Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications will meet later today to discuss timeframes involved in reconvening an inquiry into qualifications held by the SABC board chairwoman, Ellen Tshabalala.
This followed a ruling by Western Cape High Court judge Elizabeth Baartman. She dismissed a court challenge by Tshabalala and her high-priced lawyer, Norman Arendse, obtained an interim interdict preventing parliament’s inquiry from taking place. They asked the court to determine whether the inquiry proceedings were a disciplinary hearing or not.
The judge said in her ruling that the “declaratory relief” sought by Tshabalala “does not accord with the plain meaning and context of the Act which a parliamentary process is envisaged. Evidently, the rules of natural justice must apply to the process”. She refused the application.
Democratic Alliance shadow minister of communications, Gavin Davis, said he ruling vindicated the parliamentary process and was a “victory for common sense”.
“The Judge saw Ms. Tshabalala’s delaying tactics for what they were. The Portfolio Committee now has a clear mandate from the courts to continue with the Inquiry into Ms. Tshabalala’s qualifications,” he said in a statement.
The Economic Freedom Fighters said Tshabalala had “sought to undermine the parliamentary process” with her court action. “Tshabalala wanted to use the courts to delay justice and further cover up her lies after being given adequate time to respond to the basic question on proof of her qualifications,” the party said in a statement.
The issue of Tshabalala’s qualifications – or lack of – was exposed by City Press newspaper in July. The newspaper published a story in which it claimed Tshabalala had neither a bachelor’s degree in commerce or a diploma in labour relations, as alleged in her CV. Davis then requested the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications, of which he is a member, investigate the allegations.
Chairwoman of the committee, Joyce Moloi-Moropa, asked Tshabalala to respond either admitting or denying the allegations. Tshabalala in turn said copies of the documents were lost in a burglary that took place in 2001 or 2002. She said the University of South Africa (Unisa), where she said she’d studied, has “not been able to furnish me with any detail of my true statement of results”. However, the committee said it had received correspondence from Unisa saying it had not awarded academic qualifications to Tshabalala.
This led to the committee scheduling an inquiry into the allegations that Tshabalala had misrepresented her qualifications when applying for the role of chairwoman of the board.
“Ms. Tshabalala has been given ample time to explain why there is no record of her having obtained the qualifications that appear on her CV. We trust that she will now co-operate with the Inquiry so that justice can be served and we can move on with getting the SABC back on track,” said Davis.
The judge, in her ruling, said she accepted the findings of the committee could have “far-reaching consequences, even removal from office” on Tshabalala. She said the notice of hearing sent to Tshabalala by the committee, outlining the charges and her recourse, complied with the rules of natural justice. She said Tshabalala had received all the documentation she had requested, with the exception of the letter from Unisa to the committee, something she called “gross oversight” on the part of the committee. Once that was done, Tshabalala’s “rights will not be compromised in the pending hearing”.
“All members of the Committee agree on the need to deal with the matter expeditiously and we will meet later today to discuss time frames for the Inquiry,” Davis said. He added that the cross party support on the need for the inquiry was “a refreshing development in a Parliament often characterised by petty politicking. We hope that all parties will reach consensus on other similar matters involving SABC Board Members.”
Story updated with comment from the EFF.
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