Department of Communications minister, Faith Muthambi, says that her department is determined to force media to transform like all other parts of society.
Writing in a column in the Sunday Times, the minister said that her department is undeterred by being labelled as a propaganda machine, as it is her and her department’s responsibility to close the gap between the government and the people.
“This government has a responsibility to make information accessible to all our people,” she said. “Over the past 20 years, it has become clear that this cannot happen only at the mercy of the commercial media.”
“The revolution required is to see how the government can spend its considerable budget to make sure that new entrants to the media space as well as community media…can also share in the resources that can make them a viable platform through which the government can reach 52 million citizens.”
“Linked to this is our determination to force the media to transform like all other parts of society. The honeymoon in terms of the lethargy over transformation, especially in the print media, is over,” Muthambi said.
The minister conceded, in not as many words, that the SABC’s role as public broadcaster needs to align with government’s goals – but she reasoned that these goals are aligned to the National Development Plan, which all parties supported.
The minister said her department’s label as “department of propaganda”, and its intent to meddle in the affairs of the SABC and related branches couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I have been rather puzzled by how the opposition, in particular, has been determined to deliberately distort the reason for the establishment of this new ministry, summing it up as a propaganda tool meant to clean up the president’s image. Nothing could be further from the truth,” the minister said.
The SABC’s affairs
Speaking to happenings at the SABC and the controversial appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as COO, Muthambi said that it was all part of the process of stabilizing the public broadcaster.
Motsoeneng’s appointment as the SABC COO has drawn fire from opposition parties and media houses.
The controversial figure was appointed to the role amid allegations of mismanagement and fraud, having lied about his qualifications and thus bringing into question his suitability for the role.
The Democratic Alliance has taken the appointment to court, while Muthambi has in turn filed papers opposing the court action.
“The SABC belongs to the public and we are open to any constructive suggestions that can build it into an institution that can become a cornerstone of building a new society,” Muthambi said.
“I do not intend to be hands-off, but I will not interfere with the duties of the board appointed to run the broadcaster,” she said.