Muthambi's failure to attend meeting not an act of defiance - ANC

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said Muthambi did not defy anyone by not attending the meeting.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi hosting a Digital Migration Rollout TNA breakfast meeting at Hilton Hotel in Sandton on 13 July 2015. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - The African National Congress (ANC) says that Communications Minister Faith Muthambi's failure to attend a meeting to discuss the crisis at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is not an act of defiance.

The minister had been summoned to Luthuli House but she did not arrive for the meeting. The governing party has now left it up to its parliamentary caucus to deal with Muthambi.

ANC spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, explained that Muthambi did not defy anyone by not attending the meeting.

"It will be acceptable for any meeting where there's an item called apology, where people who could not attend their names will then be read, so and so is not able to come.

"So she will fall under the category of people who could not attend the meeting, not because she defied, but we don't summon people to meetings, we invite."

Kodwa said that there had been too many voices within the ANC and their alliance who had commented on the SABC issue.

"Make call that our structures must desist to further make calls and comments about the SABC, because I think the issue is now being dealt with through corporate governance structures, the management, the ministry and therefore the ANC structures must focus on elections."

CRISIS AT THE SABC AHEAD OF ELECTIONS

With crucial municipal elections just three weeks away, pressure is mounting on Parliament to intervene in the crisis at the SABC.

The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) said that it has asked National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete to urgently convene the communications oversight committee.

Earlier this month, a similar request by the Democratic Alliance was turned down.

House chairperson in charge of committees, ANC MP Cedric Frolick, told the DA that matters would be dealt with only when Parliament reconvenes after the elections.

Casac's Lawson Naidoo said that while Parliament was in recess ahead of the municipal polls, this did not absolve it of its duty.

"Casac has written to the Speaker requesting that the portfolio committee be reconvened now as a matter of urgency."

Naidoo said that the Broadcasting Act gave Parliament the authority to call Muthambi and the SABC board to account, with the power to dissolve the board if necessary.

"We are in a crisis situation and Parliament needs to step up to the plate, to defend the interests of ordinary South Africans that need a public broadcaster that provides fair and objective coverage of news events as they happen."

Naidoo said that the SABC was failing to live up to its constitutional mandate as a public broadcaster and that this had implications for the freeness and fairness of the local government elections.

He said that while the ANC was free to discuss the problem, it was only Parliament that had the power and authority to ensure that citizens' confidence in the SABC was restored.

Meanwhile, ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, said matters relating to corporate governance problems at the SABC would receive urgent attention from the party.

Mantashe addressed the media earlier yesterday, saying the SABC's new editorial policy on violent protests was unconstitutional.

The corporation said on Monday that it would take the issue of its editorial policies to court if need be after the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) ordered that the policies be withdrawn.

He did not say what role Muthambi would play in resolving issues at the SABC or what action the ANC's parliamentary caucus would take.

"The ANC's parliamentary caucus is also expected to give the SABC the requisite attention."

Mantashe said that while it was critical for Muthambi to attend that meeting, her absence was not an act of defiance.