Irate client sues public protector over 'assault'

Disputed rulings and delays fray tempers

08 September 2019 - 00:05 By Thabo Mokone
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has appealed for more resources for her office so that she can employ more investigators so that cases can move faster.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has appealed for more resources for her office so that she can employ more investigators so that cases can move faster.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER

A Limpopo man is suing the public protector for R350,000 after he was allegedly assaulted at her Polokwane offices when he objected to the outcome of his complaint.

Nchaube Peter Seabi claims he was assaulted by Hamilton Samuel, at the time the Limpopo provincial head of the public protector’s office, during an altercation in 2011.

According to the public protector’s annual report for the 2018/2019 financial year, tabled in parliament this week, the institution set aside the amount to settle the lawsuit.

Oupa Segalwe, public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, said Seabi was not satisfied with how a complaint he had filed in 2009 had been handled.

“He was not happy with the outcome of his complaint, and was not happy with Mr Samuel confirming that nothing could be done to change the outcome,” said Segalwe.

The two had opened assault charges against each other but the National Prosecuting Authority declined to prosecute either case, he said.

“But Mr Seabi reinstated his complaint after Mr Samuel was transferred to the Free State provincial office in 2015,” Segalwe said.

“Mr Samuel did not reinstate his complaint as he did not consider it worth pursuing since he had moved on from the incident and the province.”

According to Segalwe, Samuel was subsequently found guilty of common assault and Seabi was now suing Mkhwebane’s office.

Neither Samuel nor Seabi could be reached for comment this week.

“The criminal court found Mr Samuel guilty of common assault and sentenced him to two months imprisonment or a R2,000 fine, with half of the sentence suspended for five years. He has appealed the verdict and sentence after the court granted him leave, and the matter is yet to be set down and heard in the Polokwane high court,” said Segalwe.

Both the office of the public protector and Samuel, who is also being sued in his personal capacity, would be opposing the lawsuit, said Segalwe. No trial date has yet been set.

“From time to time, complainants who are irate that a decision has not gone their way, or that their cases are taking long to complete, largely as a result of resource constraints, turn violent,” Segalwe said.

“One once hurled a stone at the façade of the head office, shattering it in the process.

“A staff member in our Mahikeng office was held at knife-point by an angry complainant who demanded that his report be released.

“An outreach officer was once held up by angry members of a North West community, who threatened to torch his official car. This was over their dissatisfaction with progress on the resolution of a complaint they had lodged.

“Now and again we have to call in the police to assist with complainants who stage sit-ins and want to sleep over at our head office until their cases are finalised.”

Segalwe said Mkhwebane “sympathises with such complainants” and believes that they “should be listened to even when they are not kind and reasonable”.

“She is of the view that their circumstances push them to that point. She continues to ask for better resourcing of her office so that she can employ more investigators so that cases can move faster.” 


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