South Africa


Mpofu says his Public Protector R13-million legal bill is ‘peanuts’ and he could have charged twice the amount 

Mpofu says his Public Protector R13-million legal bill is ‘peanuts’ and he could have charged twice the amount 
Suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane speaks to advocate Dali Mpofu over a tea break during the parliamentary inquiry into her fitness to hold office in Parliament, Cape Town, South Africa on 25 August 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Daily Maverick / Leila Dougan)

The Section 194 impeachment inquiry into suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane kicked off on a tetchy note on day 35 of the hearings on Friday 11 November.

The burning issue: the naming of attorneys and advocates who represented Mkhwebane and exactly how much of the R147-million directed to legal expenditure during her six years was made up of payments to these practitioners.

Off the bat Mpofu clashed with an uncompromising committee chair, Qubudile Dyantyi, who ruled that the names of the legal practitioners would not be censored. 

This in spite of a meeting between Mpofu and evidence leader advocate Nazreen Bawa on Thursday evening where Bawa had intimated she had been prepared to withhold names but that the final decision was the committee’s to make.

Dyantyi ruled that the show would go on, names would be named.

Bawa on Thursday apologised for a few errors in the tallies of amounts paid to legal practitioners and which were flighted earlier, a matter which has caused great indignation and “consternation” said Mpofu. 

So much so that advocates Muzi Sikhakhane and Vuyani Ngalwana actually personally came to address the committee on Wednesday.

Dyantyi allowed Sikhakhane – Zuma’s counsel at the Zondo Commision – 10 minutes to address the committee whose actions, he charged, had been “racist”. This as only black legal practitioners had been named and that, as a result, their lives had been “placed at risk from criminals”.

Fixing the numbers 

On Friday Bawa, after apologising for mixing up the numbers, revealed that Mpofu had in fact been paid around R13-million in fees and not R10-million.

Advocate Vuyani Ngalwana had received R3.4 million (and not R4.7-million) and advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, R3.9-million and not R4.7-million.

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Seanego Attorneys, in the corrected version, now appears to have earned R55-million and not R48-million on 24 matters and in fact did bag the bulk of work from the Public Protector South Africa.

Another tweak of the figures overnight revealed that the PP spent R5.9-million on CR17 litigation and not R4-million.

Mpofu told committee members that the R13-million he had been paid was “peanuts” and that had he charged “for everything I have done, it would be double, but that is another story”.

He has steadfastly argued that the amounts advocates where paid was “completely irrelevant” to the inquiry. He has attempted to split hairs about the difference between “fees” and “costs”.

The ‘brilliant’ Mr Ngobeni

With regard to Paul Ngobeni, who is being sought in the US and who is not registered to practice law in South Africa, Mpofu said that the services he had offered clearly “straddled communications and legal”.

Under Ngobeni’s umbrella, former EFF official Kim Heller and UNIZULU’s Professor Sipho Seepe, in fact manufactured propaganda attacking the judiciary and cabinet ministers. 

Heller, in a pitch, wrote that she viewed the mission to counter negative press on Mkhwebane as “spiritual”. Evidence has also revealed that Ngobeni directed the ideological and legal path Mkhwebane chose to take.

It was Ngobeni who drove Mkhwebane’s challenge to her impeachment inquiry and the rules of Parliament which cost the PPSA R15-million.

He also provided a legal opinion on Mkhwebane’s CR17 report, later set aside by the courts and for which he was paid R96,000. He was paid a further R30,000 to pen articles criticising former Minister of State Security, Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba, and minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni.

As far as Mpofu is concerned the only sin here is that Ngobeni’s invoices were paid through the legal and not the communications department.

Ngobeni had arrived at the PPSA’s doorstep after an introduction by Mkhwebane’s late “chief of staff” Sifiso Nyembe. The “brilliant” Ngobeni, added Mpofu – “and you would know if you read his papers” – impressed Mkhwebane. 

There was no duty on her part, however, to do any checks of his qualifications or track record, said Mpofu. That was someone else’s job.

There was no crime, he added, in employing someone you “thought” was an advocate. There was no “impeachable duty” by the PP to do so, he said.

Mpofu’s comment to Neels van der Merwe, senior manager of legal services at the Public Protector’s office during his continued cross-examination at the inquiry, revealed a possible strategy Mkhwebane may present in her testimony

“Yes, we know the PP was the captain of the ship but why are we not told about the deficiencies of those upon whom she put trust to do the various jobs?” he asked Van der Merwe, adding “I am sure you would accept just as the benefits of the clean audits must be shared the deficiencies should also be shared.”

Minions further down the feeding chain are about to be thrown under the bus, it appears.

Auditor-General steps in

Just before lunch, Mpofu flighted a media statement by Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka announcing that the Auditor-General would be investigating the issue of the PPSA’s legal expenditure.

Mpofu read out the letter and scoffed at Gcaleka’s use of the word “calls” in her media release stating “apparently there were calls, maybe they are from [Kevin] Mileham [DA MP] and [Natasha] Mazzone [DA MP].

Gcaleka also advised that the office was reviewing systems with regard to the procurement of legal practitioners in future.

As a parting shot, Mpofu offered “By the way, when you talk about the PP, I assume you are referring to advocate Mkhwebane and not the acting-PP”.

The inquiry continues. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    That’s R13 000 000 of wasted peanuts mr mpofu.

    Poor people of South Africa – do you agree?

  • Two Wrongs Aint No Right says:

    If it was not for the EFF and RET faction, I wonder where Dali Mphofu would have been…

  • Manfred Hasewinkel says:

    Why can Mpofu say whatever he wants and get away with it? Paid 13M peanuts to waste his time, I’m not surprised at his low success rate. What have the brilliant Ngobeni’s writings to do with the Office of the public protector? It would have made more sense to employ a fulltime Imbongi.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    Please stop this grotesque pantomime and stop wasting taxpayers’ money. It would be nice if Mpofu asked those who are paying his fees, i.e. the small number of individuals who actually pay tax in SA, if they think their money was well spent on him rather than imagining that he is worth twice what he has been paid already. Mpofu’s obsession with the DA is similar to that of Khulubone on News24.

  • Leon Groenveld says:

    Come, come, I’m sure he just mentioned it sotto voce to the Chair while they were on the way to the bathroom, or maybe in a surreptitious little folded note passed under the benches….

    The man must have some dignity after all…

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Yep…that’s what the politically connected do – charge you for services they don’t provide! It’s called stealing!

  • Lorinda Winter says:

    Arrogance personified.

  • Sharyn Dabbs says:

    What a ridiculous waste of time and money listening to these idiots.

  • Stuart Hulley-Miller says:

    Let’s get beyond this nonsense and into misrepresentation, fraud, and theft. Why are these people so protected and sheltered?

  • virginia crawford says:

    I hope SARS is paying attention. Mpofu displays his callousness calling R13m peanuts in a country where people are literally starving. The other legal practioners line up to milk the state and damn the people who need state assistance. And a finger to the taxpayers who are actually paying these fees.

  • Jack R says:

    So there you are. As captain of the ship you have no responsibities. ( as Mr Mpofu explains)
    You can blame your subordinates, is the new defence mechanism

  • Armin Schrocker says:

    this PP inquiry is a joke, is there an end in sight and who actually pays the legal bills of Mkhwebane side and I suppose, us tax payers have to cover the committee’s costs? could someone elaborate on this, please?

  • Johan Buys says:

    That guy in the corner making many notes is hopefully a SARS official that will reconcile the 13m peanuts to mpofu’s tax returns 😉

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