‘A slap in the face’ - Mkhwebane lashes police minister for failing to protect KZN whistleblowers

16 August 2018 - 12:46 By Zimasa Matiwane
Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. File photo.
Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Antonio Muchave

A report by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has found that the failure of Police Minister Bheki Cele and the SAPS to provide protection to whistleblowers on corruption and political killings in KwaZulu-Natal was grossly negligent.

Cele’s office told TimesLIVE on Thursday afternoon that the minister intends to challenge the report.

“Minister Cele has serious reservations on the report’s findings and the proposed remedial actions by the office of the Public Protector. Minister Cele has since instructed the SAPS management to internally and procedurally work on the report for the purposes of launching an application for a judicial review of the report‚” Cele’s spokesperson‚ Reneilwe Serero‚ said in a statement.

Serero said this was done “in light of the dire consequences for the Ministry of Police and the South African Police Service‚ if this report is left unchallenged‚ especially on the operation of the Protection and Security Services”.

In a report dated August 10‚ Mkhwebane found that Cele and the police’s failure to protect two men who blew the whistle on corruption - which they claimed was behind the murder of former ANC Youth League secretary general Sindiso Magaqa - could have resulted in the assassination of the two men.

The whistleblowers‚ Thabiso Zulu and Les Stuta‚ testified before the Moerane Commission of Inquiry into political killings in KwaZulu-Natal in November last year.

In their testimony‚ they claimed that Magaqa had passed documentation on to the Hawks that allegedly proved corruption in the tender for upgrading Umzimkhulu Memorial Hall‚ which ballooned from R4-million to R37-million.

Following death threats and a lack of action from the police‚ Zulu sought the intervention of the public protector.

This was followed by a threat assessment conducted by the State Security Agency in April‚ which found that Zulu and Stuta were being followed and that they were at risk. The assessment advised that the two “urgently require protection from the state” and should be provided with “individual private protection”.

But four months later‚ the police have still failed to provide security.

Mkhwebane warned this could have “dire consequences” that had been communicated to the police “on numerous occasions”.

“The Minister of police and the SAPS’s conduct in dealing with my request to provide protection to the two whistleblowers can only be described as grossly negligent - and a slap in the face of the very people that members of SAPS are employed to protect‚” reads the report.

Mkhwebane said the conduct of the minister and the police constituted improper conduct‚ undue delay‚ gross negligence and maladministration.

As appropriate remedial action‚ the public protector has recommended that President Cyril Ramaphosa reprimand Cele “for his lapses in judgment” regarding the police’s failure to provide protection for Zulu and Stuta.

In order to avert such incidents from happening in the future‚ the report advises Ramaphosa to ensure that ministers “take heed of the warnings of this nature to avoid catastrophic results that may occur due to lack of insight and non-action by members of the executive who are responsible for various departments and other organs of state”.

Zulu and Stuta would have to be “provided with the requisite security at state expense‚” said Mkhwebane.

Cele was also ordered to apologise to Zulu and Stuta‚ offer comprehensive reasons for the delay and implement the recommendations of the threat assessment within seven days of the release of the report.

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