The High Court in the Western Cape has described as a red herring the court challenge by SABC chair Zandile Tshabalala, who is insisting that a planned Parliamentary inquiry into allegations that she lied about her qualifications is actually a disciplinary hearing.
Tshabalala has claimed that she holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree and a postgraduate degree in labour relations from the University of SA (Unisa). Unisa says she does not have the qualifications. (Image: SABC)
A lawyer representing Parliament's communications portfolio committee, Adv Denzil Potgieter, argued in court that the debate on the nature of the inquiry did very little in establishing whether Tshabalala had misrepresented her qualifications. "The issue is a simple one. Whether or not (Tshabalala) has misrepresented her qualifications," he said.
Last month, Tshabalala obtained an interim interdict delaying the parliamentary inquiry into whether she lied about her academic qualifications.
Tshabalala has claimed that she holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree and a postgraduate degree in labour relations from the University of SA (Unisa).
She has missed previous deadlines to produce her certificates, and Unisa has said that she does not have the qualifications.
On Monday, Tshabalala was conspicuous by her absence in court. Most members of the portfolio committee, including chair Joyce Moloi-Moropa and Democratic Alliance MP Gavin Davis, attended the case, which could set a precedent over how Parliament handles cases of alleged misconduct by board members of parastatals.
Potgieter argued that the debate on the nature of the inquiry was a diversion and that there was nothing for the courts to decide.
He said the process the portfolio committee had decided to embark on was "an administrative investigation".
"The minute it is administrative action, the law says it should be lawful and reasonably fair ... our submission is that in any event, the rules and fair procedures have been followed.
"If it was a disciplinary inquiry, then Parliament would have said so," Potgieter said, adding that the court was being asked to engage in an "academic exercise".
But Norman Arendse for Tshabalala argued that Tshabalala's application for an interdict was necessary for the court to clarify the nature of the inquiry she was meant to appear before. "We submit that this is a disciplinary process which should attract principles of natural justice," Arendse said.
No confidence in a fair hearing
"It is a problem that they (the portfolio committee on communications) refuse to admit that (the inquiry) is a disciplinary hearing that could have a serious impact on Tshabalala."
Arendse said Tshabalala had no confidence that she would get a fair hearing.
He also took issue with some of the statements made by MPs and recently Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, who at the weekend was quoted as saying the issue of people claiming to have academic qualifications that they did not have could discredit SA's education system and the country's qualifications regime. Nzimande said the portfolio committee on communications needed to settle the matter of Tshabalala's qualifications as soon as possible.
Arendse said it was clear that Tshabalala had been prejudged already. He said principles of natural justice required that a person with an "open mind" who has not pre-judged Tshabalala should sit on the inquiry proceedings, and this would exclude some of the MPs, such as Davis and Moloi-Moropa.
The issue is whether or not she has misrepresented her qualifications
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