SECTION 194 INQUIRY
Ace Magashule placed his MEC for agriculture at centre of Vrede dairy scandal, Madonsela told hearing
When former ANC Free State Premier Ace Magashule popped in for tea at Thuli Madonsela’s office during the investigation into the Vrede dairy, he placed his MEC Mosebenzi Zwane at the ‘centre’ of the scandal.
Thuli Madonsela, who was Public Protector between 2009 and 2016, continued her testimony to the Section 194 impeachment inquiry into her successor, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, on Monday, after a morning lost circling a legal plughole.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Rumble in Room M46 – Metaphorical blood on the floor with Thuli Madonsela vs Dali Mpofu”
Asked by Mkhwebane’s legal representative, advocate Dali Mpofu, why Madonsela had kept returning the Vrede report for further work, she recounted the visit by Magashule.
“Allegations about the Guptas were already in the public domain,” she told the committee. “He [Magashule] dropped into my office for a cup of tea. He indicated that the person at the centre of this was MEC [Mosebenzi] Zwane.”
Earlier, Madonsela said the reports were not up to scratch because of “the omission of names and failure to conduct a forensic investigation, which is compulsory in the SOP [standard operating procedure] in matters where corrupt relationships are alleged or suspected”.
When Sphelo Samuel took over as regional representative, he was asked by Madonsela to take over the investigation.
Mkhwebane had then taken over the investigation and “bothered” to interview Magashule, whereas Madonsela had not, charged Mpofu.
To which Madonsela replied: “We keep running into a space… What is at issue here is how those names then disappeared from the report, if that is what you are saying was decided.”
The ghosts of CIEX, Waterkloof and Nkandla
Madonsela explained to the committee that when she worked on the CIEX report there had been no discussion or reference to a later instruction in Mkhwebane’s report for Parliament to alter the constitutional mandate of the Reserve Bank.
With regard to her security status, Madonsela said that at the time, both she and her deputy, advocate Kevin Malunga, had not been vetted by the State Security Agency (SSA), but by Parliament.
“I would still not choose to be vetted by the SSA because of the conditions that prevailed at the time.”
It was while investigating the landing of the guests at Waterkloof Air Force Base in 2013 for the Guptas’ R30-million taxpayer-funded wedding party that the SSA raised the issue of her “security vetting”.
She added: “For whatever strange reason, the Waterkloof investigation never saw the light of day.”
It was subsequently handled by Mkhwebane.
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After a particularly nasty exchange during which Mpofu asked if Madonsela was South African and whether she was registered with the Legal Practice Council (she is), Madonsela told Mpofu to his face that he was “unethical”.
“This is another low, even by your standards,” Madonsela shot back after Mpofu had suggested she had been complicit in the assault of an earlier witness — Nchaupe Seabi — at the Public Protector offices.
Mpofu complained that he felt insulted and warned that things would “be ugly”. He asked Madonsela which low standards she had been referring to.
“Nobody did things in a little corner during my time,” she shot back.
Regarding the Executive Ethics Code, which she had referred to in her Nkandla Report into irregular expenditure at former president Jacob Zuma’s home in rural KwaZulu-Natal, Madonsela denied ever relying on the 2007 code.
“I did not rely on ‘inadvertently’. Read my report,” she suggested to Mpofu.
Mpofu told the committee he had been one of the senior counsel in the case, and there was most certainly a reference to ‘inadvertence’ in her report and in the judgment.
“I think we studied logic differently,” responded Madonsela.
Mpofu put it to Madonsela that it would be untrue to state that someone altered her provisional report if there wasn’t one to begin with, to which Madonsela responded this would be “untrue”.
“You do not sign off on a shoddy job, because there are a lot of people that will suffer,” said Madonsela.
When Mpofu said many of Madonsela’s reports had been reviewed, she responded: “There is no judgment issued that suggested that I did not understand the Constitution.”
There were also no cost orders against her or findings of dishonesty, she added.
“I think in the Constitutional Court, we can’t escape the issue of shoddiness.”
When Mpofu inquired whether this meant that the Constitutional Court could never get it wrong, Madonsela replied: “The Constitutional Court is the final guardian of the Constitution.”
The inquiry continues at 9am on Tuesday. DM