Communications minister Faith Muthambi on Tuesday told MPs she could not reveal her plans regarding SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng because the Democratic Alliance would use the information to bolster its legal challenge to his appointment.
“The review is pending in court, whatever I say here I know you can use it in the review application… Hence, I raise the sub judice rule,” Muthambi told parliament’s communications portfolio committee.
Muthambi was scheduled to brief the committee on progress on implementing public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on the SABC and Motsoeneng’s conduct while acting chief operating officer.
Madonsela recommended disciplinary action against him for falsely stating that he held a matric certificate, purging staff, and irregularly increasing salaries, including his own — inflating the public broadcaster’s salary bill by R29m.
Muthambi read out a statement that largely repeated that the department had appointed him as permanent chief operations officer in response to one of Madonsela’s directives, namely that the minister must fill the post with a suitably qualified permanent incumbent within 90 days.
Democratic Alliance MP Gavin Davis accused her of ignoring the public protector’s report, which carried a deadline of August 16 for the minister to implement its recommendations.
“I find this contempt for the public protector to be unacceptable and probably unconstitutional,” he said.
“This government has failed to implement the remedial action set out in the public protector’s report just like it failed to implement the remedial action in the Nkandla [saga] and this growing trend should really be of great concern to every South African who cares about our constitutional democracy.”
Muthambi countered that the DA was to blame for her inability to say more, because it had asked the Western Cape high court to set aside Motsoeneng’s appointment and thereby subverted the parliamentary process.
“This matter is very difficult for me now to deliberate because it is the same DA that opted to ignore these parliamentary processes and took the matter to court.
“I maintain the matter is sub judice… This parliamentary process was going to be fruitful had the DA not decided to take the matter for review so I won’t allow them to come here and build their review application by my responses.”
She said she was co-operating with Madonsela, whom she met last week, and suggested that the presentation to the committee did not constitute the full extent of her compliance with the findings.
Muthambi also added that they had discussed Madonsela’s frustration with the SABC’s response to her report.
But Economic Freedom Fighters MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the minister was wasting the committee’s time with a “lousy report … a non-report”, and described her recourse to the sub judice rule as “hogwash”.
“There is a game here, it is growing like a cancer in the government. We are toothless, there is nothing we can do. Unfortunately, I think that when a protest action will be unleashed in a situation like this people will say that we are childish that we are rowdy when they are like uninterruptedly ignoring everything about the proper running of our country.
“The public protector’s report can only be reviewed in a court of law. You can’t ignore it. There is no response whatsoever to the public protector’s remedial actions that must be taken.”
He suggested that the meeting be adjourned, and chair Joyce Moloi-Moropa conceded, saying the matter would be dealt with at a later stage. — Sapa