”
This follows new public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s response to the committee’s request for her to appear.
Mkhwebane reportedly said it was her prerogative to decide if she should come to Parliament, and that three staff members could speak on her behalf, provided it was “in camera”.