Mkhwebane denies shunning Parliament's SABC committee

2016-12-02 06:00
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Netwerk24)

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Netwerk24)

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Cape Town - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane never refused to appear in front of Parliament's ad hoc committee investigating the SABC and was already helping it with its probe, she said on Thursday.

“I was not saying I was not available to do it,” she said in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

She was speaking on the sidelines of her office's commitment to the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign.

She said two of her office's investigators were made available to committee representatives, who wanted more information about the report into the SABC, titled When Governance and Ethics Fail, which her predecessor Thuli Madonsela released in February 2014.

This was arranged for them at short notice when they arrived in Johannesburg. 

She sent additional documents to the committee and proposed two dates that she would be available to attend the committee meeting. One was Thursday, December 1, at 16:00 and the other December 7, also at 16:00.

However, she asked that her investigators answer questions in camera because of safety fears.

Mkhwebane said the investigators told her they were worried about their safety, given the death threats against SABC staffers who had raised concerns about censorship at the public broadcaster.

Mkhwebane said the committee wanted her to attend its meeting on Tuesday, but her office had already scheduled a strategic planning session.

DA MP Phumzile van Damme complained that Mkhwebane had said it was her prerogative to decide whether she attended as one of more than 20 witnesses the committee wanted to interview for its probe into the public broadcaster's problems.

Mkhwebane took office on October 17. Her first weeks were marked by fallout over the “State of Capture” which Madonsela oversaw, and suggestions that she was trying to protect President Jacob Zuma, whose son Duduzane was mentioned in the report.

The report details allegations that the wealthy Gupta family had a hand in key Cabinet appointments and government contracts.

Mkhwebane's reading of the Public Protector Act was that she was not compelled to be a witness. It merely states that she is “competent” to do so.

She instead asked police to investigate who leaked the audio recordings of Madonsela’s interviews with President Jacob Zuma, EFF leader Julius Malema, and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor.

Not only was it against the Public Protector Act to leak these, she alleged, but it damaged the credibility of the office and threatened the confidentiality afforded whistleblowers.

It was up to the police, not her, to decide whether a crime had been committed.

Madonsela had already said she released the recording of her interview with Zuma after he claimed that she had not afforded him the opportunity to reply to her questions.

 

Read more on:    da  |  public protector  |  sabc  |  busisiwe mkhwebane  |  cape town  |  media  |  parliament 2016

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