Faith Muthambi. Picture: GCIS
Faith Muthambi. Picture: GCIS

Faith Muthambi, one of former president Jacob Zuma’s controversial ministerial appointees, mistreated government spokesperson Phumla Williams to such an extent that she relived the torture she endured during apartheid.

Williams, who was testifying at the state capture inquiry, was close to tears as she recounted her harrowing experience in which Muthambi, as communications minister, stripped her of her powers and neutralised the capacity of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), a key state institution.

Williams, an ANC activist who was arrested in 1988 and “tortured for weeks”, said Muthambi’s treatment took her back to those days.

“The effects of my torture were back. I was no longer sleeping, I had nightmares. My facial twitches were back. I had panic attacks. I saw torture going through my body again,” she said. “I never thought in this government people can do such things.” Williams said she had asked Zuma to intervene but nothing was done.

Muthambi has been a staunch supporter of Zuma, even supporting him in court as he faces graft charges, and has been linked to the controversial Gupta family.

She was appointed communications minister by Zuma in May 2014. In April 2017, during a cabinet reshuffle, Zuma moved Muthambi to the public service & administration portfolio.

She was implicated in the tranche of leaked Gupta e-mails, which showed that Muthambi shared confidential cabinet information with the Guptas.

It is a criminal offence to leak cabinet information.

Muthambi was eventually removed from the executive in February 2018 by President Cyril Ramaphosa when he made his first cabinet reshuffle after Zuma was removed.

She is still an ANC MP and a member of the party’s highest decision-making body, the national executive committee.

Williams, during her testimony, could eventually not bring herself to refer to Muthambi as “minister” but rather called her “that woman”.

She said she realised during that time that she had to stop seeing Muthambi as a minister but as the “enemy”.

Williams, during her testimony, said Muthambi “wanted to steal at all costs” and did not care about serving the people of SA or preserving resources.

Muthambi had demoted Williams, forced her to pay back R35,000 of her salary following this and removed at least 70% of her functions.

“She was cheating the state, because she wanted that procurement at all costs; she wanted to steal at all costs,” Williams told the inquiry.

“The removing of all those functions was a ploy to remove finance and procurement from me,” Williams said.

Under Muthambi, the GCIS, the SABC and digital migration were left in a shambles.

Williams has been acting GCIS head for just over five years. There has not been a permanent head of the institution in the last six years.

The state capture inquiry will continue with its work on Wednesday when it is expected to hear applications by those implicated during testimony to cross-examine witnesses.

The commission’s legal team has said it will give notice to Muthambi to apply to cross-examine Williams.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za

 

Acting GCIS head Phumla Williams concluded her testimony at the state capture inquiry hearings on September 3 2018.

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