DA opens criminal case against Muthambi, says she 'misled' Parliament

Faith Muthambi. (File, Beeld)
Faith Muthambi. (File, Beeld)

The DA opened a criminal case against ANC MP Faith Muthambi on Thursday for allegedly lying to Parliament during her troubled stint as Communications Minister.

This follows the release this week of the report of the commission of inquiry into editorial interference at the SABC, which revealed that Muthambi violated the Broadcasting Act when she, on several occasions, interfered in editorial decisions at the public broadcaster.

According to DA MP Phumzile van Damme, this means that Muthambi misled Parliament when she appeared before the National Assembly's ad hoc committee that investigated the SABC board in 2016.

During her testimony, she explicitly said she "never" interfered in editorial decisions at the public broadcaster.

"It is not the first report that found that [former] minister Muthambi misled Parliament," Van Damme said on Thursday morning outside the Cape Town Central police station.

One of the ad hoc committee's recommendations was that Parliament's legal services must investigate whether Muthambi misled Parliament during her testimony.

The committee also found that she was "incompetent".

Parliament's legal services found that Muthambi's testimony before the committee "could be seen as an attempt to mislead the inquiry".

Van Damme said former speaker, Baleka Mbete, was supposed to lay charges against Muthambi after the legal services' report, but didn't and it was incumbent on the DA to lay charges.

"I think the findings in the commission of inquiry's report bolsters [the] legal services' report. So, if she's going to take both of them on review, then she must."

"We will pursue this relentlessly because we find that in instances where politicians are involved – we don't know what happens to the dockets, but they disappear. But here we have a clear violation of the law, and I'm going to be on the back of SAPS (the SA Police Service). They must watch out," said Van Damme.

"I think we need to send a clear message to ANC politicians that SA will no longer be satisfied by politicians who mislead Parliament, politicians who are involved in corruption and escape without any accountability. So we will pursue this case relentlessly. Muthambi must be arrested."

Earlier this year, the DA also laid a complaint against Muthambi at Parliament's Joint Committee on Ethics and Members' Interests.

"Muthambi shouldn't be an MP in the first place," Van Damme said.

"So hopefully, the ethics committee will investigate that."     

The Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliaments and Provincial Legislatures Act states that a person giving false evidence before a house or committee or furnishes the house or committee with false or misleading information is committing an offence and is liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months or to both the fine and the imprisonment.

Muthambi, who is the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, on Tuesday criticised the contents of the SABC report and its compilers – Press Council of SA chairperson Joe Thloloe and advocate Steven Tawana. 

"The two fundamentally failed as a long-practising journalist and a legal guru to adhere to the basic principles of natural justice, fairness and affording the affected parties the right to reply," Muthambi said.

She added the evidence the commission had gathered had not proven anything.

She continued to deny that she had an influence on editorial decision-making at the public broadcaster, adding the allegations against her and others were made by a disgruntled staff member.

"No path was drawn from the minister as the executive authority and shareholder representative. The nerve to single me out without any evidence based on the unverified account of 'an unhappy' staff member is disingenuous and calls into doubt the veracity of the report," her statement read.

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