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Sun Oct 26 09:42:32 SAST 2014

Parliament's meeting with SABC board must be open

Times LIVE | 23 August, 2010 16:100 Comments

Tomorrow’s scheduled closed meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Communications with the SABC Board should be opened to the public, says DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Niekie van den Berg.

"The first part of the meeting will be closed to members of the public so that, ostensibly, the committee can have a full and frank discussion with board members. There is no doubt that the chronic mismanagement of the state broadcaster, including the inability of the corporation to adequately manage its finances and the breakdown in the relationship between the board and the CEO Solly Mokoetle, need to be interrogated rigorously. Indeed, it is unclear why such a frank discussion cannot take place in front of the public," says van den Berg.

He says Section 152 of the National Assembly Rules severely limits the scope in which a committee session can be held behind closed doors, and the Constitution mandates that Parliament conduct its business in an open and transparent manner. "The public is entitled to hear what the SABC have to say for themselves," he says.

"In fact, Section 152(b) of the National Assembly Rules only provides for hearings to be held behind closed doors when the committee in question is considering a matter which is: (i) of a private nature that is prejudicial; (ii) protected under parliamentary privilege, or for any other reason privileged in terms of the law; (iii) confidential in terms of legislation; (iv) of such a nature that its confidential treatment is for any other reason reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society," van den Berg says.

He says it is unclear how any of these provisions apply in this instance. "Open committees exist as the guarantee for transparency and accountability where business before Parliament that is in the public interest can be conducted with maximum disclosure. Especially as the public broadcaster, the SABC should not be excused from ensuring adherence to these basic principles of oversight," says van den Berg.

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