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‘I didn’t know’, two Public Protector candidates tell MPs on controversies at SSA, NPA and elsewhere

‘I didn’t know’, two Public Protector candidates tell MPs on controversies at SSA, NPA and elsewhere
Public Protector candidates, from left: Pension Funds Adjudicator Muvhango Lukhaimane; Advocate Johanna Ledwaba; Professor Boitumelo Mmusinyane; Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka. (Photos: RSA Parliament)

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


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • John Millar says:

    Absolute standard response – “I did not know, it wasn’t me, someone is trying to kill me politically”

  • Alley Cat says:

    Are these REALLY the best candidates out there? How sad!

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Really Muvhango? I didn’t know, I wasn’t there, it was “the others”?

    You darn well should have known if you were running HR. You clearly lack the forensic insight required to protect us public from the bad guys.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Statement: no-one with even a hint of personal association with corruption should be considered a candidate for PP. And certainly not someone from the SSA, which has been literally wallowing in corruption for years.

    The temporary PP is clearly a favorite of the ANC as she faithfully protected the president and his sofa with an incredibly weak position. Is this not enough to show she is not a straight arrow?

  • Manfred Hasewinkel says:

    Where do they find these people? SA has a population of over 60 million. I assure you that there are thousands of qualified people of impeccable character amongst these and statistically the majority of these are black people if that needs to be.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    People who are wilfully, and seemingly blissfully unaware of the dubious activities and circumstances of the people and environment of the office they are working in and/or for, in a legal capacity, are of no use to anyone. Accountability and integrity require that a person does more than just turn up and take the monthly cheque.

    These are not simple workers but people employed in senior capacity, based upon their legal background.

    “I’m sorry, I didn’t know” just does not wash at all, and is behaviour likely to be repeated.

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    Unfortunately the current PP has destroyed the office. Every negative finding will be taken with a pinch of salt and automatically taken on review. It has become a cumbersome and expensive project.

  • Bob Kuhn says:

    Kanniesenie, williesenie en wassieeknie!

  • frances hardie says:


  • Jon Quirk says:

    Directors of companies, determined by the Companies Act, are precluded from using the “I didn’t know” excuse, because it is a most fundamental part of their responsibility, as a director, to the companies shareholders, and now more broadly to society at large, to BE informed.

    The same presumption should apply to all in the public sector, with the same penalties of potentially unlimited liabilities.

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