Times SELECT 10 January 2020

National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise will consider a request by the Public Servants Association that parliament investigate alleged maladministration in the Office of the Public Protector as soon as she returns to work next week.

This is according to parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.

The PSA, a union which represents the majority of the staff employed at the public protector’s office, says it is “concerned about the recent spate of suspensions and dismissals of senior executives and investigators” at the Chapter 9 institution.

It specifically wants parliament to investigate the allegedly “irregular appointment” of Vussy Mahlangu – who was fired by the department of rural development and land reform before being hired as public protector CEO and, according to the PSA, did not have the required security clearance as a result.

Mkhwebane and Mahlangu, who resigned from his position this month, have both been accused by former public protector chief operations officer Basani Baloyi of unlawfully terminating her employment because she questioned Mkhwebane’s decisions in certain politically sensitive investigations – including those against President Cyril Ramaphosa and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan.

“The real reason that I was purged was because I was an obstacle to Ms Mkhwebane and Mr Mahlangu using their powers for their own personal advancement,” Baloyi says in papers filed at the Constitutional Court this week.

In a range of high-profile investigations, Ms Mkhwebane failed to act impartially and independently. In preparing reports, and in the timing of releasing reports, she abused her office.

According to Baloyi, there was “serious rot at the core of one of the constitution’s most important institutions. This is a crisis.”

Baloyi’s challenge to the termination of her employment was dismissed by the Pretoria High Court in 2019 on the basis that she should have approached the Labour Court to deal with her dispute against Mkhwebane and Mahlangu.

Baloyi is now seeking to appeal that decision in the Constitutional Court.

The PSA, meanwhile, has demanded that Mkhwebane “provide clarity to South Africans whether Mr Mahlangu disclosed in his CV or during interviews that he was dismissed from the Public Service owing to misconduct relating to dishonesty”.

“If not, the Public Protector needs to advise if she was aware of his previous disciplinary record before the appointment. If indeed so, the public protector needs to justify appointing Mr Mahlangu in the face of glaring knowledge and evidence and the CEO position requires a person of integrity,” the union states.

Public protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said on Thursday Mkhwebane had reached an agreement to respond to the PSA’s request for information, which was made under the provisions of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, this month.

“As far as the public protector is concerned, that agreement stands,” he said.

Segalwe added that Mkhwebane was “not aware of any investigator who has been “dismissed”, only those who have been suspended as part of disciplinary process which is above board and lawful”.

By Thursday evening, Mkhwebane had not responded to questions about the PSA’s request for a parliamentary probe into alleged maladministration at her office.

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