SAFTU calls for Public Protector’s resignation or dismissal

The South African Federation of Trade Unions fully supports the demand for the resignation or dismissal of the Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

The Federation has already condemned her report – “Allegations of maladministration against the Free State Department of Agriculture Vrede Integrated Dairy Project” – as “an insult to the intelligence of all South Africans, which confirms the view that she has betrayed the principles of her office, and who has been captured by those corrupt individuals she is supposed to be exposing”.

At a time when the public has more need than ever for protection from crooked politicians, grossly mismanaged state-owned enterprise executives, corrupt law-enforcement agencies and greedy capitalist monopolies, we have a Public Protector who seems to be only concerned with protecting these very criminals.

Her report was an attempt to exonerate the politically prominent figures in the scandal at the farm. She ignored allegations, which the Hawks were already investigating at the time, into “irregular” transactions that included paying R30 million to fund the Guptas’ Sun City wedding.
She made no reference to the court papers filed by the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit showing that of the R220 million of government money given to the Gipta-linked Estina company for the project, only R2 million went to the Vrede Dairy Farm itself.

The rest was channeled to the Guptas and their associates, with R10 million landing straight into the personal bank account of Atul Gupta,  R19 million being used to buy luxury cars, R30 million as a deposit for a private jet and R100 million which went to various Gupta companies.
Instead she tried to switch attention on to minor players who have committed relatively small offences, such as not following normal procurement processes, that the payments to Estina were “not in line with Treasury prescripts” and they failed to monitor the implementation of the agreement.

But she said nothing of the alleged roles of senior players in the project, such as Free State Premier and ANC Secretary General, Ace Magashule, former Free State agriculture MEC, now Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi  Zwane and – most striking – any members of the  Gupta family.

These minor charges my well be true but her motive can only be seen as an attempt to find convenient scapegoats.

In short the report was a whitewash!
She has also done absolutely nothing about the many other serious allegations made by her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, in her State of Capture report. There is a danger that this Estina report is setting a precedent for all her future reports on these serious matters.

Mkhwebane has now said she is not prepared to defend her report in court, after being ordered to personally pay part of the legal bill in another case involving the South African Reserve Bank, when Judge Cynthia Pretorius made serious findings about Mkhwebane’s grasp of her position and its responsibilities:
“In the matter before us it transpired that the public protector does not fully understand her constitutional duty to be impartial and to perform her functions without fear‚ favour or prejudice’, said the judge, who added that this was a case where “a simple punitive costs order against her in her official capacity will not be appropriate. This is a case where we should go further and order the public protector to pay at least a certain percentage of the costs incurred on a punitive scale.”

Asked why the public protector had chosen not to defend her Estina report in court, her spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said the personal costs order granted against her in the SARB case had “instilled fear in the public protector when it comes to defending her reports in court”.

She says she will only file an affidavit to “explain” her investigation – which she defended in parliament last week. If she is prepared to defend her report in an affidavit and in parliament, then surely she should be happy to defend it in court.
SAFTU agrees with Casac’s Lawson Naidoo that “Mkhwebane’s claims that she was not defending her Estina report out of fear that she’d be hit with a personal costs order were a shocking indictment on her inability to defend her report. If she’s confident in her report, a costs order shouldn’t bother her”.

The federation repeats its insistence that all those against whom there is evidence in the Estina deal, and all the other serious cases of corruption exposed in the ‘State of Capture’ report, the #GuptaLeaks and Jacques Pauw’s ‘The President’s Keepers’ must face prosecution.

There must be no exceptions, especially political leaders, who not only benefited individually but were additionally responsible for crimes committed on their watch by their junior officials.
The campaign against every one of those guilty of corruption, fraud, money-laundering and tender manipulation, from the junior officials right up the the Presidency must be brought before the courts, tried and if guilty punished severely for the theft of billions from the people of South Africa.

If the Public protector is not prepared to play her part in this process, she must either resign or be removed. The South African pubic need a protector, not a stooge of the people from whom we need protection!

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