Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

Jovial Rantao says Communications Minister Faith Muthambi acted against the Constitution by using a law firm to sideline the public protector’s report on the SABC’s chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

Johannesburg - Politicians are not perfect. Like all of us, they are imperfect human beings who will, at one point or another, make mistakes. This is a universal reality accepted by most rational people. Where the big difference comes in, or where people draw or should draw the line, is when the mistakes committed by politicians are so fundamental that it brings into question the moral values of a society. These are mistakes that should punished.

The recent reaction by Communications Minister Faith Muthambi to a report from Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is a classic example of where South African society must draw a line and say this cannot happen.

Muthambi has committed an act that is in violation of the supreme law of this country – the constitution. In referring the public protector’s report on the appointment of the SABC’s chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng to a firm of lawyers, Muthambi violated a section of the constitution dealing with the public protector.

A member of the national executive is not only a custodian of all laws of this country, particularly the constitution, but should lead by example in bringing this important document to life.

Muthambi used the law firm to sideline the public protector’s report, which was scathing on Motsoeneng. The report was used to pave the way for his appointment. The appointment came after the SABC had promised the public protector that it would respond to her report in which she recommended that Motsoeneng’s appointment be set aside.

Violation of the constitution is serious stuff. It is tantamount to political treason. It is the sort of crime that people should be fired for.

It is notable that Muthambi’s decision to approve the appointment of Motsoeneng elicited an uncharacteristic reaction from her own party, the ANC, which was clearly not happy with the appointment. The ANC was clearly caught offside by her move. The ANC’s reaction was supported by its alliance partners.

Muthambi was forced to explain herself to the ANC and yet, despite the incorrectness of her actions, nothing has happened to her. She is still in a job. No warning of any sorts.

She commits this serious error and life for her goes on as if nothing has happened.

The job of punishing Muthambi for her indiscretion falls squarely on the shoulder of her boss, the president of the Republic of South Africa.

It is Zuma who pulled Muthambi out of political obscurity and thrust her into a job that many seasoned politicians struggled with.

General Siphiwe Nyanda gave it a shot and did not last. Roy Padayachee had a turn. Dina Pule messed it up royally. Yunus Carrim’s feet were not even under the desk when he was replaced.

And now one of Muthambi’s first acts is to act unconstitutionally.

It is well and good that Muthambi has finally met Madonsela to discuss the SABC matter. It is great that the meeting was, according to a joint communique issued by the two, cordial.

However, the truth is Muthambi did not attend this week’s meeting voluntarily. The meeting took place after Madonsela subpoenaed the minister to discuss her actions around the SABC matter.

However, the grave mistake that I think Muthambi committed remains in place. She has not even given an indication that she would reconsider her decision.

It may very well be that her hands are tied by the legal action instituted by the DA to have Motsoeneng’s appointment set aside. But she has to say and do something. We cannot have a member of the executive acting unconstitutionally.

Zuma has to act and do something about Muthambi’s indiscretion. It cannot be that a minister acts in this manner and gets away with it.

A person of this calibre cannot be in the cabinet. She cannot be in any position of leadership.

And here, excuses that she is still new in her job and deserves some slack do not cut it. She would be deserving of some sympathy if she were remorseful. When the wrongness of her action was brought to her attention, she did nothing to either acknowledge her fault or commit to corrective action.

Even Pallo Jordan did better. He was quick off the mark and apologised for living a lie for over three decades.

Muthambi? South Africa deserves better than this.

* Jovial Rantao is the editor of the Sunday Independent

Sunday Independent