Mkhwebane impeachment: Key takeaways from Tebele testimony

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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and her legal counsel Adv Dali Mpofu SC, during Wednesday's impeachment hearing.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and her legal counsel Adv Dali Mpofu SC, during Wednesday's impeachment hearing.
Jan Gerber

POLITICS


This is the fourth week of the Parliament impeachment inquiry into suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkwebane’s fitness to hold office and on Wednesday, Futana Tebele was the sixth witness.

Tebele is a senior manager for executive support in the Office of the Public Protector.

City Press brings you some of the key takeaways from Tebele’s testimony.

Evidence leaders to be reported

Mkhwebane’s legal representative, Advocate Dali Mpofu, made it known that the legal team will report the evidence leaders to Parliament for an “anomaly”. This after evidence leader Advocate Ncumisa Mayosi asked Tebele about an SMS that was allegedly sent by Mkhwebane to former COO Basani Baloyi in February 2019, warning her against Tebele and another person in that office.

“COO, be careful of what you hear from Pona and Tebele. But you are an adult, be wise.”

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The contentious WhatsApp message. Photo: Screenshot

Tebele told the committee that he had been made known of the text by the evidence leaders shortly before giving his testimony. Mpofu said Mkhwebane’s team was also sent the SMS on Tuesday night, and that was an “anomaly”.

Tebele, who had spoken glowingly about Mkhwebane’s leadership, seemed disappointed to learn of the SMS but maintained that the SMS did not change his view of Mkhwebane, and he still believed they share a relationship rooted in trust.

READ: ‘I’m cleverer than Mkhwebane’ - Parliament impeachment inquiry hears

EFF MP Omphile Maotwe said the party would also report the evidence leaders to Parliament for “ambushing” the witness with the SMS.

Mkwebane is a hardworking person

Tebelele told the committee that he had known Mkhwebane since university but added that they did not share a personal relationship.

Said Tebele about Mkhwebane: 

I have known the Public Protector for a long time, if I am not mistaken, it is over 30 years. And knowing her from our school days, she has been a hard worker …

Mpofu thanked Tebele for being a man of integrity.

 “Thank you Mr Tebele, all I can say is that you are a man of integrity and approach things in a professional manner. We need more like you in our public service,” Mpofu told Tebele.

This was about Tebele’s evidence on the staff in the Public Protector’s office not being purged, victimised, intimidated or harassed by Mkhwebane. This was the evidence that witnesses, who were yet to testify, were going to give when appearing before the committee.

Two other witnesses who appeared before the committee, former senior investigator Thabo Kekana and head of the Public Protector’s office Sphelo Samuel have already made claims that Mkhwebane dealt harshly with people who allegedly challenged her authority. Some of the evidence was that Mkhwebane shouted at staff during meetings.

READ: Mkhwebane to open a case of perjury against Sphelo Samuel, as Mpofu calls him a liar

However, Tebele said he had never seen it like that. He said he never experienced any harassment and that when staff were called to account by Mkhwebane, it was because they failed to deliver on what they were supposed to do. He made an example of Mkhwebane bemoaning a backlog of cases – some as old as six years – not been dealt with timeously.

Questioning the quality of reports

Answering DA MP Kevin Mileham’s question, Tebele said:

Honourable member, in a way, you are trying to put me in a corner, but I am going to respond. You can’t talk about one report and want me to make a statement that the quality of reports declined. How many reports did the courts talk about? And how many reports are still in good standing? That is all I am asking [for, in order] for me to give an accurate answer without looking at one report. I would need to check how many reports are in good standing and how many have been set aside by the courts. Then I will be able to say the standard has declined, but currently, I am unable based on one, two or three reports. It needs to be done in terms of a population of the reports for me to say that ‘I agree with what the courts have said.’ But I am unable to say to you that there is a decline in the number of reports.

Mileham wanted Tebele to elaborate on earlier comments he had made that the quality of the reports in the Public Protector’s office was never compromised. But, Mileham brought up examples where courts had found that Mkhwebane either had the wrong interpretation of the law or made unconstitutional remedial actions, such as in the CIEX report where she called for the mandate of the SA Reserve Bank to be amended.

Are the attacks on Mkwebane justified?

Maotwe asked Tebele if the “attacks” on Mkwebane were justified. Tebele responded:

I think you would not punish me for not making those political comments … I do not want to get into committee work … I was also reluctant to give testimony to a motion that is political. And so, for now, I am fine with what I have said and I do not want to enter the political terrain. The work of the Public Protector will be there for people to see [and] how they comment is a different thing together because people comment how they want to comment. I have given my view in terms of the observations … let me not get into the politics of the process.

Maotwe had asked Tebele whether the “attacks” and “negative criticisms” against Mkhwebane, from what she said was the DA and the media, were justified given that she had received two clean audits and had also produced more reports than her predecessor.

The EFF, United Democratic Movement and African Transformation Movement are some of the parties in Parliament that are against the inquiry and have expressed that it is being used to victimise Mkhwebane.

The inquiry continues on Thursday.


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