ANC vs Muthambi plays out at parliamentary committee

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi. (David Harrison, M&G)

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi. (David Harrison, M&G)

Tensions between Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and her comrades in the ANC played themselves out in public during a parliamentary committee meeting on Tuesday.

Since her appointment to the position in May, Muthambi has been at odds with the ruling ANC, especially after she endorsed the full-time appointment of controversial SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng in July.

ANC MPs have also claimed that she ignores invitations to meetings of the party’s sub-committee on communication, which meets weekly, or fortnightly to discuss the direction to take in communication-related matters.

On Tuesday, Muthambi was appearing before Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications to account for her department’s performance in the financial year that ended in March. She was also there as the political head of five government entities that were appearing before the committee, which include the SABC, Independent Communications Authority of South Africa and BrandSA, among others.

Range of issues
While the SABC was the only entity that received a qualified audit opinion from the auditor general, there were a range of issues that MPs were unhappy about in the other entities including high amounts of wasteful expenditure, high vacancy rates and prolonged disciplinary processes against offending staff.

But no one had expected to hear an ANC MP urging an ANC minister to show leadership.

“I just wanted to say that what was presented here is what used to be presented. I thought they [entities] would tell us that what you told us before has been done but it’s not,” began ANC MP Maesela Kekana.

He added: “We are talking about two issues here before we go to other issues: the issues of HR and finances.
They are very much important. It tells me another thing. It means that Minister, your leadership should lead. And to lead, it means you lead.”

“It means that if someone is out of the way, out of our recommendations, must be out of our ship. That’s all, it’s how to lead,” said Kekana.

“You can’t come here and we tell you one thing every day: fill up the posts, an easy thing. We tell you one thing everyday.”

Drawn-out processes 
Kekana also questioned how come Muthambi allowed disciplinary processes to drag on for long periods in the entities that fall under her department.

He suggested that Muthambi and her department move quickly to deal with and dismiss those who break the rules.

“It is how to lead. It is how to lead, regardless of the relationship, then people will do what they are supposed to do,” he added.

Kekana also suggested to Muthambi that the process of hiring a new group chief executive officer at the SABC be halted until embattled SABC chairperson, Zandile Tshabalala has been removed from her position.

Although there was an hour-long lunch break between the questions from MPs and Muthambi’s responses, she still appeared angry when she responded especially to Kekana.

“My learned colleague,” she began sarcastically, “you know the doctrine of separation of powers,” she continued while lecturing Kekana about the separation between the executive, legislative and judicial arms of the state.

“You should not pronounce yourself on that, you should allow that process of the doctrine of separation of powers to apply,” she added.

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