South African environmental protection organizations were left aghast today when Faith Muthambi became the new Chairperson of the National Assembly Portfolio Committee on Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.
The Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Portfolio Committee is responsible for oversight of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries as well as the following statutory entities: iSimangaliso, Marine Living Resources Fund, South African National Biodiversity Institute, SANParks and the South African Weather Service.
There is a portfolio committee for each corresponding government department.
As the people’s representatives, members of the committees determine whether government departments are delivering on what they promised and whether they are spending the public money they receive in a responsible manner.
Part of the committee’s oversight work includes site visits where committee members are meant to ascertain directly from citizens at ground level whether the government is delivering on its promises.
Broadly speaking, the mandate of the committee is to consider and process any legislation referred to it; exercise oversight over the Department and entities reporting to it; consider international agreements referred to it; consider the budget vote of the Department and its entities; facilitate public participation on its processes; and to consider all other matters referred to it in terms of legislation and the Rules of Parliament.
In 2015 the Western Cape High Court found that Faith Muthambi acted irrationally and unlawfully in her appointment of the Chief Operating Officer of the SABC following the Public Protector’s findings against him. Hlaudi Motsoeneng was found have abused his position of power, committed fraud and maladministration which led to the SABC’s financial crisis. Parliament’s final report on the SABC inquiry adopted in May 2017, found that Faith Muthambi, in her role as communications minister, had politically interfered in the public broadcaster and had displayed incompetence.
The Parliament of South Africa recommended: “President Zuma should seriously reconsider the desirability of this particular minister retaining the communications portfolio.”
Faith Muthambi was mentioned in an article written by the Mail & Guardian investigative journalists, on the 15thJune 2017, they stated that if the ANC was calling people to account about the Gupta leaks revelations, Faith Muthambi would be one of the people who would have the toughest questions to answer. In fact, it was suggested that if there was ever a clear-cut case for an immediate investigation, it should be one that involves Faith Muthambi for sharing confidential Cabinet documents with the Guptas.
The South African registered non-profit Civil Action Organization called the Organization Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) laid charges of treason against the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Faith Muthambi, in July 2017. OUTA is an anti-corruption advocacy organization that focuses on tackling government corruption and misappropriation of public funds.
Faith Muthambi was accused of acting in a disgraceful and illegal manner when she knowingly and deliberately shared three confidential Cabinet memoranda with the Tony Gupta, Duduzane Zuma and CEO of Sahara Ashu Chawla.
After the OUTA charges and their report, in discussions on the 27th March 2018, Members of the South African Parliament across the political divide agreed that Faith Muthambi should be charged and sent to prison,according to the Parliamentary Monitoring Group.
The Gupta brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh are already affected by financial sanctions imposed against them by the United States of America under the Global Magnitsky Act, Interpol Red Notices have been served against Atul Gupta and his wife Chetali, Rajesh Gupta and his wife Arti, the former Nulane Investment Bank of Baroda account signatory Ankit Jain, the director of Wone Management (Pty) Ltd Ravindra Nath and the directors of Pragat Investments (Pty) Ltd Ramesh Bhat and Jagdish Parekh. A red notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action.
Former President Jacob Zuma appointed Faith Muthambi as Communications Minister in 2014. After the ad hoc committee found that she was incompetent, Zuma appointed her as Minister of the Public Service and Administration in his late-night Cabinet reshuffle in March 2017. Her tenure in this portfolio was also not without controversy.
On the 8th of August 2019 a complaint was laid against Muthambi with regards to misleading Parliament which is considered a criminal offense. At the time of the complaint Faith Muthambi chaired the portfolio committee of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
Faith Muthambi was the former Communications Minister for former President Jacob Zuma, who is himself, currently in prison for contempt of court charges. Zuma is facing 16 counts of corruption, racketeering, fraud, money laundering, accepting a total of 783 illegal payments.
Faith Muthambi testified at the Zondo Commission of Enquiry into State Capture in May 2021 where she admitted to sharing confidential information. In her own words, without any sign of remorse: “I shared confidential information, but with people I was allowed to”.
Humanity has overstepped the planetary boundary in respect of biological diversity and part of the reason is that we have collectively failed to value the ecological systems (and the individuals that comprise them) on which our survival ultimately depends. Instead of conserving that which has been entrusted to us, we have over-exploited terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
The trade, sale and hunting of South Africa’s wild animals is driven by commodification, commercialisation and profit rather than by robust science, ethics or compassion and does not factor in the likely effects of climate change. The threats wild animals are facing are powerfully linked to South Africa’s current conservation policies of consumptive use and inadequate policing and enforcement measures.
Given the information we have before us, we would be remiss if we did not question the appointment of the Chairperson to the DFFE Portfolio Committee today.
Unfortunately, none of the aforementioned misguided missteps have been resolved. The conclusions to these unfortunate matters will be played out on the open stage at a time that is crucially important for South Africa, a time when Minister Creecy must urgently correct South Africa’s damaged wildlife conservation reputation and dramatically improve wildlife governance and make meaningful and necessary policy changes. It goes without saying that the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment does not need any further negative publicity.
The decision by the ANC to deploy Muthambi to this position, given her chequered, uninspiring and troubling past is alarming and shows the governing party’s indifference to pressing environmental issues of global and local concern – issues which go to the very existence of humanity itself.
Image Credit: Mail & Guardian 15th June 2017
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