Former South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC) chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng will not appear before Parliament's inquiry into the broadcaster's board to respond to allegations against him.
Most MPs on Parliament's ad hoc committee rejected UDM MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa's suggestion that Motsoeneng be given the opportunity.
The SABC had been given ample time to respond to the claims, and the courts and Public Protector had already scrutinised Motsoeneng's role at the broadcaster, they said.
The ad hoc committee met on Thursday for the first of two days of deliberations following witness testimonies.
"If we fail to call Mr Motsoeneng, this committee will have to leave with the stigma of bias, and would undermine the excellent work we have done so far," Kwankwa said at the start of the meeting.
He said that according to the committee's working document, Motsoeneng was at the centre of all the governance issues at the SABC mentioned during testimonies. The UDM found it difficult that Motsoeneng would not be given a chance to reply to the allegations, he said.
Former board chairpersons Ellen Tshabalala and Ben Ngubane were given supplementary invitations to appear before the committee after being implicated in previous witness testimonies, he said.
The SABC decided not to participate and Motsoeneng was part of that walk-out
ANC MP Jabu Mahlangu said the SABC was given an opportunity to participate and elected not to.
Motsoeneng was part of the SABC delegation which appeared on the first day of the hearings and walked out.
Mahlangu said the committee was running out of time, and that Kwankwa was being opportunistic in bringing the matter up publicly when it had already been discussed.
ACDP MP Steve Swart said in hindsight they should have invited Motsoeneng, but that the committee took a unanimous decision due to time constraints and the SABC's walkout. Motsoeneng would be given a chance to respond to the inquiry's final report.
ANC MP Juli Kilian said he could approach the courts if he was unhappy with witness testimonies.
DA MP Phumzile van Damme said the committee gave the SABC the opportunity, after its walkout, to return and cross-examine witnesses. It did not do so.
EFF MP Fana Mokoena said the inquiry's focus was to investigate the SABC board, not individuals. He said Tshabalala and Ngubane were called because they chaired the SABC board at the time of many of the allegations.
Calling those mentioned in testimony could give work 'for 15 years'
Mokoena said if Motsoeneng was called, they would also need to question the Guptas, Multichoice, former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and others who were mentioned during testimonies.
"We would be here for 15 years," he said.
ANC MP Makhosi Khoza said Kwankwa was resorting to political grandstanding.
"We are turning Hlaudi Motsoeneng into some sort of demagogue," Khoza said.
She said the courts and Public Protector had already investigated Motsoeneng.
Van Damme said they could not give a platform to Motsoeneng after he initially rejected it.
IFP MP Narend Singh said Kwankwa had a right, as an MP, to raise a point in any committee meeting.
They were not there to discipline Motsoeneng and it was not a personal vendetta. They needed to find better working conditions for a new SABC board, Singh said.
Kwankwa said the UDM was not naïve, and intimated that the ANC MPs' objections were part of "factional positions" in the ruling party. He said chairperson Vincent Smith did not defend him from the attacks.
"So because the ANC has arrived at a decision, we must co-opt with a decision we don't agree with? We can't," he said angrily.
Khoza sighed loudly after he was done.
Smith said 13 of the committee's 15 official members initially decided not to invite Motsoeneng to the proceedings, and most of them still held that view. They would continue as planned.
Leak of working document 'inconsequential'
The committee earlier discussed the "leak" of its working document on Tuesday.
Although he expressed his dismay about it on Wednesday, on Thursday Smith said the leak was ultimately inconsequential, as the process had been public from the start.
He said the committee's primary objective was to stop the decline at the SABC, and it welcomed transparency. He asked the media to "report responsibility" regarding the leak.