Dear Cape Town
Following the release today of the report into Political Interference at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) revealing the interference of the then Communications Minister, Faith Muthambi in SABC editorial decisions, the Democratic Alliance (DA) will be laying criminal charges against Muthambi.
The Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Interference in the Decision-making in the Newsroom of the South African Broadcasting Corporation reveals that with regards to Muthambi:
“…evidence shows that from the year 2012 up until the year 2017, SABC Executives took instructions from people with no authority in the newsroom, for example, members of the SABC Board (Ellen Tshabalala) and the Minister for Communication (Faith Muthambi).
An example of Muthambi interference in the SABC’s editorial decisions includes how she insisted that her Constituency work for the ANC be covered. Evidence revealed how she insulted SABC crew members:
“When the crew caught up Muthambi told them to be fast – ‘or I will fire you, I will really fire you’. Then she picked on this young lady and told her she looked fat and that she wasn’t dressed appropriately. The journalist was wearing a nice shirt and a nice skirt.”
The findings of the Commission of Inquiry therefore indicate Muthambi not only violated the Broadcasting Act which establishes the SABC as an independent institution, but also that she misled Parliament during the SABC Inquiry in 2016. During her testimony she explicitly said she “never” interfered in the editorial decision of the public broadcaster.
Her misleading of Parliament is in direct contravention of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliaments and Provincial Legislatures Act, specifically with regards to Section 17(2) which states that a person who:
- commits an offence […] is liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months or to both the fine and the imprisonment:
- (2) (b) (ii) to give false evidence before a House or Committee; and,
- (e) (ii) whether or not during examination under Section 15, willfully furnishes a House or committee with information, or makes a statement before it, which is false or misleading.
The findings in today’s report strengthens the findings made by Parliamentary Legal Services in August 2017 that she has “tried to mislead Parliament”.
The DA has laid a complaint with the Ethics Committee with regards to such violations by Muthambi while in office and her unsuitability to hold public office.
Given the fresh finding in today’s report, the DA will be laying criminal charges against Muthambi for her violation of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities Act for misleading Parliament during the SABC Inquiry.
The report also revealed that the ANC has “hovered” over the decisions made at the SABC. The DA believes that the current Board of the SABC must continue to enforce its independence. The report must serve as a stern warning to the ANC not to engage in political interference at the SABC.
The DA will continue to fight to ensure that public interests always come first and that the SABC remains a public broadcaster, and not a platform for ANC corruption and wrongdoing. A fully independent SABC is in the interests of all South Africans.
Phumzile Van Damme MP
DA Shadow Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies