Department of Arts and Culture appoints new Robben Island Museum acting chairperson

2019-12-06 23:21

The Department of Arts and Culture says it has appointed Khensani Maluleke as the acting chairperson of the Robben Island Museum (RIM) following a disagreement with former chairperson Bernadette Muthien just months into her appointment.

In a statement on Friday, the department said for the past five months, the newly appointed council "could not function properly due to conflicting views among council members on how the affairs of council should be managed".

On November 28, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa called a meeting to mediate the situation.

"The meeting was necessary for a frank and an open discussion in line with the audi alteram partem principle, where everyone is heard before any decision/s are taken," the department said.

"The discussions during the aforesaid meeting were robust and frank to ascertain the root causes that will allow the collective to find appropriate and relevant solutions to the impasse."

However, the department added in the heat of discussions, Muthien walked out of the meeting.

"The department viewed her conduct as unbecoming of a council member, let alone a chairperson of the council who is expected to maintain the highest professional standards and to lead by example.

"Further, the department understood Ms Muthien's actions of leaving the meeting before the time as the culmination of her expressed desire to resign as she had previously informed the minister before the commencement of the meeting."

The department then decided to "relieve [Munthien] of her appointment as a Council member and a Chairperson of the RIM" and appoint Maluleke who is also the current deputy chairperson of the council.

"Moreover, advocate Michael Masutha and Ms Louisa Mabe have since been appointed to replace Ms Muthien and another council member who has resigned. The council is therefore fully constituted. A permanent chairperson of the RIM council will be announced soon," the department said.

It also emphasised it had no intention of abandoning the findings and recommendations of the Morar forensic investigation report.

"None of the new council members appointed on July 1, 2019, is implicated in the report. As such, the department has requested the council and other relevant persons to pursue all the matters [which include irregularities and breaches of governance] contained in the aforesaid report to their final conclusion."

Munthien, however, maintains that she was not dismissed and actually resigned. 

"I had offered to resign, given challenges of good governance, some of which are contained in the DSAC-Morar Investigation Reports."

Munthien added that she felt "felt deeply compromised" by these challenges, "and hence I in principle offered the Minister my resignation".

Munthien said that in his resignation acknowledgement letter to her, the minister thanked her for her contribution and wished her well. 

"I thank the Minister for the opportunity he gave me to Chair the Robben Island Museum Council for five months, as I continue elsewhere to contribute to building a country and institutions based on ethical integrity and compassion", she said. 

"In my diligence as Chairperson I had merely followed Government’s stance on eliminating corruption, maladministration and wasteful and fruitless expenditure in the public service", she said. 

She added, "Robben Island is a historic and iconic World Heritage site which is at the heart of our tourism and economic development, and cannot be allowed to fall into disrepute.

"I and many others will continue to support this country’s valiant efforts to eradicate state capture and we remain committed to ethical public service and good governance, and an ethical and compassionate society in general", Munthien said.




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