South Africa


Evidence indicates Mkhwebane’s office a virtual ‘branch’ of State Security Agency, remarks committee

Evidence indicates Mkhwebane’s office a virtual ‘branch’ of State Security Agency, remarks committee
Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Photo: Gallo Images / Tebgogo Letsie)

Active participation of SSA and its former Director-General Arthur Fraser in the affairs of suspended Public Protector office continues to be exposed in startling detail at Parliament's Section 194 Inquiry impeachment inquiry.

Testifying on Wednesday, Gumbi Tyelela, acting head of Corporate Services in the Office of the Public Protector, set out the web of ties with the SSA, including that the SSA’s CFO had been seconded from the agency. The SSA also vetted all PPSA staff, he confirmed.

The secondment of the as yet unnamed SSA CFO to the Public Protector’s office occurred as Mkhwebane was working on a series of urgent investigations and reports including the Absa/CIEX attempt at altering the mandate of the Reserve Bank.

By then the Reserve Bank had also fined then-president Jacob Zuma’s business partners and friends, the Gupta family’s bank, Bank of Baroda, for a variety of transgressions. All four of the country’s banks had also turned off the taps.

The 194 Inquiry, now in its sixth week, has heard testimony from several former and current officials of the casual and omnipresent SSA marinade in which Mkhwebane doused her office.

The committee also heard that an SSA official had in fact sat in on a panel interviewing candidates for the position of head of security at the PPSA which eventually went to Baldwin Neshunzhi.

On Wednesday, committee members remarked that evidence provided by Tyelela as well as other witnesses seemed to suggest that the Office of the Public Protector had become a “branch” of the SSA.

Tyelela responded that Mkhwebane’s office indeed had had “close ties” with Fraser’s SSA but he would not say that it had become a fully-fledged  “branch”.

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So far, Advocate Dali Mpofu, representing Mkhwebane, has labelled almost every single witness as “disgruntled” or “seeking revenge”. Mpofu has also claimed that the evidence given by these officials is “irrelevant”.

Neshunzhi testified to the committee earlier that Mkhwebane had asked him to be her “eyes and ears” after his appointment and that she had assumed he had been “seconded” from the SSA.

The security expert, a stickler for detail, was later placed on “garden leave” for doing his job. 

It was his involvement in attempting to obtain top-level security clearance for CEO Vussy Mahlangu that exposed him to the wrath of Mkhwebane.

As a result, the Public Protector had wanted Neshunzhi out, and had written to Fraser requesting him to “recall” Neshunzhi for training.

But there was no “recalling” to be done as Neshunzhi had never been trained by the SSA. Mkhwebane had simply assumed he had been “seconded”.

Neshunzhi was later accused by the PP of leaking documents that had been delivered from the President’s office to her office when in fact the President’s office had made a media announcement about this, the committee heard.

It was Fraser who in 2019, Neshunzhi had told the committee, after having left the SSA for Correctional Services, who had called him to express the PP’s “displeasure” at his conduct.

Responding to committee chair, Qubudile Dyantyi’s request for the witness to set out the securitisation of the office under Mkhwebane, Tyelela responded that it now had a “stand-alone” security unit with a senior manager.

“We were working with officials from the SSA. Security functions were elevated under her [Mkhwebane],” said Tyelele.

On Thursday, Lufuno Ndou, who has worked at the PPSA in various capacities began giving evidence. He ended up as executive manager of the Provincial Investigations and Integration branch, where he had oversight over nine offices, including the Free State.

Ndou resigned in 2018.

The hearing continues. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Graham Ferreira says:

    The most disappointing aspect of the unfolding sage coming hard on the heels of the Zondo report is that how many of my “fellow South Africans” will defend the indefensible simply on the grounds of allegiance to factions, tribes or political ideology. There seems to be no benchmark about what is right, decent, fair, honest or in the extreme.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    This charade should have been concluded within six days rather than the six weeks and still running. The chairman is wasting taxpayers’ money by allowing Mpofu to waffle on with irrelevances. The evidence that Mkhwebane is incompetent is overwhelming.

    • Cape Doctor says:

      The Chair is only one of many who know for certain that the PP will challenge any adverse finding against her on the basis of prejudice, unfairness or both. So he is bending over backwards to kill that perception in advance. Not that it will make any difference.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Not only hugely incompetent but exceptionally devious and arrogant too boot as well. With an agenda to only whitewash the massive state capture criminals and further the aspirations and downright crooked business of Zuma and his poodles, the EFF morons and the REThieves. Put in place by the thieving SSA, controlled until recently by none other than the hideous Fraser thug. This wicked woman couldn’t even tie Madonsela’s shoelaces! The former is honest, upright, very knowledgeable about the law and her mandate, highly competent and brimming with integrity, ethics and morals. The latter is the complete opposite, and some. How badly SA has been betrayed by this vile bunch who should also face treason charges.

  • John Georgiou says:

    I see to recall (though these days of hazy memory I might have imagined it) that when she was 1st touted for public protector the DA was against her because of the state security angle but as usually happens the ANC went ahead with her appointment anyway……

    • Luan Sml says:

      Your memory has not failed you…throughout these proceedings, I have been thinking how right the DA were when they protested her appointment to the PP office… the current evidence has revealed the PP’s very close ties to Frazer and the SSA!

  • Hermann Funk says:

    So far, Advocate Dali Mpofu, representing Mkhwebane, has labelled almost every single witness as “disgruntled” or “seeking revenge”. If that’s all he can contribute, he is not a defense lawyer, but a useless clown.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    Public protector my ass. And what’s with all the corporate titles? Head of Corporate Services? What does that even mean in the context of the Public Protector? Executive Managers, CEO’s… this is an agency of the state, not a corporation.

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