Muthambi on SABC report: Thloloe and Tawana ‘failed the commission’

Faith Muthambi (GCIS)
Faith Muthambi (GCIS)

Former communications minister Faith Muthambi says she is disappointed by the findings of the report into editorial interference at the SABC. 

In a statement released on Tuesday, Muthambi criticised both the contents of the report and its compilers – Press Council of SA chairperson Joe Thloloe and advocate Steven Tawana.

"The two fundamentally failed as a long-practicing 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. 

"Not much has been learned by the authors from the recent witnesses at the commission that name-dropping and convoluted stories do not constitute a fact.

"As a result, the two failed the commission on its own terms of reference by not investigating the merits and veracity of the allegations levelled against me."

Muthambi denied 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."

She said she was not afforded an opportunity to respond to allegations against her, detailed in the report, which claimed that "SABC executives took instructions from people with no authority in the newsroom, for example, members 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," the report said.

The report detailed how Muthambi allegedly terrorised staff members and pushed for her own stories to be publicised. "She and the Johannesburg newsroom insisted that all her constituency visits to Willowfontein outside Pietermaritzburg be covered."

The report further detailed the story of KwaZulu-Natal provincial editor Busani Mthembu who said "as the team arrived at the river, in front of everybody she told them how stupid they were, how fat they were, how bad they were. [Muthambi said] 'I can fire you and fire your boss as well … you are SABC, you are my people and you are not listening'."

Muthambi, however, denied this.

"It is not good enough for the authors to point fingers at a Cabinet minister and SABC board members and make reference to 'enforced' instructions from the top without evidence. Perhaps only a retired or tired person can do that.

"Their hangover of the former president [Jacob Zuma] clouded their judgement. They insinuate unpalatable relations that I seem to have had with the former COO [Hlaudi Motsoeneng] which in their minds led to this so-called interference that I seemed to have done at the SABC.

"Equally, I am guilty for being at the same place, at the same time with the former COO when I showed up to support the former president in court in Durban, which I don’t know where they get a mandate to investigate my personal life," Muthambi said.

Motsoeneng told eNCA there was no political interference, especially from Muthambi, and denied he had ever been influenced when making decisions.

"No one has ever given me an instruction. If people did give me an instruction, I can't say I implemented their instructions."  

He added all decisions he made at the broadcaster were his and they were not clouded by anyone else, including Muthambi.

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