Faith Muthambi: Most destructive entity in the universe

Andrew Donaldson on the extraordinary resemblance between the minister and Voq, a troublesome Klingon warrior


SCI-fi fans who have been watching Star Trek: Discovery on Netflix may or may not have noticed the striking resemblance between Voq, a troublesome Klingon warrior, and Faith Muthambi, the public service and administration minister.

The Trekkies among us will be aware that these extraterrestrials, characterised by prideful ruthlessness and brutality, have been given a significant makeover in this latest reboot of the franchise. 

The Klingons are now more swarthy, although Voq is pale green, possibly for dramatic purposes. The forehead ridges are now more pronounced and, more alarmingly, they seem to have two extra nostrils. These are located inside a flaring outer pair. 

Once again they are the sworn foes of the Starfleet. When the series first aired, in 1966, the Klingons were depicted as a martial society and reflected analogies with both the Nazi and communist tyrannies.

Later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, relations with the Klingons improved, and their militaristic traits were refined with a code of honour, much like that of 17th century samurai. For a while, they even became a close ally of humanity.

However, we once again find ourselves in uncertain times. The war on terror rages, the Mango Mussolini has the nuclear codes, and we are all at risk of being hog-tied and used as props for roadside photo opportunities with the police minister, Fikile Mbalula, who may even want to crush our testicles.

Back to Muthambi. Some Mahogany Ridge regulars suggest the likeness to Voq is coincidental. But others aren’t so sure. Muthambi is, after all, the most destructive entity in the universe.

She was relatively unknown when Jacob Zuma made her his communications minister in May 2014 and the DA’s Marian Shinn even welcomed the appointment, saying she thought Muthambi a person of integrity, having worked with her on the communication portfolio committee.

“She has a sharp legal mind,” Shinn said, “and is disinclined to take explanations and glossy presentations at face value. She will do well as Minister of Communications and I wish her well.”

Perhaps her dilithium crystals were drained, but how soon Shinn came to regret those words. Within weeks it became apparent that, as Muthambi took charge of a restructured communications department, she had no clue what she was doing. 

Everything she touched, especially at the SABC, just collapsed into a black hole, swallowed up by a mass of corrupt, negative energy.

She lost her job in Accused Number One’s March 31 cabinet reshuffle. But ours being the sort of government that falls over itself in the scramble to reward ineptitude, Muthambi was then given her current portfolio — and she has brought to her new office her customary charmless hubris and squalid habits.

This week she served suspension notices on the top three officials in the department, including its director-general and chief financial officer, because they allegedly objected to her profligacy. 

This followed hot on the heels of the lunacy over the alleged hiring of her family members. It was reported that, when questioned over the allegations that she’d hired 27 relatives and friends, she told the portfolio committee it was just nine members. 

They were all South Africans, she said, who deserved to be hired as they had met the criteria for the job. At least, listening to a tape recording of her testimony, that’s what she appeared to say. 

But, you know, it’s like Klingonese. You need subtitles. Because Muthambi’s spokesman was then saying she meant “none”, not nine. Which is bizarre: did that then mean no South Africans got the job, and none met the criteria?

Before that, she failed to appear before the portfolio committee on public service and administration in August, where she was due to be interrogated on allegations that she used up to R300 000 of public funds to fly friends and family to Cape Town to attend her budget speech in May. 

By then, she and her deputy, Dipuo Letstatsi-Duba, were blowing millions of rand on worthless imbizos across the country.

Also in August, it was reported that Muthambi had attempted to mislead or lied to the ad hoc committee investigating the SABC board. As a result, the DA wanted Speaker Baleka Mbete to lay criminal charges against her and others who had testified with her.

The committee recommended that “Parliament’s Legal Services Unit … should within 60 days from the adoption of this report by the National Assembly, identify the persons who misled the inquiry or provided false information or false testimony with the aim of criminal charges being laid.” 

That 60-day period ends in about a week. Will phasers be set to stun? We shall see.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.