Give me ‘half a chance’, pleads Mkhwebane

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane (City Press)
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane (City Press)

Johannesburg - Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane has called on the public to give her an opportunity to make her mark. 

"All she asks for is half a chance to prove herself," her office said in a statement on Sunday

Mkhwebane’s comments come in the wake of controversy over seemingly ongoing tension between herself and her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela – apparently over a pension payout owed to the former public protector.

Mkhwebane said that portion of Madonsela’s gratuity payout being withheld was that which equated to an amount in dispute over a car accident involving a state car.

"A legal opinion has been sought from the office of the State Attorney to clarify if indeed Adv Madonsela is liable for the costs associated with fixing the damages a state car entrusted to her sustained in a 2012 accident."

Mkhwebane lashed out at the "peddling of false information" that suggested the money was withheld as a result of "antagonism".

"There are no sinister motives behind this action. This is being done purely as part of the due diligence and governance practices," she said.

The current public protector said she also wanted to reiterate "that she harbours no ill" towards Madonsela.

"She respects Adv Madonsela and is grateful to her for the admirable contribution she made to South Africa’s democracy during her term of office."

Mkhwebane said that she now wanted to work with her team in order "to build on those successes to take the office to new heights".

SSA involved

Earlier, over the weekend, Madonsela said she suspected that President Zuma and the State Security Agency (SSA) could be involved in stirring seeming conflict between her and Mkhwebane.

"I have no evidence, but I suspect that either President Zuma or people linked to him are behind what's happening at the Public Protector's office," Madonsela told eNCA in a recorded interview on Saturday.

"I have no evidence, but I suspect that the State Security Agency is behind some of the things that happened in my office before the [new] Public Protector was appointed and what has happened since then," she added.

Subsequently, the Presidency described Madonsela’s comments during the interview as preposterous.

"The President does not play any role when it comes to salary and conditions of service of the Public Protector," Presidency spokesperson Dr Bongani Ngqulunga said in a statement.

Madonsela has previously said that money was illegally deducted from her pension since leaving office last year, reportedly as a result of costs incurred by an accident her son was involved in while driving a state vehicle and her continued use of the vehicle after her term ended.

During the interview, Madonsela said that she did not want to speak out against Mkhwebane, reaffirming her stance that it is not collegial to speak out on one's successor.

On Sunday, Mkhwebane reiterated in her media statement that she did "not wish to engage in a public spat".

She would be making no further comment on the matter, she said.

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