Legal unit wants Faith Muthambi probed
Parliament’s lawyers recommend minister and former SABC bosses be probed for possibly misleading inquiry
Parliament’s legal services unit has recommended that former communications minister and current Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi be investigated for possibly misleading the ad hoc committee of inquiry into the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), a criminal charge.
Other individuals Parliament’s legal advisers say need to be investigated for possible breaches of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act are former SABC chairmen Mbulaheni Maguvhe and Ben Ngubane, former chief financial officer James Aguma and former company secretary Theresa Geldenhuys.
The recommendations are contained in a report tabled in Parliament by National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete on Friday. The report has been referred to the portfolio committee on communications.
In terms of the act an offence of "misleading" Parliament must be willful and therefore requires the element of "intention" to mislead, an offence which carries the penalty of a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years, or to a fine and imprisonment.
The recommendations by Parliament’s legal advisers were based on the report of the ad hoc committee which said "Parliament’s legal services unit, with the assistance of the evidence leader (Nthuthuzelo Vanara), should identify the persons who misled the inquiry or provided false information or false testimony with the aim of criminal charges being laid".
The possible charges against Muthambi relate to her evidence regarding the appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as chief operating officer and to amendments to the SABC memorandum of incorporation. The minister insisted in her testimony to the committee that she did not pressurise the SABC board to appoint Motsoeneng and that the board members did not register any objections to amendments to the memorandum of incorporation, but these assertions were contradicted by minutes of board meetings.
"The testimony proffered by the then minister of communications could be seen as an attempt to mislead the inquiry," Parliament’s legal advisers said in their report.
They also suggest that further investigation is required to determine whether an e-mail submitted by Aguma and purporting to come from the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) concerning the registration of the SABC memorandum of incorporation was authentic as it appeared to be suspect. Aguma was not a witness at the inquiry but submitted the e-mail as proof of registration.
"Further investigation needs to be undertaken to ascertain whether the e-mail was generated by the CIPC. If it was not generated by the CIPC, then the submission of a false e-mail could be classified as fraudulent and designed to mislead the inquiry," Parliament’s legal advisers said.
With regard to Maguvhe, they note that he claimed in his evidence to have no knowledge of the labour dispute resulting in the dismissal and eventual reinstatement of the "SABC 8", but Muthambi told the inquiry Maguvhe led a presentation to the portfolio committee in October 2016 which included feedback on this. "This could be indicative of Professor Maguvhe misleading the inquiry," the lawyers said.
Former SABC chairman Ngubane needed to be investigated for possibly misleading the inquiry and providing it with false information as to who approved the SABC’s collaboration with the Gupta-owned New Age newspaper to hold New Age breakfast briefings at the SABC’s expense. Former acting group CEO Phil Molefe insisted Ngubane had approved the deal while Ngubane said Molefe had done so. Molefe told the inquiry Ngubane had "lied and deliberately misled" the ad hoc committee during his evidence and that the contract was signed after he had resigned.
"The testimony offered by Dr Ngubane could be seen as an attempt to mislead the inquiry and that false information was presented to the inquiry," the report stated.
Geldenhuys should be investigated for her failure to inform the ad hoc committee that she was no longer the company secretary when she responded to queries as though she continued to hold the position.