PUBLIC PROTECTOR IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY
Mkhwebane’s office in talks to settle matter of purged former COO Basani Baloyi
Baloyi, whose employment was terminated in 2019 after eight months, claimed that Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s and her office’s behaviour in handling the SARS ‘rogue unit’, the CR17 Bosasa donation, an investigation into Ipid as well as Prasa had been ‘extremely unusual’.
The Office of the Public Protector is in talks to settle out of court a matter involving former COO Basani Baloyi, who was purged from the institution by suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the Section 194 impeachment inquiry heard on Monday.
Now in its seventh week, the committee sat to hear evidence by Baloyi, whose testimony, according to Advocate Dali Mpofu, representing Mkhwebane, was “a waste of time and money”.
Mpofu objected to Baloyi’s testimony branding her, along with other former officials who have testified to the committee so far, as “disgruntled”.
He said what Baloyi had to tell the committee did not raise prima facie evidence of misconduct on Mkwhbane’s part.
Baloyi’s admission to the committee on Monday that the PPSA had agreed in July 2022 to settle her matter out of court will add additional costs to the office, already burdened by massive legal expenses due to challenges to a number of Mkhwebane’s reports and decisions.
Mpofu’s concern about wasted taxpayers’ money seemed to be ill-placed in that moment.
Baloy, who was employed for eight months in 2019 before her employment as COO was terminated, filed explosive papers in the Pretoria high court in November 2019.
Baloyi charged that Mkhwebane’s and her office’s behaviour in the handling the SARS “rogue unit”, the CR17 Bosasa donation, an investigation into Ipid as well as Prasa had been “extremely unusual”.
She was dismissed by Mkhwebane more or less the same time as three other senior officials, executive manager Pona Mogaladi, chief investigator Abongile Madiba, chief investigator Lesedi Sekele, and senior investigator Tebogo Kekana were suspended.
While the Gauteng high court found it could not rule on Baloyi’s application on jurisdictional grounds, the Constitutional Court in December 2020 found that the matter should be heard anew. It was after this that the PPSA offered to settle the matter out of court.
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At the time, Mkhwebane lashed out at Baloyi in the media, describing her attempts at a fair hearing as “those of a spy masquerading in the organisation with the only motivation of destroying the office’s credibility”.
Baloyi is presently employed as Deputy Director General in the Gauteng Department of Health.
Her job as COO at the PPSA had been to coordinate investigations. She reported to the PP on these matters, she said and to CEO Vussy Mahlangu, on administrative issues. She worked with former Deputy Public Protector Advocate Kevin Malunga on some of the older cases.
In her high court affidavit, the former COO set out that she had been present when Mkhwebane had interviewed Bosasa head, Gavin Watson, about the payment of a donation to the CR17 campaign.
“Mr Watson told the public protector that he donated not only to the CR17 campaign, but also the NDZ [Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma] campaign.
“Yet the public protector refused to investigate the allegation about donations to the NDZ campaign, despite the fact that Mr Watson indicated that there were many donors who funded political parties” Baloyi said in her court papers.
Baloyi said she and executive manager Mogaladi had suggested extending the scope of the public protector’s investigation to include the NDZ allegations, or to limit the investigation into the R500,000 donation to CR17, and to request the NPA to investigate other allegations.
After this Baloyi said she and Mogaladi “were excluded from these investigations”.
Mogaladi herself later took Mkhwebane and the PPSA to the labour court where her dismissal was found to be illegal.
Baloyi said that the PP’s evidence that there had been regular meetings in which her performance had been discussed was “a lie”.
“There were no meetings. This is a statement that is not true. It is a lie,” Baloyi told the committee.
After she had received a letter of suspension by Mahlangu, Baloyi told the committee she had bumped into Mkhwebane and her bodyguards in the corridor and had confronted her.
Mkhwebane had accompanied Baloyi to legal services where she had inserted a handwritten paragraph that Baloyi had the right to appeal Mahlangu’s decision.
The inquiry continues. DM