Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane DA

Mkhwebane is fighting tooth and nail to remain in office – Picture: Jacques Naude / African News Agency(ANA)

Mkhwebane’s former operating officer claims she’s playing ‘political chess’

Former chief operating officer of the Public Protector, claims that Mkhwebane has acted unconstitutionally and for her own personal gain.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane DA

Mkhwebane is fighting tooth and nail to remain in office – Picture: Jacques Naude / African News Agency(ANA)

According to the Mail & Guardian, the Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s former Chief Operating Officer, Basani Baloyi, has made claims that she lied and acted unconstitutionally, for her own personal gain in political investigations.

According to Baloyi, the investigations include the donations to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 ANC election campaign in 2017 and findings against Public Enterprises Minister, Pravin Gordhan and Water and Sanitation Minister, Gugile Nkwinti. These reports are being challenged in court.

The Public Protector’s office sees Baloyi’s claims as stemming from the fact that she no longer works for the constitution. 

Baloyi’s claims on the Public Protector

Baloyi is allegedly in a labour dispute with Mkhwebane and her chief executive (CEO), Vussy Mahlangu, and is demanding to be reinstated as the chief operating officer.

In her affidavit Baloyi says she was “purged” because she was an “obstacle to the public protector and CEO using their powers for their own personal advancement.”

“The public protector has used her power for her own ends. She has released reports in order to advantage the CEO. She has improperly prioritised investigations, and ‘played chess’ with the country,” said Baloyi. 

Public Protector’s office denies the allegations 

The public protector’s office said it would be defending the case.

“The office rejects all of the allegations levelled against her as baseless and malicious”. They seek to “feed into the meritless claims and perception that are out there,” said Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe.

He said Baloyi had never raised any of these issues while she was still employed and was only bringing them up now that she no longer works for the institution and is seemingly aggrieved about that.

“Her court case should be seen as nothing but vindictive vengeance. 

At the end of the probation, her employment was not confirmed due to performance and conduct issues. Therefore there was no purge or dismissal,” said Segalwe.

Extremely unusual investigations 

The public protector reports about Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign and allegations that a “rogue” investigative unit had been created at the South African Revenue Service (SARS) when Gordhan was commissioner are two of the most politically contentious of Mkhwebane’s incumbency. 

Mkhwebane found that Ramaphosa and Gordhan had breached the Executive Ethics Code. She directed, as remedial action, disciplinary action against Gordhan and that the speaker of the National Assembly demanding Ramaphosa disclose the details of all the donations made to the CR17 campaign.

Both reports were challenged in court, in disputes that have become increasingly acrimonious, with the president and Gordhan questioning Mkhwebane’s motives.

Baloyi said both these investigations were handled in a way that was “extremely unusual.”

Further investigation denied 

She said when Bosasa’s Gavin Watson was interviewed, he revealed that he had also donated to the election campaign of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ), who was running against Ramaphosa. But when it was suggested that the investigation be broadened to include the NDZ campaign, Mkhwebane refused.

The public protector said that Watson had subsequently changed his tune and that she had said as much in her report. “Further, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was not a member of the executive at the time of her campaign for ANC presidency. The Executive Members’ Ethics Act is only applicable to members of the executive.”

After their suggestion, external people were brought in to conduct the investigation. “I do not know who these people were as I was entirely excluded from the process,” said Baloyi. 

Mkhwebane said to have no legitimate reasons 

Baloyi claimed that investigations were not conducted through the ordinary process and there were no legitimate reasons for Mkhwebane to do so.

“The public protector is sometimes required to rely on external investigators to aid her with reports. But that is only when the skills or capacity are lacking in the office. That was not the case here. There was no legitimate reason why the complaints could not have been investigated through the ordinary process,” said Baloyi. 

Segalwe said the number of people working on the Bosasa matter was reduced “due to the sensitivities involved.

The matter involved the head of state and the information gathered, including bank statements, had to be handled with care. In fact, Ms Baloyi was on a number of times found to have revealed sensitive details of investigations during social gatherings, breaching confidentiality agreements, and was cautioned about that,” said Segalwe.

Baloyi holds Whatsapp evidence 

Baloyi said that on 26 May 2019 she received a “disturbing” WhatsApp message from the public protector. 

It read: “COO, I worked with a few people to deal with the sabotage of the PG [Pravin Gordhan] camp. The notice is almost ready for rogue [unit], will issue this week and report will also be issued in the manner I will determine. The notice for the president is also ready, will call him this week to discuss the notice. It is not about you but one has to play the chess.” 

A screenshot of the WhatsApp is attached to the court papers.