Cape Town – Minister of Public Service and Administration Faith Muthambi will have to pay out of her own pocket for the costs of a meeting she failed to attend in Parliament where her alleged misuse of funds and nepotism were among the things that would be discussed.
Furthermore, members of the portfolio committee on public service and administration aggrieved by Muthambi's absence decided to subpoena her to appear before a meeting of the committee to answer to the allegations against her.
Asked why Muthambi failed to attend, Department of Public Service and Administration spokesperson Dumisani Nkwamba told News24 that "certain circumstances prevented" her from attending the meeting.
He did not wish to clarify when asked what exactly those circumstances were.
The Sunday Times reported last month that Muthambi’s department spent R300 000 on flying 30 people to Cape Town to watch her budget speech in Parliament in May.
They reportedly included her son, sister, aunt, mother, former SABC board chairperson Ellen Tshabalala, and former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng's daughter, whom she hired to work for her.
Muthambi told the newspaper the department asked her for a guest list. Other ministers said the guests should have had some connection to the department.
Over the past weekend the Sunday Times further reported that Muthambi hired 27 people, including friends and family, to her support staff. Muthambi denies any wrongdoing.
Apart from Muthambi, her department’s director general Mashwahle Diphofa also did not attend the meeting, while delegations of the National School of Governance and the Centre for Public Service Innovation who were to make presentations to the committee were also absent. Diphofa will also be held responsible for the costs.
Chairperson of the committee Dr Makhosi Khoza said Muthambi was invited to the meeting. She didn’t offer an apology. Khoza asked Muthambi to provide a written submission on the allegations against her, but this too was not received.
Khoza was also in a meeting with Muthambi on Tuesday morning.
“She did not tell me she’s not going to come to the meeting,” said Khoza.
“It is really tragic that she is not here.”
Other members of the committee, which barely had a quorum as five ANC MP’s boycotted the meeting because they refused to be chaired by the outspoken Zuma-critic Khoza, also took a dim view of Muthambi’s absence.
DA deputy chief whip Mike Waters likened Muthambi’s snub to the committee to a middle finger. He also mentioned that she has not attended a single meeting of the committee since she was appointed to the portfolio in President Jacob Zuma’s dramatic late night cabinet reshuffle in March.
“Faith Muthambi is running away [from being] held accountable,” said EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.
Nyami Booi, the only ANC MP other than Khoza in the meeting, said the rules were clear that the DG should attend.
“He can’t undermine Parliament.”
He also said Muthambi had to be there.
“She must be here, it can’t be any other way.”
EFF MP Hlengiwe Hlophe described Muthambi’s absence as “dodgy”.
“She does not deserve to be a minister,” she said.
“It is like taking a cheap criminal, a gangster, for example, to take over a police station,” he said of Muthambi.
“Maybe the very appointment (of Muthambi as minister of public service and administration) is to destabilise government.”
In March Parliament adopted a report from the ad hoc committee that investigated the SABC board which found that Muthambi was “incompetent” as minister of communications.
Khoza served on that committee and interrogated Muthambi vociferously.