Following the release of the SABC’s report on editorial interference at the public broadcaster on Monday, which implicated several high-ranking staff and government officials, the DA says it will lay criminal charges against former minister of communications, Faith Muthambi.
“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,” DA shadow minister of communications and digital technologies, Phumzile Van Damme, said in a statement.
“The findings in today’s report strengthens the findings made by Parliamentary Legal Services in August 2017 that she has ‘tried to mislead Parliament’,” she continued.
Van Damme said the DA will lay criminal charges against Muthambi on Thursday due to “[Muthambi’s] violation of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities Act for misleading Parliament during the SABC Inquiry.”
Van Damme added, “an example of Muthambi’s interference in the SABC’s editorial decisions includes how she insisted that her constituency work for the ANC be covered”.
She said evidence before the commission revealed how Muthambi 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 DA have already laid a complaint with the Ethics Committee regarding such violations by Muthambi, including her “unsuitability to hold public office”.
Earlier on Monday, former chairperson of the Press of Council of SA and veteran journalist, Joe Thloloe, reported on the findings of the commission which he chaired. The commission found that the SABC “suffered from the capricious use of authority and power to terrorise staff and to deflect the corporation from its mandate and editorial policies”.
It found no evidence of a direct link implicating Luthuli House but “the spectre of the ANC hovered over the newsroom”, the report said.
The report further said, “SABC executives took instructions from people with no authority in the newsroom, for example, member of the SABC Board (Ellen Tshabalala) and the Minister for Communications (Faith Muthambi).
“The executives thus failed to execute their duties in terms of the Editorial Policies.”
In light of these findings, Van Damme said the report should be a warning to the ANC.
“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.”