TEMPERS flared in Parliament yesterday when MPs, senior SABC managers and former board members hurled insults at each other during a communications portfolio committee inquiry into the public broadcaster's financial crisis.

The committee had been expected to dissolve the board for allowing the SABC to slide into debt of R800million.

But the inquiry was delayed for hours after eight board members who had recently quit declined to answer questions.

Former deputy justice minister Johnny de Lange threatened to subpoena them to force them to account for allowing the SABC to "run wild". Board members eventually opened up, blaming most of the SABC's problems on clashes between the board and senior management.

Former chairperson Khanyi Mkonza accused MPs of embarking on a political purge and said Parliament had treated the board like "fifth-class citizens".

SABC chief financial officer Rob Nicholson, who reportedly earns more than R200000 a month, said he was tired of hearing accusations that top executives are a "bunch of crooks" who spend their time trying to line their pockets.

Andile Mbeki, who resigned from the board, said the MPs "should be ashamed" for not listening to the board's warnings last year that the SABC was heading for a meltdown.

The SABC has asked the government for a R2billion bailout, and is unable to embark on any new projects because nine of the 12 board members have resigned.

It also faces a revolt from its workers over a wage dispute, and independent producers who have not been paid. The inquiry continues today.