Busi hates on Thuli
New Public Protector banned Madonsela from an event she organised and threatened to cancel ombuds’ conference if her predecessor appeared
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane dislikes her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, so much that she threatened to withdraw South Africa’s hosting of an African ombuds’ conference if the former public protector was invited. Last month, Mkhwebane told the secretariat of the African Ombudsman and Mediators’ Association (Aoma) that the country – along with the African Ombudsman Research Centre, based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal – would not host the organisation’s conference if it invited Madonsela.
The organisation, which held its conference from November 1 to 4 in Durban, did not invite Madonsela, despite having honoured her at the event for her “outstanding and exemplary service” in office.
Madonsela’s trophy and certificate, presented at the event, were accepted on her behalf by Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga.
Neither Mkhwebane nor her office responded to questions sent by City Press on Friday.
Mkhwebane’s threat to withdraw South Africa from hosting the conference is contained in a heated string of emails from the office’s outgoing chief of staff, Bonginkosi Dhlamini.
Mkhwebane fired Dhlamini last week, saying his post did not “match” his expertise, and on Wednesday she had her VIP protection officers escort him from the Public Protector headquarters in Brooklyn, Pretoria.
Dhlamini told City Press that on Wednesday, he was called into a meeting with human resources personnel.
“When I arrived there, I found Mkhwebane’s security guys waiting for me. When I finished [meeting] with human resources, they escorted me to my car. I gave them the access card and that was it; I left.”
An email, which Dhlamini sent to Mkhwebane the Monday before he was kicked out of the office, reads: “I will also ask Parliament whether it gave you a mandate to tell Aoma that you will not host the fifth anniversary and conference if [Aoma] invited your predecessor to receive an award that she deserved.
“I will ask [the department of international relations and cooperation] what does this do to the good name of our country in a continent that we are trying to positively influence?”
Dhlamini, whom Madonsela appointed six months ago, also threatened to go to Parliament and make a protected disclosure about the goings-on at the office under Mkhwebane.
A senior manager in Mkhwebane’s office confirmed this, but added: “I would rather that we don’t discuss the details on the phone.”
Madonsela declined to comment, but a source close to Aoma said: “Yes, Advocate Madonsela was not invited to the conference, despite being the one who accepted [that the Aoma general assembly] be hosted by the African Ombudsman Research Centre, of which she is the inaugural and outgoing chairperson.
“Madonsela was told by her Aoma colleagues that Mkhwebane had threatened to withdraw South Africa’s hosting of the conference if she attended. Her Aoma colleagues from other countries were shocked by it all as outgoing ombudsmen are not only invited, but also honoured at events which take place shortly after or before the end of their term.
“Madonsela was supposed to have been honoured at that event, but her trophy and certificate were received by the deputy public protector.”
STAFF EXPECTED MKHWEBANE’S APPOINTMENT
A number of senior employees in the Public Protector’s office told City Press they were not surprised when Parliament endorsed Mkhwebane for the position of Public Protector.
Two executives said they knew long before Mkhwebane was appointed that she would get the job.
One former executive told City Press via SMS: “You need to know that Madonsela’s former chief of staff, Risenga Maruma, told me a few days after Advocate Mkhwebane took office that Linda Molelekoa, who started acting as chief of staff on Monday, October 17, had flashed an SMS from the new Public Protector, saying: “You are my future chief of staff”, long before Parliament voted on Ms Mkhwebane’s appointment.”
Another senior executive said: “We were not surprised when Parliament endorsed her. We knew long before she was appointed that she was coming. She had told people that she was coming, and the rumour did the rounds in the office long before she came. We were not surprised at all.”
In one of his emails, Dhlamini accuses Mkhwebane of being “heartless”, “cruel” and “unreasonable”; of having “little regard for other human beings and their legitimate rights”; and of having treated employees in Madonsela’s office like “gardeners”.
Dhlamini is one of a number of staff who worked in Madonsela’s private office and have fallen foul of Mkhwebane.
There are three others, whose names are known to City Press. All of them worked on Madonsela’s State of Capture report and all were moved by Mkhwebane to other units.
In his emails, Dhlamini also accuses her of having “an issue” with the State of Capture report.
“If you have an issue with the State [of] Capture report – which you clearly have – do not punish innocent people ... for it,” he writes.
“You can undo what Advocate Madonsela has done over the past seven years if that is your mandate, but think about the innocent people that you have made collateral damage. “How low have we fallen in a few weeks of your stewardship.” He also charges that Mkhwebane is “obsessed” with Madonsela. “Where do you derive the right to play God with people’s lives? These people that you have humiliated and abused for no reason other than your obsession with Advocate Thuli Madonsela did nothing to you,” he writes. “These are innocent human beings with children and families to look after. They deserve dignity and fair treatment. What did they do to you to deserve such treatment? “How do you reconcile your action with the Public Protector mandate and the Bill of Rights in our Constitution? How do you reconcile this with the Labour Relations Act? “You are doing what the apartheid regime did to our people – forced removals, job reservation ... “It can never be true that you can walk into an organisation and say, ‘I will remove the people that worked closely with my predecessor just because I do not trust them.’” Dhlamini adds that the Office of the Public Protector should be the last place “to treat people in this fashion”. “Over the years, this office has investigated lesser complaints than these and has found in favour of our citizens,” he writes. “One day, God willing, we will be around when you are told, ‘Show cause why you should not be suspended’, by the very people you are trying to please – at the expense of the constitutional mandate and the people of our country. And put me to the test, Ms Mkhwebane.” Two weeks ago, Mkhwebane sent Dhlamini a dismissal letter, in which she wrote: “I have considered your placement in the office of the chief executive officer and your expertise, based on your CV, and realised that it is not in the interest of both you and the institution to keep you in a post where your expertise do [sic] not necessarily match those of the post. “Also, considering the future plans of the institution and your expertise, I am of the view that it will not assist the institution to keep you on board. In light of the above, I have decided that the Public Protector South Africa [sic] should part ways with you in an amicably [sic] manner from January 1 2017.”
DHLAMINI TACKLES MKHWEBANE