Mkhwebane’s baptism of fire

2016-10-23 06:00
Busisiwe Mkhwebane (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

Busisiwe Mkhwebane (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

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New Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s decision to wash her hands of the final report on state capture and defer its fate to the courts is a cautious move based on grounds that she had little time to form a view on whether her predecessor followed the right processes.

This was her submission to the Gauteng North High Court, which has been condemned by opposition parties critical of her decision not to oppose the application by President Jacob Zuma to stop the release of the report.

She also attracted negative publicity at her workplace where staff said she insisted on switching the TV channels from eNCA to Gupta-owned station ANN7.

Mkhwebane has already been reviewing her staff complement, an exercise which has seen some people who worked with Madonsela shifted to other positions.

This included the chief of staff and Madonsela’s personal assistants who were moved to random positions like the library and administration.

This has sparked anxiety among other staff members about their positions.

Mkhwebane told journalists this week at her maiden press briefing she had already picked up there was low morale in the office.

But this has been dismissed by some of her staff, saying it related to about eight senior managers who were known to have had issues with Madonsela.

In an affidavit filed on Friday, Mkhwebane says it was also unclear in terms of her powers whether she is legally permitted to revisit the report signed by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

The report, which investigates the Gupta family and its alleged influence on the appointment of Cabinet ministers, was set to be released last week as Madonsela ended her term, but was stopped by an urgent court bid.

It’s understood the report could reveal explosive details on the alleged involvement of Zuma’s friends on Cabinet appointments.

Zuma filed a notice of application to interdict the release of the report together with Cooperative Governance Minister Des van Rooyen on the grounds they were not given enough time to respond to allegations.

Madonsela had opposed the intention to interdict until Friday, when Mkhwebane withdrew.

“Furthermore, irrespective of whether or not it is legally permissible for me to revisit the findings contained in the report, I do not believe it would be either proper or fitting for me to do so in the present circumstances,” said Mkhwebane in court documents.

Mkhwebane said she was neither in a position to advocate the report’s release, nor grant Zuma or Van Rooyen additional time to make representations, and wants the courts to be the final arbiter.

She was also willing to hand over a copy of the report, kept under lock and key in the Public Protector’s legal services office since the start of her tenure on Monday, should she be required to do so by the court.

“If the court is of the view that it would be assisted in deciding these issues by having regard to the report’s contents, I’m willing to make a copy of the report available to the court for this purpose if directed so,” read Mkhwebane’s submission.

This leaves Zuma to fight it out with the opposition in the North Gauteng High Court on November 1.

Mkhwebane also picked a bone with how Madonsela sought foreign funding to finance investigations – like the $500 000 (R7 million) from USAid as outlined in the annual 2015/16 report.

She said such funding came with risks, adding it was well known certain conditions get attached to it.

There are now calls that Madonsela be investigated, although she had denied receiving this funding as “blatant lies”.

Madonsela responded by saying: “We haven’t used a single cent from USAid. That money was allocated from left over funds given to government through the Treasury.

“A piece of that money was given to the department of justice and they were going to give us a tiny piece of that money to use for some of the processes to improve efficiencies.”

Defence deputy minister and MKMVA chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe told City Press only an independent inquiry would be able to ascertain with credibility that Madonsela’s office was not “captured” to pursue US interests, as well as those of Germany.

“We are worried that maybe [Madonsela] was captured through this funding,” said Maphatsoe.

“We know most of the times the money that comes for aid comes from countries that are not friendly to the pro-leftist government.”

Read more on:    busisiwe mkhwebane  |  jacob zuma  |  des van rooyen  |  public protector

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