Former communications minister Faith Muthambi “must go to prison”.
ANC MP Lerumo Kalako and DA MP Phumzile van Damme agreed on this, but not on whether the Portfolio Committee on Communications should have an inquiry about Muthambi’s maligned tenure as communications minister.
Last year, Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli wrote to the committee to instruct them to hold an inquiry into allegations in a report by Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), that Muthambi had sent confidential information from Cabinet meetings to Tony Gupta, as revealed in the Gupta Leaks.
The committee met on Tuesday to determine a way forward.
Committee chairperson Humphrey Maxegwana said there were also the matters in the report by the ad hoc committee that investigated the former SABC board.
Van Damme said the matter went beyond Muthambi sending emails to the Guptas. She wants the committee to investigate deeper, including matters relating to MultiChoice, ANN7 and the finding that Muthambi had lied to Parliament when she appeared before the ad hoc committee.
“The public expects of us to conduct an inquiry into a matter that was put before us,” she said.
Kalako disagreed and said those matters were dealt with by the ad hoc committee and that OUTA had evidence about the emails.
The state capture inquiry will deal with all issues relating to state capture, he added.
“Muthambi has lied to the ad hoc committee.”
“Muthambi must go to prison,” he said. “It is a simple thing.”
“OUTA (has) evidence, it is there.”
Maxagwana responded that OUTA’s report was clear: “There is a lot of evidence.”
He pointed out that the implementation of the ad hoc committee’s findings was with the Speaker’s office and added that the matters should be referred to Parliament’s ethics committee.
Van Damme stepped in and said: “Honourable Kalako and me agree on one thing – Honourable Muthambi must go to jail.”
She said, as a committee, they had failed to impress on the Speaker to take action on reports that Muthambi had lied to Parliament.
Cope MP Willie Madisha believed that Muthambi must be “executed, politically”, meaning that she should lose her seat as an MP.
“Yes, we must send this person to jail, if feasible,” he said. “This person cannot represent the people of South Africa.”
Kalako said the committee can still call anyone it wished to.
Maxegwana assured that the committee would still meet about the MultiChoice/ANN7 matter, which pleased Van Damme.
It is alleged that Muthambi pushed through policies to delay digital migration, to the benefit of MultiChoice.
The committee decided to write to the Speaker to inform her that an inquiry was, in its view, not the correct course of action and that the OUTA matter should be referred to the ethics committee. They will also ask for an update on the findings of the ad hoc committee.
Former president Jacob Zuma appointed Muthambi communications minister in 2014.
After the ad hoc committee found that she was “incompetent”, Zuma appointed her as the minister of the public service and administration in his dramatic late-night Cabinet reshuffle in March last year. Her tenure in this portfolio was also not without controversy.
She was left out of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet.
Parliament’s legal services found that Muthambi’s testimony before the committee “could be seen as an attempt to mislead the inquiry”.
Last month, the Public Service Commission said it will look into allegations that Muthambi expanded her private office while minister of public service and administration to include 40 staff members – including some family members and friends.
Muthambi has previously denied any wrongdoing. She is still an MP and a member of the ANC’s national executive committee.