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Mkhwebane was in cahoots with politicians, not fit to hold office but should not be impeached: witness

Adv Dali Mpofu says inquiry into Mkhwebane's fitness like a kangaroo court

Suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Image: TEBOGO LETSIE

A witness who supported the appointment of suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, believing she was fit for the job and that she “aced” the interview for the vacancy six years ago, has changed his mind.

Provincial head of the public protector’s office in the Free State Sphelo Samuel on Friday told parliament’s section 194 committee that after seeing  Mkhwebane at the helm, he realised she was not the person for the job.

EFF MP Omphile Maotwe asked Samuel what had caused him to change his mind and at what point. He responded it was after experiencing her leadership skills.

Maotwe put it to him if Mkhwebane’s leadership was so problematic she should be impeached. However he said he was not suggesting this.

Yes, I did not like it [leadership style] but that is not a reason for me being here or maybe mentioning it in my affidavit

“Yes, I did not like it [leadership style] but that is not a reason for me being here or maybe mentioning it in my affidavit. I do make a point that in my opinion, and to the extent that it is stated in my affidavit, I do not regard her as fit to run that office but that is not the same as that she must be impeached.”   

Instead, the determination into Mkhwebane’s fitness must be made by the committee, suggested Samuel.

Samuel has made damning allegations against Mkhwebane, including that she was in cahoots with politicians, among them former premier Ace Magashule and former MEC for traditional affairs Mosebenzi Zwane, both of whom she was investigating. 

He also told the committee Mkhwebane engaged in reckless litigation. Maotwe questioned the allegation arguing that perhaps it was justified for Mkhwebane to defend reviews against her reports, in the interest of the public that her office serves to defend.

Asked to elaborate, Samuel said he formulated the view based on the fact some of the litigation was not necessary for the office to be engaged in. He believed it was ill-considered, in that the prospects of whether the office would succeed were not taken into account.

“And the amount of money that was going to be spent pursuing that litigation was not considered, it was completely ignored.”  Pursuing the litigation meant that the budget of the office was then diverted, meaning other functions would suffer. He felt strongly that the spending of public funds must be accounted for. 

“Do you believe that she tried by all means to protect politicians at the expense of the public?” ANC MP Dipuo Peters asked Samuels.

 “Yes I do,” responded Samuels. 

Peters asked how adamant the public protector was in exonerating politicians and if, in hindsight, he thought Mkhwebane was influenced by them.

“I cannot state that as a fact, I am not aware of them putting pressure on her. I am just speaking from the fact that she wanted those findings removed especially under circumstances that happened after she had met with them. It led me to believe that she sought to protect them ... her conduct certainly suggested that she was protecting them,” he said.

The committee meeting on Friday had a shaky start as some MPs accused chairperson Richard Dyantyi of running the process unfairly. This after he refused to grant Mkhwebane’s legal representative, Adv Dali Mpofu, more time to cross-examine Samuels. 

Maotwe and the ATM’s Vuyo Zungula were among those who made the accusations. 

Zungula charged that Dyantyi had been conducting himself in a biased manner throughout the process and accused him of having a predetermined outcome.

“If this process is going to continue the way you are driving it, then it will spell out that this entire process there is a witch-hunt against Adv Mkhwebane ... I want to appeal to you first that you need to be fair as a chairperson. We may not agree with all of us, we are not here to agree with one another but to serve the people of this country.” 

Al Jama-ah MP Ganief Hendricks supported Dyantyi’s decision not to grant Mpofu further time.

“We are not going to have a long drawn-out inquiry and that’s why as a chairman, you must give leadership,” Hendricks said.

Mpofu made similar allegations, suggesting the process was like a kangaroo court. 

“What you are doing is unprecedented. It has never been done anywhere. I have been in this game for many decades, I have never seen it done in any process. There’s never been a legal representative who is not allowed to say, 'I have no further questions,'” Mpofu told the chairperson. 

Dyantyi stood by his decision and ruled that the proceedings continue. 

“I repeat, this is not a kangaroo court, there’s no bias. In fact there is a lot of fairness and rationality. I have noted your objection on this but you do know that it can’t be the end of the road. If you need further time to interact with the witness, that’s allowed. It can be arranged,” he said.

TimesLIVE


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