Former minister Faith Muthambi said that Phumla Williams’ testimony before the commission of inquiry into state capture may well have jeopardised its outcome by reducing her testimony to “a personal, inappropriate and unjustified attack”.
In a statement to eNCA, Muthambi responded to the allegations levelled against her by the acting government communication and information systems (GCIS) at the commission on Monday. Williams accused Muthambi of bullying her and attempting to destabilise the department.
On Monday Williams told the commission — headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — that she believed that Muthambi, as the then communications minister, had attempted to create the conditions at GCIS in which procurement processes could be flouted.
“She wanted that procurement at all costs. She wanted to steal at all costs. That removing of all those functions was a ploy to remove the finance and procurement away from me,” Williams said.
Muthambi responded by describing Williams’ testimony as self-serving: “As is always the case with Ms Williams, she has once again taken the opportunity to undermine an important institution to make it all about herself. This was the usual all consuming sense of entitlement, the wilful distortion of faces to paint herself as a victim …”
Much of Williams’ testimony was dedicated to recounting the alleged bullying she experienced under the leadership of Muthambi. She detailed how Muthambi had pushed her to the brink of early retirement after the minister had first demoted and then had effectively made Williams’ new position redundant.
In the process, Muthambi had rendered GCIS nearly dysfunctional, Williams told the commission. She called Muthambi’s attempts to undermine her position a strategy to co-opt GCIS finances and the department’s supply chain.
“I don’t think that woman was interested in preserving the resources of the country. And that is why I then said that I would be failing the people of South Africa if I allow the thief to get away with it,” Williams said.
At one point during her testimony, Williams was close to tears as she explained that her Muthambi’s treatment of her had caused her to relive her experience of torture during her 1988 arrest.
“The effects of my torture were back. Chairperson, I was no longer sleeping. I was having nightmares. I was realising my situation. My facial twitches were back,” she said choking up.”I had panic attacks. I saw torture going through my body again. I never thought in this government, people could do such things. I was tortured for weeks, and Muthambi did the same to me … And that is why I wrote this letter; as a way to try and get her to understand what she was doing.”
Muthambi called Williams’ comparison between her torture at the hands of the apartheid police and her experience under Muthambi “entirely inappropriate” and “emotionally manipulative”. “It is evident that we are dealing here with an emotionally unhinged person,” she said of Williams.
Muthambi said she would be seeking legal advice regarding Williams’ testimony. “A very different truth will emerge, and her lies and reactionary agenda will finally be exposed for all to see,” she said.
At the beginning of Williams’ testimony on Friday, Advocate Kate Hofmeyr, who led the witness, indicated that Muthambi had not applied to cross-examine the witness.
But on Monday, Hofmeyr pointed out that Williams had made allegations that went beyond her initial statement to the commission and that the legal team would alert those implicated of this should they wish to apply to cross examine Williams.
Williams could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.