Parliament - If MPs have their way Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi will receive a summons compelling her to appear before them with the parliamentarians even pushing for her to pay for the costs incurred on a meeting she boycotted, out of her own pocket.
In an unusual turn of events on Tuesday, parliament's portfolio committee on public service and administration, chaired by outspoken African National Congress (ANC) MP Makhosi Khoza, had to adjourn the meeting early when Muthambi, her director-general and several other officials were a no-show.
Five ANC MPs, who object to Khoza having publicly stated she would not toe the party line and rather vote according to her conscience in last week's no confidence vote in President Jacob Zuma, also boycotted the meeting, saying they had taken a decision to suspend all committee meetings as well as ANC study group gatherings.
Beside's Khoza only one other ANC MP, Mnyami Booi, pitched for the meeting, with those seated in the opposition ranks outnumbering their ruling party counterparts - a very rare occurrence in Parliament.
Muthambi had failed to appear after agreeing to give the committee a verbal report on allegations in the media that she had hired family and friends to her private office; that she had staffed her office way beyond the limit of 10 people as stated in the ministerial handbook; and that she and flew an inordinate amount of people down for her department's budget vote in May.
Khoza was unapologetic about wanting Muthambi to account.
"She is spending money on friends and family members...and yet she can't find the money to actually address the shortfall that the PSC [Public Service Commission] have. How is the PSC going to implement programme four, which is the programme that deals with corruption?"
Booi, who sits on Parliament's watchdog on public accounts and is privy to the billions of money wasted in the public service, said he would support a subpoena being issued, but said the money spent on Tuesday's committee meeting, including for flights, accommodation and catering, should be recouped from Muthambi and her director-general.
In March this year, while Muthambi was Communications Minister, an ad hoc committee which probed the affairs of the embattled South African Broadcasting Corporation, found the minister to be incompetent and recommended that Zuma consider her desirability to remain a minister.
That same month she was shifted to her current portfolio.
Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Mike Waters said Muthambi’s continued absence in parliamentary committee meetings meant she held the national legislature in contempt.
“It’s a dereliction of duty, the fact that she’s promised to come here to table a report verbally…and has simply given us the middle finger,” said Waters.
He supported Muthambi being subpoenaed, as did the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.
“Minister Faith Muthambi is running away from being held to account on the reports of nepotism and also corruption in her department under her instructions,” said Ndlozi.
“There is now also a deliberate plan that some among us MPs who want to collapse this institution from doing its job…”
The ANC MPs who boycotted the meeting won't get off scot-free either. In a strong worded statement ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said the MPs displayed "gross ill-discipline" with their truancy after he'd informed them they had no authority to suspend meetings and study groups.
Mthembu said Khoza was being dealt with at an “organisational level” and that she would be subject to ANC constitutional processes.
“We therefore condemn today’s behaviour with utmost contempt.”
The five MPs are themselves expected to face disciplinary action.
“Those comrades who boycotted today’s meeting after clear instructions from the Chief Whip will be referred to the ANC Caucus Disciplinary Committee," said Mthembu.
African News Agency