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‘Disheartened’ Faith Muthambi defends her actions at SABC hearing

2016-12-14 17:38

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi insists her actions in terms of the SABC are legitimate. Consequently, she was taken aback by the “SABC8’s” “personal attacks” on her.

This afternoon, Muthambi appeared before the ad hoc committee that is investigating the SABC board.

Her prepared submission did not contain any mention of the contentious SABC board meeting on July 7 2014 at 11pm, when she arrived shortly after Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s appointment as chief operating officer was approved.

“I find the personal attacks by the SABC8 disheartening,” Muthambi said.

“I want to put it bluntly: I have never interfered with internal policies at the SABC.”

Muthambi told Parliament she had refused to appoint Motsoeneng as acting chief operations officer after the appeals court ruled him unfit for the position.

She also stated there was no censorship contained in the SABC’s editorial policies.

She said the controversial decision not to broadcast violent protest action was an editorial decision and was justifiable in term of the Constitution, because the Constitution limits freedom of expression when it promotes violence.

A controversial memorandum of incorporation was drafted in terms of this section. The memorandum has been a matter of discussion with many witnesses calling it illegitimate. It strengthens the SABC’s executive management and the minister against the board and weakens the chief executive, effectively giving the chief operations officer more power.

“What I have done as minister is allowed in terms of the law,” said Muthambi.

The SABC fired three board members in terms of this memorandum.

Muthambi also denied that there was anything untoward with the SABC’s controversial MultiChoice contract, which was signed before her appointment as minister.

READ: Special report on SABC

She said that, during her first meeting with the SABC board, she voiced her concerns regarding the Public Protector’s findings against Motsoeneng.

The matter of [Motsoeneng’s appointment as] chief operations officer was unacceptable and the board had to address it, she said.

She said the board decided to increase former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s salary.

She had not known about the R11.4 million bonus Motsoeneng was allegedly paid for his handling of the controversial R500m MultiChoice deal.

Muthambi also dodged and ducked questions pointedly asking her for opinion on the current, and only, SABC board member.

Instead, she called on Parliament to fast-track the process of determining the SABC board’s fitness to hold office, and appoint an interim board.

One thing she was unwavering about was that she was “fit and proper to be a shareholder representative” of the SABC, she told the ad hoc committee investigating the current board’s fitness to hold office.

Committee chairperson Vincent Smith and ANC MP Fezeka Loliwe asked her if she thought the current chairperson and the only member of the board remaining, Mbulaheni Maguvhe, was fit for the job.

Smith said Maguvhe had been disrespectful to Parliament and government.

“There is a board of SABC that defies you, Parliament, breaks the law, and there is a legal person complicit in doing these things. Is that collective worthy of being a board?” he asked.

It had taken three weeks and R500 000 of taxpayers' money to get documents from the SABC, Smith said, which could not be allowed.

“This alone, minister, is the death knell of everybody that serves on that board. There can be no question about it,” he said.

Muthambi repeatedly said it was up to the committee to decide if Maguvhe was fit for office.

“It’s within the purview of Parliament, and I couldn’t have been seen to be interfering with processes of Parliament,” she said.

She called on the committee to deal with the process with the urgency it deserved. She admitted that there was currently no board at the SABC.

– Additional reporting from News24

* This article was amended on December 15. Due to a translating error, the word "demoralised" was initially used instead of "disheartened". City Press apologises for the error.

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September 15 2019