ON THE SIDES OF SECTION 194 INQUIRY
At Sandton ‘press conference’, Mkhwebane’s reality distortion field acquires even more warped dimensions
While providing scant evidence of Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s alleged attempt to solicit a bribe, suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has blamed the MP’s death on the judiciary, executive and National Assembly.
With the death of former Cabinet minister Tina-Joemat Pettersson, whatever case Busisiwe Mkhwebane might have thought she had has gone to the grave with the senior ANC MP.
This much was clear from a ‘press conference’ called by the suspended Public Protector on Tuesday.
There she released audio clips, purportedly of Joemat-Pettersson, allegedly attempting to solicit a bribe from Mkhwebane’s husband, David Skosana, on behalf of the Section 194 inquiry chair, Qubudile Dyantyi, ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina and herself, to make the almost two-year public process “go away”.
Before playing the clips, Mkhwebane, speaking from a hotel in Sandton, blamed Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula for refusing a confidential meeting with a “whistle-blower” about the bribery allegations.
Also, had it not been for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s “illegal” suspension of her [Mkhwebane], Joemat-Pettersson would “most probably still be alive”, she said.
“She would still be alive if the legislature, executive and judiciary as well as the ANC/DA alliance had complied with their constitutional obligations. In a way, all of these institutions killed Miss Joemat-Petterson,” she charged.
Enter Dali Mpofu
With her now disengaged legal representative, advocate Dali Mpofu, in attendance, Mkhwebane dodged pertinent questions, preferring to attack the media, the courts and Ramaphosa.
The hostility towards what Mkhwebane regards as “mainstream” or “embedded” media was evident from the start.
“With the exception of Independent Media, they [the media] have done everything to discredit me,” Mkhwebane accused those present.
When News24’s Karyn Maughan asked whether Mkhwebane had any direct evidence, in other words not hearsay evidence, of Dyantyi and Majodina’s involvement, besides “what you, your husband and Tina Joemat-Pettersson have”, Mpofu took the microphone to speak (presumably for free) on Mkhwebane’s behalf.
While Mpofu reminded all he was not under instruction, he proceeded to provide his explanation of Maughan’s hearsay rule question.
“You know, I don’t think we have time to educate people about the hearsay rule. I propose they must go to real lawyers, qualified lawyers to find out,” Mpofu said.
He added the rule was a simple one: “The basics are very simple — it is about evidence whose property value depends on another person. It cannot apply here.”
Furthermore, said Mpofu — perhaps forgetting that neither Dyantyi nor Majodina featured in any of the WhatsApps or recordings — this was “neither here nor there”.
The Public Protector, Mpofu added, had made it clear that the person who participated in the meetings was her husband.
“It is not hearsay. And there are various examples of corroborating evidence, even a child could verify this,” opined Mpofu.
“Let’s not abuse legal concepts. People who utter empty words like ‘hearsay’… it is a very serious legal concept that needs the proper context… Read the WhatsApps,” he said.
Picking up on Mpofu’s not-too-concealed jibe aimed at Maughan, Mkhwebane said, “I don’t have to prove to you, Karyn, those people in the videos [meaning audio clips]. There are investigations. There is a lot of evidence that is there which is proving the others in the collusion…”
She accused Maughan of “barging in”, adding, “You ask questions as if we are playing.” She said that legal experts should deal with the hearsay question, as her advocate had advised.
Then Mkhwebane burst out laughing, saying: “It’s all on the audio.”
Those of us who record interviews (consensually, of course) as part of our jobs understand that an airport terminal is the least conducive environment for clear audio
Between flight announcements, scraping chairs and screaming children, a voice, alleged to be that of Tina Joemat-Pettersson, conspiratorially informs Skosana of how the Section 194 inquiry is set to proceed, considering the myriad of potholes that have appeared on the road to impeachment.
(Read more about Skosana and Maughan in News24: Mkhwebane’s husband leads vitriolic social media attacks on News24 journalist, judges – Ed)
That information anyone could have given him for free.
So, what was in the audio clips — at least what is audible beyond the racket going on in the restaurant?
In a nutshell, what they reveal is the revolution eating itself.
Joemat-Pettersson’s voice was almost whispering that Dyantyi was “angry, angry, angry” that he had not been offered a ministerial post and that Majodina was “greedy, very greedy” and that the “ANC is dirty”.
On Monday, after Mkhwebane announced on Friday, 9 June that she would be going public with WhatsApps and voice recordings, Parliament’s ethics committee warned her not to do so.
She went ahead anyway and let the genie out of the bottle.
Daily Maverick will not be publishing the untested WhatsApps and with the death of Joemat-Pettersson, no one, apart from Skosana, remains to verify them.
What Mkhwebane seems to find most incriminating in all of this is Joemat-Pettersson’s delivery of the “plans” the committee had discussed should it be stalled any further.
Reading from what sounds like paper notes, the alleged voice of Joemat-Pettersson informs Skosana that Dyantyi will call for written evidence and questions to be provided to Mkhwebane, who remains lawyerless, having refused representation by the State Attorney.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Mkhwebane reaches end of the road, refuses State Attorney’s offer and is poised to reveal alleged bribery files
Just as the Zondo Commission would have prepared for several possible outcomes with regard to former president Jacob Zuma’s appearance, so too this historic inquiry would have had to prepare for obstacles to the completion of its constitutional mandate to finish its work.
Mkhwebane set out on Tuesday that Joemat-Pettersson had attended, for the first time in her life, the Section 194 inquiry on 16 March 2023. That happened also to be the day that Mpofu and Mkhwebane chose to wear fetching traditional outfits.
Joemat-Pettersson was not a member of the committee.
“She asked one of the officials to give her phone to my husband and requested him to punch in his number… This can be verified by the parliamentary official,” said Mkhwebane.
The two meetings with her husband followed, she said. When Joemat-Pettersson solicited a bribe, Mkhwebane said, her husband “played along and negotiated the price of R150,000”.
“He intended to entrap the culprits,” she said and had insisted on meeting with at least one of the two alleged grifters, but no such meeting had taken place. By then the price had risen to R200,000.
“The deal went sour before the conditions were met,” said Mkhwebane.
Her husband had lodged a complaint with the police and had held on to all of this information since March 2022 so he could execute his plan to out the corrupt officials.
Sweetheart media and free lunch
Press conferences are generally meant to be collegial, but Tuesday’s Trumpian proceedings saw openly hostile attitudes towards Maughan and Netwerk24’s Dennis Delport.
Earlier, Delport asked Mkhwebane whether she didn’t think she had “blood on her hands” as Joemat-Pettersson’s death had occurred after media reports with regard to “these allegations”.
A journalist, Chanon Mericcas, from what appears to be a new media outfit, Kasi Broadcasting News, kept referring to Maughan as “Advocate Maughan” and asked sweetheart questions of Mkhwebane, like little Valentine’s Day cards.
“After they killed Jesus he had to rise again. You said in 2019 that only God could remove you,” he said. You get the drift.
To which Mkhwebane replied, “Yes, indeed it is so sad to see how some people are so, you know, cold and we are mourning the death of one of our own. And some people are making snide remarks…”
Then, from Phuti Sam Mosomane of another new outfit, Inside Politics, this question:
“Do you think the judiciary is captured and why is it you have to constantly prove yourself innocent? You have effectively waged a war against three arms of the state… Now you have added the captured judiciary and Parliament… Do you feel safe?”
“I am persecuted for Phala Phala,” Mkhwebane kept repeating.
Asked what her plans were for the future she said cryptically, “I will be working in the public space to create the South Africa I would want in any manner possible.” DM