Former South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) company secretary Theresa Geldenhuys was in the hot seat on Tuesday as MPs grilled her, questioning her about her integrity and her role in the collapse of governance at the public broadcaster.
Before she could even get into her testimony before the parliamentary inquiry into the affairs of the SABC, she was asked to explain why she was part of chairman Mbulaheni Maguvhe’s delegation of SABC staffers who staged a walkout of the inquiry on its first day last week.
“Ms Geldenhuys, you were part of the delegation that appeared before Parliament on December 7 and you participated in a walkout of this sitting on December 7 – a move quite unprecedented in a democratic South africa,” said Vincent Smith, chairman of the ad hoc committee conducting the inquiry.
Geldenhuys was apologetic, but added a justification for her actions.
“The only thing I can say is if I offended parliamentarians, I apologise for that. I stood with my chairman Professor Maguvhe in that he was not being treated constitutionally.”
Geldenhuys, whose duties include providing advice and guidance to the board, painted a picture of a board at war with itself, denying any culpability in advising the board wrongly.
While she conceded to being aware the process followed by the board at its board meeting on July 7, 2014, which approved the appointment of the ever controversial Hlaudi Motsoeneng as permanent chief operating officer was not done properly, she said she did not raise the matter with the board.
She denied she was part of any wrongdoing.
“I did not play any role in terms of the flouting of policies…”
She could not confirm previous testimony from former board members and executive managers that staff had been purged following Motsoeneng’s appointment.
“I did not participate in purging of any of these staff members.”
She admitted the board, prior to the mass resignations which left Maguvhe as the sole non-executive director, was at war with itself.
In similar vein to Maguvhe, Geldenhuys claimed she was being “bullied” and prevented from speaking in board meetings.
Asked who bullied her, and whether Motsoeneng was one of her bullies, she replied: “I wouldn’t say that he ever bullied me. It was non-executive directors who would bully me.”
She included Nomvuyo Mhlakaza and Krish Naidoo, former board members who resigned in the past few months, as among those who brow-beat her. Naidoo testified last week about several illegal decisions made by the board, including Motsoeneng’s appointment.
Asked about her involvement in probes into board members like Naidoo, who at one stage received correspondence from Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, asking him why he should not be suspended, she said she was asked to compile a report by the Minister.
“The Minister asked me to write her a report on what the behaviour was.”
Geldenhuys proceeded to write to the minister about board members’ lack of attendance of meetings and lack of cooperation between board members.
“It was never an investigation into board members.”
Smith was not impressed, asking her: “Ms Geldenhuys, you are under oath. The Companies Act says you are accountable to the board, not the minister. Are you saying to us [that] the minister asks you to do something…you jump the principal [the board] and go to the minister?”
She said she did not go directly to the minister.
“The chairman of board received my report and she submitted it to minister.”
She later also accused former board chairwoman Ellen Tshabalala of bullying her.
“I said in the past, 100% I was being brow-beaten [by Tshabalala].”
MPs continued to push her, asking her to which faction she belonged on the board – the one who supported Motsoeneng or the other side.
“I do not belong to any faction. My role is to remain completely independent…I do not take sides. I do my job independently and with integrity,” she insisted.
It also emerged that Geldenhuys, who has already reached retirement age, was no longer the company secretary. Instead of leaving, she was offered a short-term contract and now serves as the SABC’s group executive: governance and assurance.
– African News Agency