/ 2 July 2014

Minister shows faith in SA’s national anthem

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.
Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.

South Africa could soon wake up to a rendition of the national anthem on national TV in a bid to improve patriotism, social cohesion and moral regeneration.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi told Parliament on Tuesday that there will be a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the South African Broadcasting Corporation [SABC] and the government communications and information system [GCIS] – which is part of a new national communication strategy approved by the Cabinet last week.

Muthambi said in the newly approved communication strategy – which would deal with issues of social cohesion and moral regeneration – the department looked at SABC TV health programme Soul City “in which the health department tries to communicate a message”, and said that if the department of arts and culture had a similar programme with the SABC, such a programme would address the issue of social cohesion.

“In our discussion with minister of arts and culture, because that’s one thing we have discussed and feeling strongly about, the issue of national pride … you go across other countries and you find that their flag is their pride, all over their flag is flying all the time.

“These are the things that in terms of the MOU we are doing with the minister of arts and culture … and that will address the issue of the national anthem, to bring patriotism so that we are proud of who we are,” said Muthambi.

She was responding to ANC MP Lindiwe Maseko who suggested that the SABC should broadcast the national anthem at 6am and again at noon to boost social cohesion and moral regeneration.

Performance plan
Maseko was raising her concerns with the GCIS, which was appearing before a joint meeting of the communications and telecommunications and postal services oversight committees to present its annual performance plan.

Maseko said she had always been concerned about how the communications department can help the country on the issue of social cohesion and moral regeneration.

“You know, during apartheid, we were forced to listen to Radio Bop and Bop TV. Up to today, I can sing the Bop [Bophuthatswana] anthem because we were forced to listen to it whether you liked or not. At 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock everything stops, and there’s the national anthem.

“For me, I don’t know why the SABC doesn’t do that at 6 or any other [time] … and also hoisting the flag while the national anthem is singing. And by doing that, you will be educating. I mean that’s a process of education that would spread to so many places and many people to know how the flag is hoisted and to sing the national anthem,” suggested Maseko.

‘Social cohesion’
While some people in attendance quietly giggled at the suggestion, it sat comfortably with Muthambi and at least one senior government official.

Acting chief executive of the GCIS Phumla Williams agreed with Maseko’s proposal.

“On the issue of social cohesion … we ourselves often say something has to be done … You cannot have South Africans who don’t even appreciate that they are South Africans. You would find that a foreigner appreciates this country more than the South Africans themselves.”

Williams said while they believed they have a role to play in social cohesion, they unfortunately have to do it within the [limited] resources that they have.

“We will do what we can with the resources that we have,” she vowed.

Both ministers of communications – Muthambi and her telecommunications and postal services counterpart Siyabonga Cwele – attended the meeting.

Opposition MPs were unhappy with the proceedings of the meeting as communications committee chairperson, Mamoloko Kubayi instructed the ministers not to answer controversial questions asked by the opposition MPs.

For example, Economic Freedom Fighters MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi was ruled out of order when he asked the two ministers to explain the difference between their departments, and why the previous communications portfolio was divided into two.

“There’s a fundamental burning issue around what precisely is the division between these two departments, which makes the work of oversight difficult … We must hear the reflections of the ministers in that regard because there is a big public opinion that it was a job creation scheme. We must hear in what way is it going to advance communications in the country. I’d like their reflections on that,” asked Ndlozi.

Moving on to the SABC, he bluntly asked Muthambi: “When are you firing Hlaudi?”

‘Some worrying remarks’
Hlaudi Motsoeneng is the acting chief operations officer at the SABC, a controversial character whose appointment into the position despite lacking required qualifications has been deemed irregular by many including public protector Thuli Madonsela.

Kubayi also told Muthambi not to respond to a question by DA MP Gavin Davis about “some worrying remarks made in the media by the minister that she wants to centralise control of the SABC in her office by reducing the numbers of SABC board members and to change the way the board is appointed and members are removed”.

DA MPs staged a walkout after the meeting dealt with the GCIS plan, as the chairpersons refused a request to postpone the meeting to a later date because MPs were not adequately prepared to do their job.

DA MP Marian Shinn complained that MPs only received the communications department’s 100-page strategy document just two hours before the meeting started.

She said this had not allowed them enough time to study the document and properly interrogate what is presented in it. Her request for a postponement of the meeting was rejected by the ANC.