This is after Democratic Alliance MP Gavin Davis said in a statement on Tuesday that the party understood “from several sources” that Muthambi had written to “certain SABC board members requesting that they give her reasons why they should not be suspended”.
According to Davis, they had been given until 15 January to respond. He said that as a result, one of the board members, Bongani Khumalo, had tendered his resignation.
Muthambi’s spokesman Ayanda Hollow said on Tuesday that the minister was not considering suspending members of the public broadcaster’s board and that this was beyond her powers anyway.
“The minister treats her communication [with]entities under her political oversight — or [the]absence of such communication — [as]strictly private and confidential, save to say that minister would not ordinarily write a letter to call upon directors of the SABC to give reasons why they should not be suspended since she does not have powers to suspend them,” Hollow said.
“[The] minister does not respond to speculation,” he continued. “[But the] minister wishes to assure the public that she is working to stabilise the board and the management at the SABC and much has been achieved to put [the]SABC [on a]path to excel in delivering [on]its mandate.”
In his statement, Davis said it appeared that certain board members were being targeted by Muthambi, but it was not clear why. “It appears to be residual fall-out from the minister’s appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as chief operations officer,” he said.
“Such ministerial interference in the SABC board is manifestly unlawful. According to the Broadcasting Act, it is the president who appoints the board on the recommendation of the [communications]portfolio committee. The minister has no lawful role in the appointment or removal of board members and therefore has no right to threaten [them]with suspension.”
Davis said “bullyboy tactics” had become the “hallmark” of Muthambi’s tenure in the communications portfolio.
He claimed that in July last year, the minister “personally went to the SABC’s offices to strong-arm the board into recommending the appointment of Motsoeneng as COO”. This was despite public protector Thuli Madonsela’s “damning findings” against him.
In addition, she sent letters to councillors at communications regulator Icasa giving them a month to vacate their offices “in contravention of the Icasa Act, which gives the minister no such authority”.
Finally, Davis said it was reported in December that Muthambi — through the government’s communication arm, GCIS — was threatening to withdraw government advertising from newspapers that did not “toe the ANC line”.
“Every time Muthambi interferes unlawfully in an independent entity, she cements the perception that she was appointed to build a propaganda machine for the Zuma faction of the ANC,” he said. — © 2015 NewsCentral Media