Thuli Madonsela won't budge

07 July 2011 - 01:45

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has come out fighting for Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, vehemently denying the existence of a police investigation of her and vowing to get to the bottom of "baseless" corruption allegations.

In an exclusive interview at police headquarters in Pretoria, Mthethwa said he was shocked by a front-page report in The Star yesterday that said the police planned to arrest Madonsela on charges of fraud and corruption relating to R1.8-million paid to her company while she worked full-time for the SA Law Reform Commission.

Mthethwa said that if the police were investigating Madonsela, both he and national police commissioner Bheki Cele would have known about it.

"I know nothing. In fact, I can say there is no such [investigation]. If it were from the police, I would have known if it involved the Public Protector," he said.

Mthethwa said he started investigating the claims as soon as he heard of them yesterday morning.

"While the Public Protector was on the line [during a radio interview], I called the national commissioner and even he didn't know anything about it."

He phoned Madonsela himself to ask if she had received any official communication or documents from the police and her response was a clear "No", he said.

"If somebody is playing a game we should not be pawns in that game, because nothing would have stopped the police going to her officially to say, 'We are investigating you' or 'There is a case against you'."

Mthethwa said that he was "concerned" about the motives behind the newspaper report: "It may well be scare tactics, but the question is: from whom . I want the truth myself."

At a briefing yesterday afternoon, Madonsela said the report was "baseless", "malicious" and designed to scupper her investigation of the R1.1-billion deal to lease a Durban building owned by businessman Roux Shabangu as the police's KwaZulu-Natal headquarters.

She said her company, Waweth Law and Policy Research Agency, had received three small contracts, amounting to R40000, for selling books and designing a book cover for the law commission, and possibly another contract, for R6000, for facilitating labour relations in the Justice Department.

"The question of R1.8-million is malicious and baseless. The Department of Justice was aware that I owned Waweth, and the Treasury became aware [of it] when I made submissions related to my salary as a commissioner," she said.

"There was an issue about my payment as a full-time commissioner and I made submissions before I joined the department," she said, adding that allegations that she did not disclose her interest in the company were "mischievous".

"The timing of the [newspaper] report - on the day that was mistaken for the one on which I would release the report on the Durban police-building lease - makes these allegations more suspicious."

Madonsela said this was the second time that she had faced interference while investigating the police.

The first was when police counter-intelligence officers tried to raid her offices in March while she was investigating the R500-million police lease on a Pretoria building also owned by Shabangu.

She found that the Pretoria deal was "unlawful" and "invalid", and that Cele, as well as Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, were guilty of improper conduct.

Yesterday, Madonsela said she was told two days ago that the two counter-intelligence officers who entered her offices in March were back at work.

She said she would request a meeting with the speaker of parliament Max Sisulu to ask for his advice.

She announced that she would release her final report on the Durban lease next Thursday.

Madonsela revealed that Cele had written to her, asking that she take legal action against the Sunday Times for publishing the contents of her leaked provisional report on the Durban lease deal.

She told Cele that the matter had been dealt with and that there was "no need to rush into criminal proceedings".

The Council for the Advancement of the Constitution said: "We call upon all South Africans who care about the rule of law and the Chapter Nine institutions to join together in defence of the Public Protector."

The Law Society of SA called on Cele and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe to investigate the matter "speedily" and report back openly to the Public Protector and the public.