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Former CEO denies victimising employees at Office of Public Protector

Former CEO in the Office of the Public Protector Vussy Mahlangu denied allegations that he victimised and purged staff members at the institution during his tenure. Picture: Supplied

Former CEO in the Office of the Public Protector Vussy Mahlangu denied allegations that he victimised and purged staff members at the institution during his tenure. Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 3, 2022

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Cape Town - Former CEO in the Office of the Public Protector Vussy Mahlangu on Tuesday denied allegations that he victimised and purged staff members at the institution during his tenure.

Mahlangu also denied interfering with investigations and litigation strategy by the office, saying his role was to provide administrative support.

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“I vehemently deny having intimidated, harassed or victimised any staff members whilst I was employed as the CEO at the Public Protector South Africa,” he said in his affidavit.

He made the statement while testifying in the inquiry into the fitness of suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to hold office.

Mahlangu told the inquiry that he testified in order to clarify misconceptions and misrepresentations made in affidavits by former colleagues.

“There is so much that was said about me when I was the accounting officer and it became important to clarify to the committee those issues raised about me,” he said.

When evidence leader Advocate Nazreen Bawa put to him the allegations of intimidating, harassing or victimising staff, Mahlangu said: “I deny.”

The former CEO joined the Office of the Public Protector in 2018, two years after he was dismissed following disciplinary proceedings in the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

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The Labour Court has yet to hear his review application he launched in 2018.

He was initially contracted for a few months in May 2018 and the contract was extended from August 2018 to July 2019 on condition that he obtained a top secret security clearance from the State Security Agency (SSA) and Labour Court confirming his dismissal.

Despite being without a clearance certificate owing to the pending review application of his dismissal, Mahlangu’s contract was extended for the remaining term of Mkhwebane.

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“It is true that throughout the duration of my employment I did not have a top secret clearance, however, I had to make an appeal to the Minister of State Security.

“They received my application of appeal and … lost track where my application was,” he said.

Mahlangu confirmed that some people felt that he was not eligible for the position due to his dismissal and being without a security clearance certificate.

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He also told the committee about disciplinary proceedings instituted against certain staff employees that arose from reports from the legal services and human resources units as well as investigation that was conducted.

Mahlangu denied that people were purged during his term.

“People were charged because of their own conduct which was really their own making and we had to go through that process,” he said in reference to disciplinary proceedings that were instituted.

When Mkhwebane’s legal counsel, Advocate Bright Shabalala put it to him that he was reluctant to testify, Mahlangu said he felt it would be unjust not to present himself in person.

“The few affidavits I read I just felt I can provide written responses,” he said, adding that he later felt he needed to put matters in context.

Mahlangu said he could not stand by and not be party to the inquiry when there was rubbishing of his name.

“I felt it is my responsibility to present my case against what they are saying. I found my name all over the complainants’ affidavits,” he said.

During cross-examination by Shabalala, Mahlangu said the Public Protector does not get involved in administrative issues nor get involved in disciplinary proceedings.

He also said he had no influence on how investigations, that were used in disciplinary proceedings, were supposed to be conducted, and that Mkhwebane had no influence on the investigations.

Mahlangu stood his ground on why he left his employment at the Office of the Public Protector in January 2020.

“It was a personal matter, new opportunities,” he said, adding he was a non-executive board member in the Nkangala Economic Development Agency since his resignation.

Cape Times

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