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Open letter to the “calamitous” Faith ‘Fly-my-Family’ Muthambi

JOHANNESBURG — Faith Muthambi has become synonymous with corruption and ineptitude of the highest degree. Apart from presiding over a communications ministry that gave Hlaudi Motsoeneng free reign as well mishandling South Africa’s digital migration project, she now stands accused of flying 30 of her family members to Cape Town so that they could hear her budget speech as Minister of Public Service and Administration. While previously working at Fin24, I had the opportunity to interview Muthambi last year. Granted, I had to wait several hours at an event before I could speak to her but was glad when I finally had the opportunity. When chatting to her before conducting my interview, I was struck by her staunch support of the Zuma camp. At the time, she defended the NPA’s decision to go after Pravin Gordhan in a conversation with me. To me, it was clear which side her bread was buttered. When Zuma goes, one wonders what will happen to Muthambi. Errol Horwitz, in this piece, brilliantly tackles Muthambi head on. – Gareth van Zyl

By Errol Horwitz*

Dear Minister Faith Muthambi:

The media recently reported that you flew 30 of your family and friends to Cape Town at a cost of nearly R300,000 at taxpayer expense for your budget speech in May, 2017. What were you thinking?

A rhetorical question, because you fit the mindset of a number of your ANC cabinet comrades who do not think, not wonder, not imagine, or obsess over using their authority to raid the fiscus for personal gain. The mindset is characterised by uncritical conformity, devoid of a sense of individuality and personal accountability. For you to do otherwise would be breaking “faith” with ANC members penchant for raiding the public purse as if it was their own to spend at will.

File Photo: Minister Faith Muthambi closes the Africa Editors Forum on 25 October 2016.

If the junket you arranged for your family and friends, at taxpayer expense, was an isolated incident, I suspect it would not have garnered the spotlight — small fry in comparison to the kickbacks your comrades received in facilitating the selling of South Africa to the infamous Gupta family. Instead it was one more dark cloud of controversy that follows you with no prospect of a silver lining.

I presume you have wrestled with controversy upon controversy regarding your past and present ministerial positions. I also presume you flatly disagree that your actions have anything to do with the media describing you as the “calamitous minister”. No matter what you may believe, your lack of ministerial oversight has been a train smash that continues to inflict calamitous consequences on the wellbeing of the country.

If you think I am engaging in hyperbole, let me remind you of some examples of willful derelictions of duty, and bad acts, that have been leveled against you:

  • Under your watch as communications minister the SABC transformed into a basket case riddled with scandal, and staggering losses. Despite incontrovertible evidence of malfeasance you sat on your hands, and gave free reign to a dysfunctional board and the likes of Hlaudi Motsoeneng and his cronies to gut the public broadcaster. When challenged at the parliamentary inquiry into the SABC you simply refused to acknowledge issues facing the SABC, or your role in the ensuing chaos. However, you said enough to be accused of lying to MP’s. No need to be concerned about a perjury charge as lying, even under oath, is de minimis because the ANC rule book does not concern itself with trifles.
  • The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) laid charges of high treason and corruption against you. It is alleged you emailed confidential government policy documents to one of the Gupta brothers. Now, these are particularly serious crimes which your comrades, in today’s political climate, would be hard pressed to sweep under the rug. By this I mean there is an awakening of civil society to the scandals of state capture, and increasing voices of people who are “not gonna take it anymore.” Civil society will be the ‘new sheriff in town’, armed with a reawakened moral code intent on shaking things up by pressuring law enforcement, including the Hawks and the NPA to do their jobs. The tide is turning with the possibility you will have your day in court to plead your case for acquittal, and if unsuccessful, all bets are off for a rosy future. Fortunately for you the experience should not be a lonely one as you will be sharing it with your good friends Mosebenzi Zwane, Duduzane Zuma and the Gupta brothers who face charges of treason and racketeering. So you will likely learn the true meaning of misery loves company.

In light of your controversial stint as communications minister, one assumes you would have recognised the need to desist from making waves in your current position as Minister of Public Service and Administration. Perish the thought, because you appear to thrive on public outrage levelled against you. Just four months into your new position your shameless mindset resurfaced when you, according to news reports:

  • Arranged a junket to Cape Town for family and friends at taxpayer’s expense;
  • Employed your very good friend Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s daughter fresh out of university for over R200,000 a year ignoring prescribed hiring procedures;
  • Hired a police constable (with no tertiary education) as your personal assistant at a salary of R1.1m again without following prescribed hiring procedures.

How in the world can you justify paying obscene amounts of money to Motsoeneng’s daughter, and a former police constable, lacking any meaningful experience and expertise.  Simply put it defies rational explanation, but then rational decision-making has never been your strong point.

As early as 2005 there were instances when your character was questioned while municipal manager at Makhado in Limpopo. You have always denied wrongdoing. Intransigence having worked  for you years, no longer worked when in the hot seat at parliament’s ad hoc committee inquiry into the SABC board’s fitness to hold office. Under intense questioning you pleaded with the chairman to protect you, because clearly the experience was not the usual milk run appearance before a parliamentary committee. I assume you would not want to be hauled over the coals again, but rest assured it is in the cards.

So, to make it easier on yourself, especially with criminal charges pending the obvious choice is to resign. If not, be prepared to deal with the humiliation that will surely follow a forced resignation.

If you voluntarily resign an historical footnote may appear somewhere that your decision was the one and only instance of you keeping the faith with the people of South Africa. Think about it as you have nothing to add to an otherwise deplorable legacy.

  • Errol Horwitz was a political activist in the 60’s, and returned to South Africa a few years ago, after residing abroad for more than three decades.
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