The Committee met for the adoption of the draft report on the SABC inquiry.
Firstly, the Committee noted the intimidation and attacks that the “SABC 8” continued to be subjected to. All parties condemned this strongly and agreed that the Minister of Police and SAPS should update the Committee on their progress in relation to the investigations of these attacks.
There was a bit of debate on whether the Minister of Communication was silent in response to the former Board Chairperson and the SABC's senior management's contempt for Parliament and the parliamentary process. Some felt that she had been silent and others pointed out that she was not but that her response was inadequate. The Committee agreed to to look at the transcript and decide on the way forward on this matter.
There was a lengthy discussion on whether Parliament or the majority of Members in the Portfolio Committee on Communications that should be blamed for failing to conduct an adequate oversight over the SABC Board. The DA was clear that the report should state that “the majority of Members in the Portfolio Committee on Communications” as the reason the inquiry was formulated in the first place was because of DA’s long effort to bring about accountability within the SABC Board. The reality was that the ANC Members in the Portfolio Committee repeatedly blocked efforts by the Members of the opposition parties to hold accountable. The DA argued that it had worked extremely hard to ensure that there was level of accountability within SABC and this including delivering motions, writing statements and spending millions going to court. Other Members diasgreed with this view and said that the entire Portfolio Committee on Communications and Parliament should be held accountable and take collective responsibility for the decline at the SABC. The matter was put to a vote and the majority supported the position that Parliament should be held accountable for failure to hold the SABC to account.
The Committee had initially agreed to include the recommendations in the Interim Report but then there was a proposal that it should be excluded. The Parliamentary Legal Adviser was asked to give an opinion on the matter. She advised that it would be "problematic" to include the recommendations in the draft report as this could be seen as pre-judging the matter. It was critical important to have all facts and consider all the information before a decision is made on the recommendations. The DA stated that the decision not to include the recommendations was a "political ploy" by the ANC to shield people from accountability. The DA added that the ANC MPs were taking instructions from Luthuli House and the Committee’s provisional recommendations were already public knowledge. In their view, it was clear that on hearing these proposed recommendations, the ANC got cold feet and pulled back after stellar nonpartisan conduct during the course of the SABC inquiry. The ANC rejected the DA’s criticism. It argued that it was safer for Parliament to allow the affected parties to correct whatever that was wrong or inaccurate in the report and then the Committee could discuss final recommendations once it had received comments on the draft report. The matter was put to a vote and the majority of Members voted for the recommendations not to be included in the final draft report.
The Committee adopted the draft report with amendments.
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson welcomed everyone in the meeting and indicated that the purpose of the meeting today would be to clean up and adopt the report. It was possible that there might some disagreements on a number of areas. The Committee would also consider some of the written submissions that had been submitted by other Members. The legal opinion from the legal team would inform the Committee on where the draft report should be directed to after its adoption.
Intimidation of SABC 8
Ms P Van Damme (DA) suggested that the Committee should note the intimidation that had been subjected to the so called SABC 8 after Ms Suna Venter was shot in the face with an air rifle. The Committee should come out strongly and condemn the attacks and intimidations that are clearly targeting the SABC8. The Committee should also consult South African Police Service in order to hear the progress in relation to these intimidations and attacks.
Mr N Singh (IFP) also highlighted that the Committee should urge the relevant authorities to speed up the process of investigation into these intimidations. The Committee made it clear that there had to be some form of protection for all the witnesses that had appeared in this inquiry.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) proposed that there should be a risk assessment undertaken to get to the bottom of these attacks and intimidations. This risk assessment would also be used to determine if personal security was perhaps necessary to protect and provide safety to these individuals.
Mr H Chauke (ANC) mentioned that perhaps the Committee should also write to the Minister of Police so that there could be a prompt intervention by the police to address this problem of intimidations and attacks that are clearly targeted at the SABC 8.
Mr M Waters (DA) also expressed concern about the fact that the journalists who appeared in this inquiry were not being protected while Mr Motsoeneng was protected by ten bodyguards. The Committee should be briefed by the police including the National Commissioner on what was happening around the investigations. It looked like a bunch of thugs or mafia had taken over SABC in an attempt to keep control of this organisation.
Ms J Kilian (ANC) stated that the Minister of Police should appear before the Committee before the inquiry is concluded and everything is directed to the Portfolio Committee on Communications.
The Chairperson responded that he would write a letter to the Minister of Police in order to request an update on the investigation that was being undertaken in regard to the intimidations and attacks on these journalists.
Deliberations on Interim Committee report
The Chairperson asked Members to give their input on the report.
Prof N Khubisa (NFP) wanted to know the difference between the highlighted and the underlined parts in report as this was not clearly explained.
The Chairperson responded that the underlined and the highlighted simply meant there are additions that had been made in the report. Those parts that had been stretched through are those where there are deletions that had been made. It was noted that the Committee added “certain chapter 9 institutions” on 2.4.1 in page 4 as requested by Ms Kilian
Ms Kilian suggested that the word “revealed” on 7.2.4 in page 32 should be changed to “stated” or “indicated” in order to avoid any ambiguity.
Members agreed with the suggestion.
Ms Van Damme pointed out that 9.1.5 needed to be reworded to clearly reflect that journalists and editors were discouraged from covering election campaigns of opposition parties and not only the EFF.
Ms F Loliwe (ANC) also agreed with the sentiment that the report should rather say opposition parties than singling out specific parties.
Mr F Mokoena (EFF) said that the evidence that was provided made a specific reference to the EFF and not the other opposition parties and this was something that needed to be taken into consideration.
The Chairperson proposed that Mr Mokoena should draft a brief sentence in regard to the issue that had been flagged and this would be discussed in the meeting later on.
Mr Mokoena finally decided that it was not necessary to name a particular political party as long as it clearly made reference to the opposition parties.
Ms Van Damme commented that the draft report should have a specific short paragraph that would talk to the issue of intimidations and attacks on the SABC 8.
Mr Singh asked if the report had observed or noted the three SABC Board members who contested their dismissal in court as this was also an important issue.
Mr Mokoena wanted to know if the Committee should make a specific reference to Mr Motsoeneng or just say “specific individuals” in 9.1.5. It must be highlighted that Mr Calata made a specific reference to Mr Motsoeneng during the hearing.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would need to come back to this matter at a later stage.
Mr Swart proposed that the bullet point 12.2.3 in page 42 should be reworded to read as follow: In this regard, the funding model is of concern, particularly in light of the SABC’s mandate as a public entity and a commercial enterprise. The corporation may be at risk of becoming technically insolvent. It must be explained that “technically insolvent” basically means that the liabilities at SABC at the moment far exceeded the assets or cash flow and revenue remained the biggest challenge.
Dr M Khoza (ANC) suggested that the word “evidence” on the second paragraph in bullet point 12.2.3 should be deleted as already contained in the first paragraph and this was mainly to avoid tautology.
Members agreed with the proposal.
Ms Loliwe pointed out that the name of the company that was hired by SABC to specialise on internal audit was SekelaXabiso instead of SabeloXabisa.
Ms Van Damme indicated that the last paragraph in bullet point 15.2.1 on page 46 should clearly stipulate that the attacks and acts of victimisation of the “SABC 8” continued throughout most of the inquiry.
Members agreed with the proposal.
Mr Swart suggested that there should be an insertion of “serious concern” in bullet point 15.2.2 on page 46 and this was to highlight the gravity of the problem where the State Security Agency (SSA) was reported to have been monitoring or even intercepting communication between employees at SABC.
Mr Singh proposed that the report should stipulate that the Board had gone to great lengths to avoid implementing the Public Protector’s remedial action. They instead relied on a legal opinion by a firm of attorneys.
Members agreed with the proposed addition.
Mr Singh then wanted to find out whether the SABC Board had agreed to take the Public Protector’s report on review.
The Chairperson clarified that the SABC Board had on 19 April 2016, almost two years after the report was released, agreed to take the report on review.
Mr Swart wanted to find out if the Minister of Communications was silent in response to the former Board Chairperson and the SABC's senior management's contempt for Parliament and a parliamentary process. In essence, this is to determine if the Minister responded after the whole matter that clearly depicted grotesque disregard of Parliament. This was to avoid creating the impression that the Minister did not respond to the matter.
The Chairperson recalled that the Minister was not silent when SABC Board members staged a walk-out of the hearing on 7 December 2016. She did respond on the matter and the Committee could perhaps just highlight that the response was not adequate.
Mr Mokoena maintained that the Minister did not practically do anything on the matter and this must be made precise in the report.
Mr Swart stated that it would be incorrect to say that the Minister was silent on the issue as she did offer a response.
The Chairperson proposed that the best route to take is to look at the transcript and decide on the way forward on this matter.
The Chairperson then moved on and stated that the Committee would decide on whether it is Parliament or the majority of Members in the Portfolio Committee on Communications that should be blamed for failing to conduct an adequate oversight over the SABC Board.
Mr H Chauke (ANC) responded that Portfolio Committee on Communications and Parliament were identified as having failed to conduct oversight over the SABC Board.
Dr Khoza added that the entire Portfolio Committee on Communications and Parliament should be held accountable for the decline that had been witnessed at SABC. It was pointless to say that the majority of Members had failed to hold the SABC accountable.
Ms Loliwe pointed out that the delegated Committee did not conduct adequate oversight over the SABC and this should be highlighted in the report. The intention of having the hearing was also to promote unity and it would not be proper to single out particular individuals.
Mr J Mahlangu (ANC) said that the convention is that Parliament or the Portfolio Committee on Communications should take a collective responsibility on this matter.
Ms Kilian proposed that Parliament should take collective responsibility in this instance.
Prof Khubisa said that it was Parliament and the Portfolio Committee on Communications should be held accountable for the failure that had been witnessed at SABC.
Mr Swart commented that it must also be stipulated that it was not every Member in the Portfolio Committee on Communications that failed to hold the SABC Board accountable.
Mr Mokoena mentioned that there was no documented evidence that some Members of the Portfolio Committee on Communications tried to ensure that the SABC Board was being held accountable.
Ms Van Damme said that the reason that the Committee was formulated in the first place was because of the DA’s long effort to bring about accountability within the SABC Board. The reality is that the ANC Members in the Portfolio Committee repeatedly blocked efforts by the Members of the opposition parties to hold the SABC accountable. Members of the DA had worked extremely hard to ensure that there was a level of accountability within SABC and this including delivering motions, writing statements and spending millions going to court and this was all in the effort of ensuring that the Board was able to account to the people of South Africa.
Mr Waters clarified that the majority might vote for a particular bill but this did not mean that the minority was not entitled to hold a different opinion. It would be unfair to paint every single Member of the Portfolio Committee on Communications with the same brush and say they failed to hold the SABC Board accountable. The fact is that the ANC is trying to manipulate and distort the facts as they know very well that some of the Members in the Portfolio Committee on Communications acted in good faith and tried to push the Committee to hold the SABC Board accountable.
Mr N Kwankwa (UDM) said he sympathised with the views that had been expressed by the DA on the matter. However, he also warned that there was a need to take into consideration of the fact that the majority of Members in the Committee are not sitting in the Portfolio Committee on Communications and therefore was not aware of the business of that particular Committee. What was being flagged by the DA was a political discussion that could be debated in the House.
The Chairperson added that it was Parliament that had failed and not just the Portfolio Committee on Communications, the reality is that we should all take collective responsibility. It would be the best for the Committee to vote on the matter.
The Committee voted on the matter with the majority voting that Parliament should be held accountable for failure to hold the SABC to account.
The Chairperson mentioned that the decision was that the sentence should read as follow: The Committee acknowledges that Parliament may have relinquished its constitutional duty to hold the Executive and consecutive SABC boards to account.
Ms Van Damme proposed that the Committee should note the objection of the DA on the way the sentence is structured as it seemed to exclude DA’s strenuous attempt to ensure that there was level of accountability within SABC.
The Chairperson was opposed to that proposal as there would be an opportunity to do that in the National Assembly.
Legal Opinion on whether to add Recommendations in the Report
Ms Zuraya Adhikarie, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, told the Committee that it would be "problematic" to include the recommendations in the draft report as this could be seen as pre-judging the matter. It was critically important to have all facts and consider all the information before a decision is made on the recommendations. The Committee should be sending the report to affected parties to comment on the report.
Mr Singh expressed concern that the recommendations would not be included in the report as this was clearly a political decision that had been taken.
Mr Kwankwa commented that he was not particularly in favour of including the recommendations as the Committee would be construed as pre-judging the matter as articulated by the Parliamentary Legal Adviser.
Mr Waters wanted to make it clear that the Committee should dismiss the legal advice that had been provided as it was only fair to include the recommendations. The recommendations must be included in the draft report that will be sent to affected parties. The recommendations will not be cast in stone and can always be changed, depending on the responses received from the affected parties. The reality is that the Committee had already discussed the recommendations. The recommendations in the report would be draft recommendations
Ms Van Damme said the decision not to include the recommendations was a "political ploy" by the ANC to shield people from accountability. The ANC MPs were taking instructions from Luthuli House. The Committee’s provisional recommendations were already public knowledge. It was quite clear that on hearing these proposed recommendations, the ANC got cold feet and pulled back after stellar non-partisan conduct during the course of the SABC inquiry. It was disappointing to see that the legal advice that had been provided was badly written and not thought out. It was unfair for the Committee to rely on the legal advice that had been provided in order to make a sound decision. It was not the first time that Parliament had been given bad legal advice and this needed to be taken into consideration.
Mr Mokoena proposed that the recommendations to the report should be formalised once the Committee had heard from the all the affected parties in the report.
Mr Swart mentioned that it was extremely difficult as a lawyer to give a sound legal opinion overnight and therefore it was only fair that we defend those that provide us with legal advice.
Prof Khubisa stated that it was indeed suspicious to note that the Committee suddenly decided that the recommendations should not be included in the report. It was however commendable to see that the Committee would provide the affected parties with an opportunity to make a comment on the report.
Ms Kilian wanted to make it clear that she had not receive any instruction from nowhere on the decision that had been taken by the Committee. It was absolutely unacceptable for Ms Van Damme to attack the legal adviser in this Committee and this should be given the strongest condemnation. It was clearly safer for Parliament to allow the affected parties to correct whatever that was wrong or inaccurate in the report and then the Committee could discuss final recommendations once it had received comments on the draft report.
Dr Khoza indicated that this ANC team here is fearless and nobody will stop is from making decisions. She was resolute that ANC MPs were independent thinkers and warned that the DA should “stop suffering from this Luthuli House post traumatic stress syndrome”.
The Chairperson suggested that the Committee should once again vote on the matter.
The majority of Members voted for the recommendations not to be included in the final draft report. The DA voted for the report to include the recommendations.
The Chairperson read all the additions, deletions and amendments that had been made in the report. It would be important to reiterate that the decision is that the report should be sent to the affected parties without the recommendations. The affected parties would be given until 16 February 2017 to return their comments and then the Committee would have to process those comments from 17 until 22 February. The Committee would sit and analyse and incorporate all the responses that had been provided on 21 February. The adoption of the report with those responses would take place on 22 February and thereafter the adopted report would go to the House.
The Chairperson subsequently noted that the DA was not present for the formal adoption of the report.
The report was adopted with amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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