Police Minister Bheki Cele. File picture: ANA

Durban – President Cyril Ramaphosa has not yet reprimanded Police Minister Bheki Cele, as directed by the public protector, for failing to provide protection to two whistleblowers in KwaZulu-Natal who were in danger of “assassination”, the presidency said on Sunday. 

“The presidency has been diligent in the implementation of remedial action of the public protector,” Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko told the African News Agency (ANA).

“In a few instances, such as this one, where the aggrieved parties have taken the findings of the public protector on judicial review, the presidency has requested that the implementation of remedial action be held in abeyance until the courts have ruled on the matter,” said Diko.

This was to avoid implementation of remedial action that may be irreversible if the courts found in favour of Cele. The minister said last year that he would take Public Protector Busiswe Mkhwebane’s findings on review.  

Mkhwebane last week called a press conference at which she “named and shamed” various government departments and those who had “defied” the remedial action set out in her reports.

“As we speak we have two whistleblowers in KZN who are on the run, having fled their homes after several threats were made on their lives. Their crime is lifting the lid on the maladministration that took place in uMzimkhulu [local municipality].

“Last year, I asked the president to take action against the minister of police for failing to afford the two gentlemen the protection they require. Action is yet to be taken," said Mkhwebane.

The two men, Thabiso Zulu and Les Stuta, have both alleged that they received multiple death threats since they “exposed” those they believed responsible for the assassination of former African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) secretary general Sindiso Magaqa.

Magaqa was a PR councillor at the uMzimkhulu local municipality at the time of his death. He was killed, according to Zulu and Stuta, for uncovering tender fraud worth millions of rand at the municipality. Senior ANC members and municipal officials were allegedly implicated in the fraud and Magaqa’s murder, the men alleged.

In her reported dated August 10, 2018, the public protector said, “The failure by the minister of police and the SAPS [South African Police Service] to provide security protection for Messrs Stuta and Zulu exposes them to the risk of being assassinated. It also exposes the SAPS and the South African government to a risk of unnecessary legal claims and financial losses as their families could decide to claim against government for damages for the loss of lives should they be assassinated.”

“The minister of police and the SAPS’s conduct in dealing with my request to provide protection to the two whistleblowers can only be described as grossly negligent and a slap in the face to the very people that members of SAPS are employed to protect,” she said. 

Appropriate action for Ramaphosa, according to Mkhwebane, would entail the president “reprimanding” Cele “for his lapses in judgment” regarding SAPS failing to provide protection for Zulu and Stuta “after a determination was made that they needed it”.  

Diko told ANA, “It is unfortunate that the public protector conforms to a different legal interpretation of this principle and this is a matter the presidency hopes to continue to engage with the public protector.” 

Cele’s spokesperson Reneilwe Serero told ANA that papers challenging the public protector’s findings had been filed “as early as last year”, but she was not willing to provide copies.

Sibusiso Ncengwa, 30, was arrested last year and charged with Magaqa’s murder and the attempted murder of two colleagues who were with Magaqa when he was shot dead. Ncengwa remains in custody pending his trial. 

African News Agency/ANA