Muthambi makes a comeback

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Faith Muthambi will chair the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Portfolio Committee in Parliament.
Faith Muthambi will chair the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Portfolio Committee in Parliament.

Embattled former communications minister Faith Muthambi has been elected as chairperson of Parliament’s Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Portfolio Committee (COGTA).

Muthambi’s nomination to chair of one of the key oversight committees in Parliament made headlines last month. Yesterday, a statement from Parliament confirmed the former communications and public service and administration minister’s appointment.

Parliament describes oversight committees as key instruments to exercise its law-making and oversight responsibilities, as required by the Constitution. Furthermore, the committees are the engines that drive Parliament’s constitutional functions of law-making, public involvement and oversight on behalf of the Houses of Parliament.

“After constituting themselves by, among others, electing their chairpersons, the committees will then determine their own programmes, including which issues to prioritise,” notes the statement.

During her tenure, Muthambi faced criticism for wanting journalists to report so-called ‘sunshine journalism’, the way she had managed the digital migration project and the production of set-top boxes. She was also reportedly at odds with current communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, who served in a deputy capacity at the time.

She is also one of the ministers linked to state capture, with allegations that she shared private Cabinet minutes with the infamous Gupta family.

Prior to becoming a national executive member of the fifth administration, Muthambi had served on the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications.

In 2014, she was named minister of communications when former president Jacob Zuma decided to form a new Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services and the ‘reconfigured’ Department of Communications (DOC). The departments have since merged and been renamed as the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.

At the time of the split, Zuma said the new DOC would be responsible for overarching communication policy and strategy, information dissemination and publicity, as well as the branding of the country abroad. However, critics labelled the new communications ministry as the ‘department of propaganda’.

Before getting the boot from the national executive last year, Muthambi headed up the Department of Public Service and Administration.

Democratic Alliance (DA) MP and chief whip John Steenhuisen says the ANC has missed a golden opportunity to build a stronger and more inclusive Parliament in regards to members elected to chair the committees.

“In several portfolio committees, the DA has proposed credible alternative candidates for the position of chairperson. These include the portfolio committees for transport, home affairs, COGTA, health, tourism, police, social development and appropriations.

“Instead, ANC members sitting on these portfolio committees elected to support deeply compromised candidates that have been at the forefront of state capture and the looting of national, provincial and municipal governments.”

Steenhuisen has labelled some of the ANC-selected chairpersons, which include Muthambi, as “Zupta-era stalwarts and Magashule-faction heavies”.

“Portfolio committees have a very important function within Parliament,” he emphasises.

“They are the engine rooms where members engage with government departments to ensure that Parliament fulfils its mandate of oversight over the executive. It is important that the individuals who lead these committees are prepared to be fearless in speaking truth to power,” Steenhuisen concludes.

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