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Mkhwebane’s lawyer says committee is in danger of becoming a complaints office

Public Protector of South Africa security manager Baldwin Neshunzhi. Picture: Screenshot

Public Protector of South Africa security manager Baldwin Neshunzhi. Picture: Screenshot

Published Aug 5, 2022

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Cape Town - Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s legal representative advocate Dali Mpofu said the Committee for Section 194 Enquiry into his client’s fitness to hold office should not be turned into a complaints office for people with gripes against her.

Addressing the committee before Public Protector of South Africa (PPSA) security manager Baldwin Neshunzhi’s testimony could be heard, Mpofu objected to the witness and dismissed him as another “disgruntled employee” giving irrelevant evidence.

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Asking committee chairperson Qubudile Dyantyi to make a ruling on the issue of Neshunzhi giving evidence, Mpofu argued that Neshunzhi and some of the other witnesses would not give evidence that was relevant to the committee’s mission.

Mpofu said: “We’ve had a fair number of these disgruntled employees here and that’s fine insofar as their evidence is relevant to the issues around which the impeachment charges are based.”

Mpofu said the committee should instead be busying itself with matters that had been dealt with by the independent panel that led to the setting up of the committee by Parliament.

That panel, comprising Justice Bess Nkabinde, advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC and advocate Johan De Waal SC, said it had found substantial prima facie evidence of incompetence and misconduct and Parliament could go ahead to form a committee to impeach her.

In response to Mpofu’s questions directed to the enquiry’s evidence leaders about the relevance of the evidence from PPSA employees, advocate Nazreen Bawa agreed that only evidence that determined the veracity of the grounds against Mkhwebane was relevant to the committee.

Bawa said: “When evidence that is not relevant is submitted, the committee must disregard it. We have refrained from demanding that X,Y or Z be included or excluded from an affidavit.”

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She said Neshunzhi’s testimony was relevant for a number of reasons including that he knew State Security Agency (SSA) operative Maiendra Moodley who during the CIEX matter gave Mkhwebane the piece of paper containing the constitutional amendment with regards to the SA Reserve Bank.

After Dyantyi ruled that Neshunzhi’s testimony was relevant, Mpofu accepted the ruling but said he disagreed with Dyantyi’s reading of the committee’s rules. In the end, when it came to the cross-examination, Mpofu left most of it to his colleague advocate Hangwi Matlhape.

During his testimony Neshunzhi said in his direct line reporting he reported to the PPSA chief executive as well as to the public protector and that he had top security clearance after being vetted by the SSA.

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He said one of his core functions was the security vetting of PPSA employees and he received training from the SSA.

He also testified that after an incident in which he was wrongly accused of leaking documents, he was contacted directly by former director-general of the SSA Arthur Fraser.

The enquiry continues with its hearings this morning with evidence from former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay.

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Pillay had initially been expected to appear before the committee during its second week, but his appearance was postponed when the committee took a week-long break to allow Mkhwebane to appear at the Western Cape High Court for a case in which she challenged her suspension.

In June this year the Constitutional Court dismissed Mkhwebane’s application for leave to appeal a judgment on Pillay’s pension package.

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