Faith Muthambi to face criminal charges after SABC probe: Everything you need to know

06 August 2019 - 09:32 By Unathi Nkanjeni
Former communications minister Faith Muthambi.
Former communications minister Faith Muthambi.
Image: Supplied.

Former minister of communications Faith Muthambi is set to face criminal charges after the release of the SABC's report on editorial interference at the public broadcaster. The report, released on Monday, implicates several staff members and government officials.

Here is what you need to know:

Editorial interference

A commission of inquiry set up in May last year found that Muthambi and former board chairperson Ellen Tshabalala interfered in decision-making in the broadcaster's newsrooms.

The report stated that editorial executives took instructions from "people with no authority in the newsroom".

The commission also found that staff members Nothando Maseko, Sebolelo Ditlhakanyane and Nyana Molete were "pivotal" in the execution of instructions from former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng, former CE Jimi Matthews and former head of news Matthews Simon Tebele.

Motsoeneng has since rubbished the findings, saying people were out to tarnish his reputation and the good work he had done for the SABC.

Accusation

The chairperson of the Press Council commission, Joe Thloloe, said the SABC suffered from abuse of power that was used to terrorise staff and circumvent editorial policies. 

He said Muthambi gave instructions to the editorial team, despite not being mandated to do so.

He also accused her of abusing her political influence to gain favourable coverage from the state broadcaster.

Criminal charges

The DA's shadow minister of communications and digital technologies, Phumzile van Damme, said the party would pursue criminal charges against Muthambi for violating the Broadcasting Act, which establishes the SABC as an independent institution, and for misleading parliament during an SABC inquiry in 2016.

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

“The DA has laid a complaint with the ethics committee with regards to such violations by Muthambi while in office and her unsuitability to hold public office. We will also lay criminal charges against Muthambi for her violation of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities Act for misleading parliament during the SABC inquiry," she said.

Van Damme said an example of Muthambi's interference in the SABC's editorial decisions "includes how she insisted that her constituency work for the ANC be covered".

She added that evidence also revealed that Muthambi insulted SABC crew members.

"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 this young lady and told her she looked fat and that she wasn't dressed appropriately," said Van Damme.


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