MPs at odds over handling of Broadcasting Bill

The EFF says the bill can’t be discussed in Parliament as it is the subject of ongoing litigation.

Parliament of South Africa. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - MPs are at odds over how to deal with the contentious Broadcasting Amendment Bill after it was tabled in Parliament late last year.

Today, the Communications Department briefed the committee responsible for oversight of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on the objectives of the Bill.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) had objected to discussing the Bill in Parliament because the matters raised in the draft law are the subject of ongoing litigation.

Three organisations have taken legal action against Minister Faith Muthambi, Parliament and the SABC board following the controversial removal of three non-executive board members last year.

Muthambi endorsed the board's decision.

Parliament was warned by its own legal advisers that the removals were a contravention of the Broadcasting Act.

The Bill removes Parliament's role in the appointment of non-executive board members at the SABC, and places that power in Muthambi's hands.

The matter is now the subject of litigation, as the EFF's Mbuyiseni Ndlozi pointed out today.

"The sub judicatory rules says that we can't discuss matter that are in front of the court."

Ndlozi's objection to the Bill being discussed was overruled.

After hearing the department's presentation, opposition and African National Congress (ANC) MPs disagreed on how to deal with the Bill.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) says the committee must get legal opinion from Parliament's lawyers on whether the committee is able to discuss the draft law in light of the pending court case.

The party also wants to see the State law adviser's opinion on the constitutionality of the Bill, as well as the opinion of an independent expert.

The ANC says the Bill should be subjected to public hearings.