South Africa

Axed Public Protector COO says she was ‘purged’ for being obstacle to Mkhwebane and CEO’s ‘personal advancement’

By News24 8 November 2019
Caption
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla)

Former Public Protector South Africa chief operating officer (COO) Basani Baloyi says she believes she was "purged" as a result of being "an obstacle to the Public Protector and the CEO (Vussy Mahlangu) using their powers for their own personal advancement".

This is according to her founding affidavit, where she seeks relief in a number of areas, including reviewing and setting aside the “unlawful” conduct of P ublic Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Mahlangu, as well as a declaratory order that Mkhwebane abused her office “for ulterior purposes”.

She is also seeking a personal costs order against both.

“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,” Baloyi said.

Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said Mkhwebane intended to defend the matter.

“The Public Protector will be defending this matter and rejects all of the allegations levelled against her as baseless and malicious in that they seek to feed into the meritless claims and perceptions that are out there,” he said.

Baloyi claimed Mkhwebane and Mahlangu did not follow the proper procedures when they dismissed her, saying they “unlawfully sought to terminate my contract”.

She also claims that the way Mkhwebane handled certain reports, including the ones on Bosasa and the so-called “rogue unit”, was “extremely unusual”.

Last month, News24 reported that Mkhwebane had dismissed Baloyi and suspended four senior officials and investigators in a sweeping purge.

In a letter penned by Mahlangu, which News24 has seen, Baloyi is deemed unsuitable for the position of chief operating officer, for lacking the required skills and conduct.

Speaking to News24 last week, Baloyi’s attorney Eric Mabuza said they would be challenging her dismissal in court, calling it “completely unlawful”.

While Baloyi admitted that the three of them sometimes had disagreements, she said “neither the CEO nor the Public Protector ever identifies specific instances of misconduct or incapacity on my part that would justify terminating my contract”.

Baloyi said that Mkhwebane’s conduct went beyond personal disputes and extended into her investigations.

She said the final Bosasa report did not go through the proper chain of command and was finalised faster than expected, which “caused suspicions within staff members”.

“The reports did not go through the ordinary process, from Senior Investigator up to the Public Protector. Instead, the investigations were primarily conducted by external people who reported directly to the Public Protector.

“She prioritised both reports. As I have noted earlier, these types of investigations usually take up to two years to finalise. However, these reports were completed within a few months,” Baloyi said.

She added that she had found a particular text sent to her by Mkhwebane “disturbing”:

“COO

“I worked with few people to deal with the sabotage of the [Pravin Gordhan] camp

“The notice is almost ready for rogue, will issue this week and report will also be issue 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.” Mkhwebane said in the text.

Baloyi said: “I understood the reference to playing chess…to mean that the Public Protector was playing a political game.”

Segalwe, however, denied the text suggested Mkhwebane was playing a political game.

“The text in question was sent at the time when the subject of the investigation was dealing with the Public Protector through the media. The Public Protector’s text was therefore referring to countering that.”

He explained that Baloyi’s employment had not been continued “due to performance and conduct issue”.

“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.

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

News24

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