Muthambi comes face to face with Parly committee

The hearings are looking into the SABC board's fitness to hold office.

FILE: Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - Communications Minister Faith Muthambi is appearing before the parliamentary committee on Wednesday afternoon and is expected to face tough questions about the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board.

Earlier on Wednesday the ad hoc committee learnt that SABC journalists who’ve testified this week have been sent threatening text messages.

The journalists gave detailed accounts of what they call Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s reign of terror at the public broadcaster.

Motsoeneng, the journalists said, had wrought a “reign of terror” over the newsroom, insisting on news policies which included the banning footage of violent service delivery protests, a decision the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa later ordered the broadcaster to rescind.

MPs have expressed their outrage at death threats against journalists who this week testified before Parliament's inquiry into the fitness of the SABC board.

When the hearings resumed earlier on Wednesday, chairperson Vincent Smith announced that he was informed of the threats late on Tuesday.

An MP from the UDM then read out a text message sent to one of the journalists

It warned that "blood would flow".

The chilling message was read out by the UDM’s Nqabayomzi Kwankwa.

"Traitors. Protecting your white friends in Parliament who started this, telling lies about your comrades – you are warned. We don’t kill blacks – but sit and watch the blood flow".

MPs now want action to ensure members of the SABC 8 – or other witnesses - are not threatened further.

The African National Congress’s Makhosi Khoza said: “Anyone who is trying to intimidate our witnesses and people
who are trying to assist this country to move forward (are) actually militating a total onslaught.”

The Democratic Alliance’s Phumzile Van Damme said: “It can’t be rocket science to find out where these threats are coming from – they can trace cellphone numbers.”

Smith did not say who among the members of the SABC 8 who gave evidence on Monday were threatened, or whether it was all four of them.

Smith says the threats are an assault against Parliament.

The Right2Know campaign says urgent intervention is needed to steer the SABC back on course.

The campaign’s Micah Reddy has told MPs the board has failed to properly execute its duties

“The crisis that we have witnessed at the SABC is plainly unprecedented and we have said that this calls for a fitting emergency response which entails public participation.”

He says the extent of Motsoeneng’s reach has become clear.

“It is our believe that the board was captured by an untouchable employee of the organisation, namely Motsoeneng, and that it urgently needed to be dissolved and for new members to be appointed through a transparent participatory process.”

Click here to watch Faith Muthambi answering to the ad hoc committee.