Muthambi must explain unlawful interference in SABC Board
The DA understands from several sources that Minister Faith Muthambi has written to certain SABC Board Members requesting that they give her reasons why they should not be suspended. They have been given until the 15 January 2015 to respond.
As a result, one of the Board Members, Professor Bongani Khumalo, has reportedly resigned.
It is not clear what led to the letter being sent or why certain SABC Board Members are being targeted by the Minister, although it appears to be residual fall-out from the Minister's appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as Chief Operations Officer.
Such ministerial interference in the SABC Board is manifestly unlawful. According to the Broadcasting Act, it is the President who appoints the Board on the recommendation of the Portfolio Committee. The Minister has no lawful role in the appointment or removal of Board Members and therefore has no right to threaten Board Members with suspension.
I have today written to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Joyce Moloi-Moropa, to request that Minister Muthambi is called to the Committee to explain:
1. Why she is unlawfully interfering in processes relating to the appointment and removal of SABC Board Members;
2. Why she is targeting certain SABC Board Members; and
3. What she hopes to achieve by further destabilising an SABC Board still reeling from the Ellen Tshabalala scandal.
Such bullyboy tactics are fast becoming the hallmark of Minister Muthambi's tenure in the Communications Portfolio:
1. In July last year, the Minister personally went to the SABC's offices to strong-arm the Board into recommending the appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as COO, despite the Public Protector's damning findings against him;
2. It emerged in October that the Minister had sent a letter to councilors at the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa giving them a month to vacate their offices. This was in contravention of the ICASA Act which gives the Minister no such authority; and
3. It was reported in December that the Minister - through the Government Communication and Information System or GCIS - is threatening to withdraw government advertising from newspapers that do not toe the ANC line.
Every time Minister Muthambi unlawfully interferes in an independent entity, she cements the perception that she was appointed to build a propaganda machine for the Zuma faction of the ANC.
We hope that the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee will agree that this political interference needs to be dealt with in the same way the Committee dealt with the allegations against Ellen Tshabalala - without fear or favour. Calling the Minister to account will send out a strong signal that the parliamentary oversight exercised by the Committee last year was not a one-off.
Statement issued by Gavin Davis MP, DA Shadow Minister of Communications, January 13 2015
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