The Department of Arts and Culture says it has appointed Khensani Maluleke as the acting chairperson of the Robben Island Museum (RIM) following a disagreement with former chairperson Bernadette Muthien just months into her appointment.

In a statement on Friday, the department said for the past five months, the newly appointed council “could not function properly due to conflicting views among council members on how the affairs of council should be managed”.

On November 28, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa called a meeting to mediate the situation.

“The meeting was necessary for a frank and an open discussion in line with the audi alteram partem principle, where everyone is heard before any decision/s are taken,” the department said.

“The discussions during the aforesaid meeting were robust and frank to ascertain the root causes that will allow the collective to find appropriate and relevant solutions to the impasse.”

However, the department added in the heat of discussions, Muthien walked out of the meeting.

“The department viewed her conduct as unbecoming of a council member, let alone a chairperson of the council who is expected to maintain the highest professional standards and to lead by example.

“Further, the department understood Ms Muthien’s actions of leaving the meeting before the time as the culmination of her expressed desire to resign as she had previously informed the minister before the commencement of the meeting.”

The department then decided to dismiss Muthien and appoint Maluleke who is also the current deputy chairperson of the council.

“Moreover, advocate Michael Masutha and Ms Louisa Mabe have since been appointed to replace Ms Muthien and another council member who has resigned. The council is therefore fully constituted. A permanent chairperson of the RIM council will be announced soon,” the department said.

It also emphasised it had no intention of abandoning the findings and recommendations of the Morar forensic investigation report.

“None of the new council members appointed on July 1, 2019, is implicated in the report. As such, the department has requested the council and other relevant persons to pursue all the matters [which include irregularities and breaches of governance] contained in the aforesaid report to their final conclusion.”

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