Mkhwebane confirms probe into Ace Magashule, Mosebenzi Zwane
Johannesburg - Public Protector Busi Mkhwebane on Wednesday revealed that she was investigating the role of ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and the party’s national executive committee member Mosebenzi Zwane for their role in the controversial Vrede dairy project.
Mkhwebane told Johannesburg-based talk radio station Power FM that the subsequent investigation followed the intervention of the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services in the term the previous administration.
She said the investigation was initiated and completed during her predecessor Thuli Madonsela’s term in office, which ended in 2016.
According to Mkhwebane, the draft report she found when she took office that year did not implicate Magashule and Zwane.
”We are now investigating the role of the premier (Magashule) and agriculture MEC (Zwane),” she said during the hour-and-a-half, wide-ranging interview with anchor Aldrin Sampear.
Mkhwebane insisted that there was no evidence that Magashule and Zwane were involved and that it was not her intention to conduct a follow-up investigation but that it was due to the request by the portfolio committee.
”The focus was on the role of accounting officer, which is the head of department, and the chief financial officer,” she said, adding that the DA’s complaint was “critically focusing on the violation of procurement processes”.
Mkhwebane said she was pleased with the way her office finalised the Vrede dairy project investigation despite the North Gauteng High Court reviewing and setting aside the report.
In May last year, Judge Ronel Tolmay ruled that Mkhwebane’s report was unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid and that in investigating and reporting on the Vrede dairy project, she failed in her duties in terms of the Public Protector Act and the Constitution.
In December, Judge Tolmay also dismissed Mkhwebane’s application for leave to appeal.
Mkhwebane has defended her tenure in office, saying since she took over from Madonsela she had received 62 000 complaints and finalised 43 000.
”I will continue serving,” she said.
Mkhwebane likened attacks on her to the scourge of gender-based violence.
”I even thought of seeking asylum in another country,” she said.
Mkhwebane said she has been subjected to attacks by members of the judiciary and Parliament as well as personal costs order.
She said the new Vrede investigation will focus on the then premier, MECs, mayors, the ministers of finance and agriculture at the time and the provincial treasury.
Mkhwebane will be checking the issue of the monies paid.
”We are investigating the role of the politicians, that’s what we have jurisdiction over, they were executive authorities by then,” she said.
During the interview, Mkhwebane’s chief of staff Sibusiso Nyembe also called the radio show to express his support for his boss.
”The overwhelming majority of senior staff is behind her. The majority is in support of the Public Protector,” Nyembe said.
Mkhwebane again took issue with complaints about corruption-accused ANC NEC member and former state security minister Bongani Bongo and Zwane attending her 50th birthday last month.
She said Bongo was from Siyabuswa, KwaNdebele, and that she was also from the area.
She invited Bongo but Zwane came with another guest, Mkhwebane said.
”Why should I not relate to Bongo just because he is accused of a crime, I never invited Mosebenzi Zwane, he came with somebody else. Zwane is not somebody I know, he’s not my friend. That doesn’t stop me from investigating him in the Vrede dairy farm matter,” Mkhwebane said.
She asked: “Why should we be dictated to on who we relate to or don’t?”