Mkhwebane tells parliament of turf war with NPA

08 October 2020 - 18:50
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane wants co-operation from the NPA.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane wants co-operation from the NPA.
Image: Esa Alexander

Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane and National Prosecuting Authority head advocate Shamila Batohi are seemingly embroiled in a turf-war.

Mkhwebane told the National Assembly's justice portfolio committee on Thursday that the NPA was refusing to co-operate with her office in relation to its fraud, money laundering and corruption charges against several KwaZulu-Natal politicians, including ANC provincial chairperson Mike Mabuyakhulu.

The charges against Mabuyakhulu, who was asked to step aside by the ANC in August, stem from his tenure as KZN economic development MEC. At the time, the department spent R28m on the 2012 Durban North Sea Jazz Festival — an event that never took place.

Mkhwebane, who is also investigating a complaint of maladministration in relation to the scandalous jazz festival, told MPs on Thursday that her office was struggling to make progress due to a lack of co-operation from Batohi's office.

Mkhwebane has now asked the justice committee, which holds both the NPA and the public protector to account, to intervene in the stand-off.

“We are not making headway in that matter due to what the NPA says is interference in the case, its refusal to submit requested documents due to the sensitivity of the case and its challenges of the public protector's legal authority to investigate allegations of maladministration in terms of the Public Protector Act and the constitution the matter concerned,” said Mkhwebane, adding that the language used by the NPA in dismissing her office was unbecoming.

“The language the NPA uses in correspondence when responding to our requests for assistance does not accord with the spirit of collegiality expected of state institutions, which have the same goal.

“I hereby plead with honourable members to assist us. It does not help to subpoena information about the subject of an investigation when another organ of state in the accountability value chain already has possession of it and it could simply share with us.

“Moreover, we don't investigate the same aspects of the matter. They look at criminal conduct, while we focus on maladministration,” said Mkhwebane.

The public protector also registered her displeasure about state institutions that either take her reports on judicial review or simply ignore her remedial action.

She again asked MPs to intervene.

“This is rife in the North West provincial government and the City of Tshwane. Over and above your intervention as MPs, we will also seek the assistance of the Forum of South African Directors-General,” she said.

But ANC MP Richard Dyantyi said it was premature for the justice committee to intervene.

“I think they need to sit down. I don't think this is the point where the parliamentary committee must come on this issue. They must be able to sit down as stakeholders and thrash out these issues,” said Dyantyi.

Mkhwebane said “it was gratifying to see the Premier of the Free State opening a criminal case in line with the remedial action spelled out in our report”.

This was in relation to her report on the asbestos tender scandal in the Free State several years ago.

The Free State asbestos tender scandal was thrust into the spotlight with the arrest of tenderpreneur Edwin Sodi and the attachment of his assets and those of his business associates worth more than R255m.

Mkhwebane, whose office is also facing serious financial constraints, said she would propose that the Public Protector Act be amended to allow for state institutions investigated by her office to pay fees in the same way as they do with the auditor-general for their annual audits.

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