Communications Minister’s R600 000 US trip questioned

BY CHARL BOSCH - AUGUST 28, 2015

A war of words has broken out between the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the office of Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, after the Department revealed in a Parliamentary question reply that just under R600 000 was spent on her and a number of department officials attending a nine-day luxury goods and folk arts festival in the United States.

In a statement, DA Shadow Minister for Communications, Gavin Davis, said the party would be submitting an application to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee, to have Muthambi explain the spending of R593 516 for her visit to the Atlanta Lifestyle Hub Show and Santa Fe Folk Art Market last month.

“Both events have very little to do with the Minister’s mandate. Instead of attending international lifestyle and art shows on the taxpayer’s dime, Minister Muthambi should be focusing on the core business of her portfolio: to ensure that South Africans are informed of their rights and government services available to them,” Davis said.

In a rebuttal, Department spokesperson Mish Molakeng said Muthambi had been invited to the event as part of an “extended invitation” by the Department of Small Business Development, and that the total invoices received for the trip, amounted to R305 327.

“The Department of Communication together with the Department of Small Business Development led a delegation of South African of men and women from the rural parts of our country to exhibit their creative arts in Atlanta. This has opened opportunities for these men and women from humble backgrounds to better opportunities, which could not have been possible,” Molakeng said in an entry on Politicsweb.

“Minister Muthambi had various meetings with stakeholders, including young ambassadors [during the trip]. It is therefore, incorrect for Mr Davis to insinuate that the trip has little to do with the work of the Department”.