Mkhwebane vs Baloyi: Court case over COO axing to commence on Tuesday

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Busisiwe Mkhwebane.(Photo: Andrew Mkhondo)
Busisiwe Mkhwebane.(Photo: Andrew Mkhondo)

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and axed Public Protector COO Basani Baloyi will face off in court on Tuesday.

Last month, Mkhwebane dismissed Baloyi in what she believed was a purge as a result of being "an obstacle to the Public Protector and CEO [Vusi Mahlangu] using their powers for their own personal advancement".

But Baloyi has not taken her dismissal lying down, dragging Mkhwebane and Mahlangu to the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

Baloyi is seeking a number of reliefs, including a review and the setting aside of the "unlawful" conduct of Mkhwebane and Mahlangu, as well as a declaratory order that Mkhwebane abused her for "ulterior purposes". She is also seeking a personal cost order against them.

In a back and forth of court papers, Baloyi alleged Mkhwebane had breached her constitutional duty pertaining to independence and objectivity, illustrated through her "extremely unusual" handling of certain cases.

"In a range of high-profile investigations, the Public Protector has failed to act impartially and independently. In preparing reports, and in the timing of releasing reports, she has abused her office," she said.

These investigations include the CR17 campaign funding investigation as well as the so-called rogue unit investigation - both reports are being dealt with in other court cases.

Baloyi said Mkhwebane and Mahlangu had acted unconstitutionally in dealing with a number of high-profile investigations "to advance their own personal agendas". This, she added, related to both the content of the report and the timing of their release.

'Nothing but vindictive vengeance'

According to her, Mahlangu also unduly interfered with investigations that Mkhwebane allowed, including one into former Independent Police Investigative Directorate boss Robert McBride, going so far as to remove Mahlangu's name in a case concerning Water and Sanitation Minister Gugile Nkwinti.

Mkhwebane's spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, however, said Mahlangu was always kept at "arms-length" from investigations.

Baloyi alleged Mkhwebane had refused to widen the scope of her CR17 campaign donation investigation once it came to light that late former Bosasa boss Gavin Watson also donated to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's campaign.

Mkhwebane has denied this, however, through her spokesperson, Segalwe, and court papers.

She called the allegations, which were within the context of a labour dispute, "scandalous, vexatious and/or irrelevant".

"The application ought to be struck off the roll with punitive costs in order to send a message that such frivolity and obfuscation will not be tolerated in our courts. Such conduct is deserving of the judicial frown," Mkhwebane said.

While the heart of the matter is her labour dispute with Mkhwebane - with Baloyi alleging that her dismissal did not follow proper processes - Baloyi said her claims were "based on the pattern of conduct".

Mkhwebane maintained, however, that "her court case should be seen as nothing but vindictive vengeance".

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