‘I didn’t know’, two Public Protector candidates tell MPs on controversies at SSA, NPA and elsewhere
Would-be Public Protector Muvhango Lukhaimane said that, as State Security human resources manager, she hadn’t known about ghost worker spooks. And Deputy Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka told MPs that, as adviser to former finance minister Malusi Gigaba, she hadn’t known of his links to the Gupta brothers.
Eyebrows shot up at current Pension Funds Adjudicator Muvhango Lukhaimane’s response to a question on her good governance track record at the State Security Agency (SSA), given publicly identified corruption such as the unlawful parallel intelligence programme Principal Agent Network (PAN).
“I will say, given the controls that we put in place, one of the outcomes was that people resorted to PAN,” Lukhaimane told DA MP Werner Horn, adding later, “PAN was not overt, but covert. Once it goes and gets run as a covert operation, resources are allocated and you almost have a structure that is a duplicate”.
Responding to Horn’s questions about “ghost spooks”, she said she wasn’t involved in the so-called covert side, but only the human resources side with the SSA’s 230 or so employees.
On that overt side, Lukhaimane said, “We put together an integrated system. HR was integrated with finance and document management. We accounted for people, resources and operation reports”.
Lukhaimane worked at SSA from May 2007 to mid-2011 as general manager of research and then human resources, according to her CV, which also lists State Security HQ Musanda as a workplace.
From June 2011 until she was appointed Pension Funds Adjudicator a year later, Lukhaimane chaired the Intelligence Services Council, the statutory body for recommendations on spooks’ conditions of service, HR policies and salary packages.
Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, now facing an impeachment vote in the National Assembly after a year-long inquiry, worked as an SSA analyst, it emerged from her CV for the 2016 interviews.
On Thursday, Lukhaimane told MPs that intelligence services should not be outside the Public Protector’s scope.
Current acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka’s prior work also came up. She said she’d not been aware that her one-time boss, ex-prosecutions head Menzi Simelane, had planned to, for example, disband specialist units, lawmakers heard.
“I was supportive of the transformation agenda he stood for,” Gcaleka responded to DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach’s question.
“I had no idea of his other agenda… My engagements were in office meetings… I was not part of any decision advocate Simelane embarked on. We were not consulted as Society of State Advocates (which she chaired)…”
In October 2012, the Constitutional Court upheld a 2011 Supreme Court of Appeal ruling that Simelane was not a fit and proper person, and set aside his December 2009 appointment by then-president Jacob Zuma as national director of public prosecutions.
Day 2 of the interviews for the next Public Protector was scrappy.
North-West University law professor Boitumelo Mmusinyane finished in around an hour.
“I cannot be bought. I cannot be threatened…” he told MPs, while, in the session with magistrate Johannah Ledwaba, parliamentarians seemed to chatter and sigh as the hearing-impaired presiding officer took a long way around to answer questions.
Day 1 had also been bitty.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Day one of Public Protector interviews proved an all-sorts of voting, legality and dealing with corruption
Cases of nerves and questions on voting, independence, strategic priorities and low staff morale were threads during both days. As was new legislation for the Office of the Public Protector.
Gcaleka told MPs that an amendment draft law had been submitted to the justice department to, among others, criminalise the failure to implement remedial action and introduce an oath of office.
Earlier in the day, Mmusinyane similarly proposed legislative changes for sanctions akin to the teeth the Auditor-General has to impose personal cost orders, as had advocate Oliver Josie on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Ad Hoc Committee to Nominate a Person for Appointment as Public Protector meets to deliberate and decide on a nominee. That person must get at least 60% support in the House to be recommended to the president for a formal appointment for a non-renewable seven-year term.
Tuesday’s deliberations will be crucial.
If the DA and EFF do not support Gcaleka – the candidate the ANC is understood to back (the EFF earlier this week called on her to withdraw) – it will be difficult for her to hit the 60% threshold in the House.
All this could mean politicking and, like Mkhwebane in 2016, another compromise candidate. It’s understood the DA may decide not to support any candidate; in 2016 it abstained from the vote on Mkhwebane.
The EFF is likely to push for its named shortlisted candidate, Lukhaimane, and forgo the continuity of the current acting incumbent, Gcaleka.
According to the motion that initiated this process, the vote for the new Public Protector must come before the House by 31 August. DM