Former communications minister Faith Muthambi could be dismissed as a member of parliament after she was found to have abused her power to influence news coverage at the state broadcaster.
Muthambi was one of three people named in the final report of a Commission of Inquiry into Editorial Interference at the SABC who allegedly abused their power to get coverage of specific stories concerning their private interests.
Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said he could not say what the ramifications were if an MP was found to have interfered with the SABC’s editorial decisions.
“We need to know what transgression was committed so we can juxtapose it to the right rules.
“The framework that governs the conduct of a member of parliament is cast from the ethics committee, the ethics code, the Powers and Privileges Act and so on.”
But according to Democratic Alliance chief whip John Steenhuisen, the finding in the report indicated Muthambi was guilty of contravening the Powers and Privileges Act. This was for acts including her insistence that her constituency work for the ANC be covered.
In evidence obtained by the investigators it was alleged she had insulted journalists for arriving late at events she wanted covered, yelling “I can fire you and your boss!”
An excerpt from another account of her conduct read: “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 a young lady and told her she looked fat and that she wasn’t dressed appropriately. The journalist was wearing a nice shirt and skirt.”
Steenhuisen alleged that Muthambi had also contravened the Broadcasting Act which establishes the SABC as an independent institution.
Muthambi had also misled parliament, according to Steenhuisen, during the SABC inquiry in 2016 when she claimed she had “never” interfered with the editorial decisions of the broadcaster.
“Her misleading of parliament is in direct contravention of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.”
He said the opposition party was launching a bid to get parliament’s ethics committee to investigate Muthambi and that the party intended to press criminal charges against her.
The ANC was mum on whether it would act on the allegations against Muthambi and call for her to be disciplined internally and in parliament.
Group news and current affairs editor at the SABC Phathiswa Magopeni said while her team was determined to retain its independence, pressure from “external forces” attempting to influence editorial decisions at the broadcaster continued to haunt them.