Gov't loses faith in Muthambi - TechCentral

Gov’t loses faith in Muthambi

Communications minister Faith Muthambi (image: GCIS)

Communications minister Faith Muthambi (image: GCIS)

Grand plans for the revamped government communications portfolio have been a bitter disappointment, with the minister of the newly created portfolio, Faith Muthambi, having in effect been sidelined after a disastrous first three months in office.

She struggles to speak in public, appears extremely nervous in interviews and alienated her party when she controversially defended Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s appointment as the SABC’s chief operating officer, despite a damning report about his original appointment by the public protector.

A source told the Mail & Guardian on Thursday that Muthambi had been sent for media training three times since her appointment. Now, veteran minister Jeff Radebe increasingly appears to be taking over her responsibilities and she has been relegated to a less public role.

The move has been some time in the making. Muthambi was supposed to address journalists on 7 August — a routine briefing on the outcome of a cabinet meeting, according to an advisory sent out beforehand. She confirmed she would be at the briefing and promised one-on-one interviews to journalists from two publications.

When journalists arrived, there was no sign of her and Radebe handled the briefing, telling journalists she had other engagements. Since then, he has been leading the weekly press conferences on cabinet meetings.

A month later, the shift to Radebe as the public face of government communications was further demonstrated when, at a press briefing in Cape Town this week, he announced himself as the chairman of the interministerial committee (IMC) on information and publicity. He said it was the first of a series of media briefings “where we will share with the media key developments in government and address issues in the public discourse”.

A senior government official with intimate knowledge of the communication ministry said on Wednesday there was a feeling that “she is out of her depth”.

“Every time she makes a presentation or speaks for the government publicly, we cringe. I know several ministers complained about her lack of confidence and inability to articulate government programmes and strategy,” he said.

Responding to the M&G’s questions, Muthambi said that, historically, cabinet matters were the responsibility of the presidency. “There is no such thing of me being sidelined,” she said from China on Thursday.

She said communicating cabinet decisions was no longer the responsibility of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), which had been integrated into the communications ministry. “There is a difference between cabinet and government… Minister Radebe will communicate on cabinet decisions. I will be communicating on what government is doing … on the three tiers of government.”

Grand plan no more
The current arrangement is a far cry from the ANC’s grand plan for the ministry to be a powerful tool to disseminate information about and improve the government’s brand.

Jeff-Radebe-280

Jeff Radebe

The M&G broke the news of the new ministry shortly before the May elections, and senior sources said it would be central to changing the image of President Jacob Zuma’s administration.

“One of the first embarrassing scandals of the new administration was, ironically, from her department,” said the official, referring to Muthambi’s defence of Motsoeneng’s appointment. “She did not know how to deal with a crisis. The president and his government are still facing bad publicity and her department has not turned around what it is supposed to do,” the official said.

Muthambi’s decisions on Motsoeneng appeared to shock her more senior ANC colleagues, who count on ministers to act on collective decisions made in their relevant subcommittee meetings within the party’s national executive committee. But Muthambi failed to show up at the ANC communications subcommittee led by Lindiwe Zulu in the month she took the decision.

“As ministers, we are expected to engage with the ANC subcommittees. We are implementing policies and decisions of the ANC,” Zulu told the M&G at the time.

But a cabinet minister defended Muthambi on Thursday, given the history of poor management of GCIS.

“She did not appoint herself. It is not about Muthambi but failure of our administration to the implement a viable and sustainable communications strategy. We first hired Jimmy Manyi [as head of GCIS]and were forced to let him go. The presidency hired Mac [Maharaj], who had to answer to his own issues and is always defensive and now we cannot even employ Manyi’s replacement.

“Faith has her own issues. I agree that she is not suitable for such a high-pressured job and she doesn’t have the skill to handle government communications. It’s tough. But what support system is there for her? We wanted a propaganda machinery but we are sabotaging it ourselves and her,” said the minister, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the issue.

Radebe shied away from questions about the duplication of roles. “Muthambi is part of the IMC,” he said at this week’s briefing. “There is no contradiction between the IMC and GCIS in the sense that the GCIS is the engine of government’s platform to communicate.”  — © 2014 Mail & Guardian

18 Comments

  1. “We wanted a propaganda machinery”

    Everyone knows that’s the truth behind the communications portfolio, but you know the government is in a total mess when a member of that government states so plainly that the they need a propaganda machine.

  2. Fair do’s: she excelled at protecting Motsoeneng (after initially getting confused, and taking the Public Protectors side).

    Must be much loved by No.1.

  3. How about avoiding the racist comments, Mr Williams?

    It doesn’t contribute to the quality of the debate, and simply makes you look foolish

  4. Oh My Dear, We wanted a poopooganda ministry.

    How much is this new ministry costing the taxpayer ?
    Talking about wasteful and fruitless expenditure.

  5. Not so sure how credible is this anonymous source! The rest of the observation about the shortcomings of the minister and blunders to date seems spot on.

  6. This individual together with Ellen where’s-my-degree? Tschabalala plus Hlaudi where’s-my-matric? Motsoeneng all appointed by Jacob where’s-my-grade-3? Zuma…What could possibly go wrong?

  7. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>We wanted a propaganda machinery but we are sabotaging it ourselves and her,” said the minister, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the issue.

    And once again those who find themselves mentally challenged, having no more than two brain cells, are falling prey to the pathetic fabrications of journalists with “declining to be named” (meaning non-existing sources) for spewing speculative lies and fooling only the idiots into believing that there’s some credibility to an article… are again and again finding themselves deceived by media reporting that is only focused on discrediting our government.

    >>Radebe shied away from questions about the duplication of roles. “Muthambi is part of the IMC,” he said at this week’s briefing. “There is no contradiction between the IMC and GCIS in the sense that the GCIS is the engine of government’s platform to communicate.”

    And so, rather than shy away from making such absurdly ridiculous comments as “We wanted a propaganda machinery” this “declining to be named minister” would prefer to support the view of the DA and make an irrational utterance to some journalist for them to have a story to feed to all the detractors…?

    I would definitely have to say that such a minister; making such comments is no different from the TC idiots that swallow such BS. As far as I’m aware, there is no minister without a name, so why not name and shame this juDAs in order to restore some credibility and dispel the notion that this is another fabricated lie by the well renowned pathetically biased anti-government media reporters.

  8. “alienated her party when she controversially defended Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s appointment as the SABC’s chief operating officer”
    How can she alienate her party, Cloudy is showerheads little lapdog and he deserves the position….

  9. Well… Personally I would be the first to concede that you may be correct in stating that the anonymous witness could be fabricated.

    That said… I also do not see why they would do this.

    The evidence for government’s wishes to increase secrecy and at the same time influence the media abounds. Not from any media reports, but purely from the laws they have tried to enact and the changes they are making to the communications department and related departments. From their own actions.

    So I have no issue with the statements made in this article. All seems quite plausible to me.

  10. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    Agent Smith… whilst all may be quite plausible in the Matrix, there’s still no denying reason.

    >>That said… I also do not see why they would do this.

    You and I, both know that the real reason for the anonymity in this particular article is because of fabrication (what’s the worst that could possibly happen…? no one would be in danger of losing their lives over such a remark) and Juju has made more irrational remarks as an ANC member.

    There would most definitely be more news value in exposing this minister which is what most journalists are always gunning for… but you can’t bring that kind of real value when you’re lying through your teeth now can you?

  11. No Vusumuzi… Wake up. If you are looking for lies then you should look no further than the propaganda the government wants to flood this country with.

    Faith is there just to rehash Zuma’s “Good Story”. It has been very clear that she criticises every single bit of bad news about the current government and it leader(s). He failing is that she cannot altogether ban all bad news in South Africa.

    What good story? The story where SA citizens become a bunch of suppressed muppets?

  12. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>What good story? The story where SA citizens become a bunch of suppressed muppets?

    And by that I take it you’d prefer rather to be deceived by media with the sole agenda of discrediting our government… and so time and time again you’ll find yourself being shocked to discover that this government has the support of the overwhelming majority of our people.

    Even at the worst of times… you can work it out for yourself; that those who are disgruntled, just account for the small percentage that would make a two thirds majority but is unfortunately wasted on the likes of COPE and EFF.

    >>No Vusumuzi… Wake up.

    It is you who needs to Wake up… how difficult is it to report on the truth and give all SA citizens a true picture of the reality which is undisputedly that the overwhelming majority of South Africans love our government – instead of always driving an anti-government propaganda machine of lies?

  13. Look the majority has every right to support whoever they want. It does not make them right and falling back to the majority argument every time a discussion gets challenging is pathetic.

    If the majority does not want to hold the people they support accountable then is their business yes, but mostly it is sad.

    Don’t cry to me when you don’t like being in dictatorship one day.

  14. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    Why don’t you stop crying about being in a democracy… what on earth leads you to believing that your opinion is RIGHT and why would I cry to you about anything…? Get over yourself!!

    Yours is the view of a pathetic minority that foolishly believes themselves to be holding a superior and always RIGHT opinion.

    What would seem to be the real challenge for you is understanding that this is a democracy and the majority opinion will always RULE in any given situation and discussion.