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Comms minister goes on the offensive in Parliament

Faith Muthambi rejected a legal opinion that it's unlawful for the SABC board to remove members.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - Communications Minister Faith Muthambi has rejected a Parliamentary legal opinion that found it's unlawful for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board to remove any of its members.

She has gone on the offensive, telling members of Parliament (MPs) they have no right to tell the executive which piece of legislation to apply when taking decisions at the public broadcaster.

The SABC board relied on the Companies Act to remove three non-executive directors in March this year.

However, the Broadcasting Act, which governs the SABC, says only the president can remove a board member.

Last month, the Communications Portfolio Committee was told by Parliament's legal services unit that the Broadcasting Act is applicable when removing a member of the SABC board.

Today Muthambi told MPs it's not their place to interpret and enforce the law.

"The committee has no right to tell the executive which law to apply. The executive is bound the Constitution to apply all the laws from this house until such time the so said laws are declared unconstitutional."

Muthambi says the legal opinion contravenes the doctrine of separation of powers.

There are currently six vacancies on the SABC board, placing it at risk of not being able to operate because it could lack a quorum.

COMMITTEE ACCEPTS MUTHAMBI'S REASONS ON SABC BOARD FIRINGS

ANC MPs on Parliament's Communications Portfolio Committee have accepted the minister's reasons why the SABC board has the right to sack its members.

Muthambi's view is at odds with Parliament's legal opinion which effectively found the board acted unlawfully when it removed three of its own in March this year because it went against the Broadcasting Act.

There are currently six vacancies on the board, placing it at risk of not being able to operate because it could lack a quorum.

Muthambi says the board relied on the Companies Act to remove board members, even though Parliament's lawyers concluded the Broadcasting Act was the applicable piece of legislation.

She explained that all laws are equal until a court says otherwise.

ANC MP Moses Tseli says he is convinced by her argument.

"We are satisfied with her explanation; we must therefore align ourselves with the explanation and close this matter once and for all."

His ruling party colleagues agreed.

Opposition MPs are furious, accusing the ANC of backtracking on the committee's decision to endorse Parliament's legal opinion.

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