SECTION 194 INQUIRY
Rumble in Room M46 – Metaphorical blood on the floor with Thuli Madonsela vs Dali Mpofu
She was not appearing ‘to play games’, said Professor Thuli Madonsela, on Monday. The former Public Protector was addressing the Section 194 impeachment inquiry into her successor, Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
The long-anticipated and stop-start appearance of Madonsela as a witness, called by Mkhwebane, resulted in a metaphorical pummeling of note of Advocate Dali Mpofu and EFF leader Julius Malema, both physically and virtually, in Room M46.
Even after Madonsela had set out the rules of engagement with Mpofu early in the day, he hammered on for three hours, caught in a pointless circular argument about whether a statement or affidavit had to be initialed on each page or not.
“No court has accused me of not understanding the Constitution or being dishonest,” Madonsela told Mpofu early, adding, “if you’re asking me an irrelevant question, I will tell you sir.”
Here is a collection of the most-used language during those three hours of the impeachment inquiry, chaired by Qubudile Dyantyi:
Madonsela word cloud: “What’s the relevance?”, “Can we deal with what we came for?”, “Please don’t talk over me”, “Irrelevant Sir”, “You have had a whole week”, “Wasting taxpayers money”, “You are speaking over me”, “really low”.
Malema word cloud: “Why are you speaking to me like a garden boy? “This witness is irritating, to say the least”, “Stop interrupting”, “No decorum here”, “Lies”, Waste of time”.
Mpofu word cloud: “I thought we were together”, “Quibbling” “Illegalities” , “She is not a practising lawyer”, “Playing games” “Misrepresenting the truth”, “You are insulting me”, “I am being bullied”.
Dyanti word cloud: “Mr Mpofu, switch off your mic.”
In the ring
While one would hate to borrow the epithet now immortalised by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Madonsela on Monday was not an Iron Lady, but an Iron Woman, as she sat bespectacled on a screen facing Mpofu and the committee.
Gone was her customary apparent public reservedness and soft-spokenness. On Monday, the advocate was in charge and in the ring.
Just before lunch-break, it appeared Mpofu was going to go for the meat, when the issue of how and when Madonsela’s statement had been signed was put to rest when the legal team found relevant laws and regulations.
Mpofu’s first question to Madonsela was whether she had been happy with the governance of her office during her term, to which she replied, asking “is this now about me?” before responding that she had been happy, yes.
With regard to backlogs during her tenure, Madonsela replied that the office was “concerned that justice should not be sacrificed [to] speed”.
Then the committee broke for lunch.
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Madonsela began the morning by reading a statement and adding that she was a “reluctant witness”.
Who is being probed here?
The two reports on which she had been called to testify, the CIEX and Vrede Dairy investigations, had already been dealt with extensively by the courts, she reminded all present.
She would not be participating in a “rehashing” of these, she added, as this was obvious from the “litany” of questions sent to her by Mpofu and “that were not relevant to the inquiry”.
“Is this my impeachment process? Because if it is, then this is the wrong forum,” she stated.
Mkhwebane had used the CIEX report as part of her investigation into the Reserve Bank/Absa bailout. And while the CIEX report had initially been rejected by PP investigators, it was Advocate Paul Hoffmann who had revived interest in later years.
The bail-out had taken place long before the Office of the Public Protector had even been established. The focus of the investigation then had been on what occurred after 1998, which had proven “complicated”, said Madonsela.
The SSA had not been involved in her probe into the CIEX saga, she added, apart from her interview with Billy Masethla, head of the NIA, the SSA’s predecessor.
An opened CIEX box
It was only later that she blipped on the SSA’s radar.
“Strangely though, after leaving documents with a colleague from the South African mission in London, which had been given to me by CIEX’s Michael Oatley at an interview this colleague accompanied me to, the documents arrived from the SSA, opened and with a note from the SSA Director-General. They were meant to be transported by Dirco.”
Madonsela says she met Oatley, former director CIEX, and the agency, which was eager to recover the interest the Reserve Bank’s “lifeboat” payment to Bankorp (which was taken over by Absa) had amassed.
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With regard to the Vrede investigations, Madonsela said these had been conducted by the regional director in Bloemfontein, during her term of office.
The investigator in that instance had “struggled” with drafts being shuttled between Madonsela and peers in the “Think Tank”. Still then, these reports, said Madonsela, had “failed to meet the Standards in the Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) I personally developed and issued as a handbook, even after training using the same tool.
“One of the key reasons was the omission of names and failure to conduct a forensic investigation, which is compulsory in the SOP in matters where corrupt relationships are alleged or suspected.
“When Mr Samuels took over as Regional Representative, I asked him to take the investigation over,” she told the committee.
The CIC wishes to speak
While Madonsela ran rings around Mpofu earlier in the day as he tried to suggest she was a liar, Malema, the committee learned, was having trouble getting onto the virtual platform.
“He is parked somewhere there in a passage,” said one MP.
“Well he knows how the system works,” Dyanti shot back.
Malema’s familiar voice began to echo as Madonsela was verbally pummeling Mpofu.
Malema: “Chair, Chair.”
Dyanti (not sure who is speaking as no hand had been indicated):
“Sorry, what’s that?”
Malema: “What do you mean ‘what is that’? We are in a meeting here, don’t say what is that?”
Dynanti: “You have not raised your hand.”
Malema: “I am raising it now.”
Dyantyi: “Well, you do not raise it like that. You know how you got here.”
Malema: “I don’t know how to raise a hand here. I am trying to get your attention and you can’t start by saying ‘what’s that?’. Why do you say ‘what’s that?’.Why are you speaking to me like a garden boy?
“Please speak to the witness [Madonsela] not to interrupt advocate Mpofu. It is irritating to say the least… When she just barges in and interrupts, it is not fitting… it does not look like the required decorum.”
The hearing will continue. DM