Fresh row over Busi’s hiring of Mahlangu

2018-05-06 06:00
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Pic: Netwerk24)

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Pic: Netwerk24)

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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has found herself in the line of fire again, with her latest appointment raising eyebrows in her office.

This week Mkhwebane appointed a new chief executive Vusi Mahlangu, much to the dismay of some in her office who are concerned that he still has to clear his name following his dismissal by the rural development and land reform department.

Mahlangu, who was the deputy director-general at the time, was dismissed from the department under the tenure of former minister Gugile Nkwinti. His dismissal came in the wake of a scandal that involved handing over a farm to Nkwinti’s colleague in the ANC, Errol Velile Present‚ who at the time had been employed at Luthuli House for 10 years. Spokesperson for the public protector’s office Oupa Segalwe confirmed to City Press that Mahlangu had been appointed as of May 2, following a rigorous internal process.

“The appointment of Mr Vusi Mahlangu was done through the competitive recruitment process, wherein four candidates were shortlisted and interviewed. He was scored the highest, taking into account both the interview and competency assessment, hence his appointment,” Segalwe said.

City Press understands that the appointment has caused unease in the office, which has been battling credibility since Mkhwebane’s arrival. Just two weeks ago the public protector came under fire when she admitted to the justice portfolio in Parliament that the State Security Agency (SSA) had a hand in the operational affairs of her office.

Staff at the office have raised concerns about the presence of the SSA in the office, saying it hampered their ability to do their work properly because they
felt they were being watched while they handled sensitive information.

Insiders said the appointment of a person who was dismissed from another government department did not bode well for the chapter 9 institution, which must at all times be seen as a body of integrity. They argued that even if Mahlangu challenged his dismissal, a dark cloud would still follow him until his name was cleared. On that basis alone, his appointment was problematic.

Segalwe confirmed there was a legal process under way pertaining to Mahlangu’s dismissal from his previous post.

“Mr Vusi Mahlangu’s employment contract was terminated by the department of rural development and the matter is currently pending before the labour court. Accordingly, the matter is therefore sub judice,” Segalwe said.

People close to Mahlangu told City Press he believes he was the “scapegoat” for officials in the department who were embroiled in the scandal and he is confident he will be absolved by the labour court ruling in his favour.

Mahlangu declined to comment, asking instead that all questions regarding his appointment be directed to the Office of the Public Protector.

Mkhwebane is fighting accusations by Casac at the Pretoria High Court that she deliberately changed her report on the Vrede Dairy scandal to shield Ace Magashule and Mosebenzi Zwane from investigation for their alleged role in the Gupta family’s looting of R250m from the Free State agriculture department.

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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is under fire again. Do you believe she is the right person for the job? SMS us on 35697 using the keyword BUSI and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

Read more on:    busisiwe mkhwebane  |  public protector

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