AFTER battling for six months in Parliament and the courts to retain her position as chairwoman of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Zandile Tshabalala threw in the towel on Wednesday and resigned from the board.
Parliament’s communications portfolio committee found her guilty this month of misrepresenting her academic qualifications and recommended her suspension until her dismissal from the board was deliberated by Parliament when it reconvened.
She had also served on the Transnet board but was not reappointed last week when the Cabinet announced the state-run freight company’s new board.
“I resigned on the 11th (of December) … the reason being pressure from my family. I hope I will be given my peace going forward,” Ms Tshabalala said on Wednesday. She did not respond to further questions.
Her resignation from the SABC board took many by surprise as she had said she would return to court to fight Parliament’s call for her suspension.
The Presidency on Wednesday confirmed that Ms Tshabalala had resigned from the SABC board with immediate effect.
The committee had probed two charges of misconduct against Ms Tshabalala: for stating on her CV when she was appointed SABC chairwoman that she had a degree and diploma from the University of SA, and for submitting an affidavit to Parliament stating that proof of her qualifications had been stolen during a burglary at her home.
African National Congress chief whip in Parliament Stone Sizani said on Wednesday her resignation brought to conclusion “the long, drawn-out saga which unfortunately threatened the integrity and the credibility of the public broadcaster.
“We are confident that Parliament will swiftly initiate a process in the new year to fill the vacancy created on the board by this resignation to ensure continued stability at the SABC.”
The deputy chairman of the SABC, Obert Maguvhe, will be acting chairman until the vacancy is filled by Parliament next year.
Democratic Alliance MP and communications spokesman Gavin Davis — who initiated the Parliamentary inquiry into Ms Tshabalala’s qualifications — said that her resignation was not the end of the story.
“The DA has laid charges of perjury against her, a criminal offence that carries a custodial sentence. We have been informed today that a detective has been assigned to the case and we are confident the SAPS (South African Police Service) will treat it with the seriousness it deserves,” he said.
Section 9 of the Justices of the Peace and Commissioners of Oaths Act states: “Any person who, in an affidavit, affirmation or solemn or attested declaration made before a person competent to administer an oath or affirmation or take the declaration in question, has made a false statement knowing it to be false, shall be guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction to the penalties prescribed by law for the offence of perjury.”
SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition co-ordinator Sekoetlane Phamodi welcomed Ms Tshabalala’s resignation, but said it was “unfortunate” that she had dragged out the matter for months, further tarnishing the reputation of the SABC.
Her resignation was not the end of the matter. “We now call upon the National Prosecuting Authority to conduct a criminal investigation into her contravention of the Justices of the Peace and Commissioners of Oaths Act. We also know the SABC has a history of paying legal fees of its bosses, so the broadcaster should disclose if they paid Ms Tshabalala’s fees”.
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said on Wednesday he would not comment on Ms Tshabalala’s resignation, as the public broadcaster is “not the appointing authority”. He dismissed claims that the SABC had paid some of the legal fees Ms Tshabalala incurred when she went to court in an attempt to end the parliamentary inquiry.
“We have not received a single claim from Ms Tshabalala,” Mr Kganyago said.