Public Protector may drop Eskom probe
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane may not investigate multimillion-rand cases involving former Eskom boss Brian Molefe and former acting chief executive officer Matshela Koko.
She claimed that this was due to a second ongoing investigation by Parliament.
Mkhwebane said in a letter to DA leader Mmusi Maimane that she was considering whether it would be prudent for her to continue with the investigations as a parliamentary inquiry is charged with the same matter. Mkhwebane claimed that financial constraints were at the heart of the matter.
The investigations pertain to a R30 million pension payout made by Eskom to Molefe, as well as allegations that Koko awarded a R1 billion contract to his stepdaughter.
“The investigation is ongoing. It has also been noted that Parliament, in particular the portfolio committee on public enterprises, was also investigating the same matter relating to similar issues,” she wrote.
Mkhwebane said her office’s preliminary investigation into the matter had been concluded, but she was still in a process of considering whether the Public Protector should conduct a parallel investigation.
While Molefe and Koko may have a stay of execution, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen may not be so lucky.
Mkhwebane plans to reveal her findings soon on whether he misled Parliament and the public about his alleged visits to the Gupta family home in Saxonwold ahead of his disastrous appointment as finance minister in December 2015.
In her State of Capture report, Mkhwebane’s predecessor Thuli Madonsela found that Van Rooyen could be placed at the Saxonwold area on at least seven occasions, including on the day before he was announced as finance minister. “This looks anomalous given that at the time he was a Member of Parliament based in Cape Town,” Madonsela wrote.
Van Rooyen repeatedly denied visiting the Gupta home before his appointment, including in answers to Parliament. This led to the DA’s request that Mkhwebane investigate whether he misled Parliament about the alleged visit to the politically aligned family. “The investigation into this matter has been concluded and I am in a process of finalising my report on the outcome of the investigation. It is envisaged that the report will be issued soon,” wrote Mkhwebane in the letter to Maimane, dated November 2.
In the same letter, Mkhwebane reveals that her office is inundated with complaints about state capture.
“The allegations of state capture are serious and if not attended to properly and sufficiently, they have a potential to compromise our constitutional democracy,” she wrote.
“Unfortunately, new allegations of state capture keep on coming every day and due to the capacity constraints within the Office of the Public Protector, I have decided that those allegations of state capture will be best dealt with by the commission of inquiry.”
The investigation into Police Minister Fikile Mbalula and former acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane is also at an advanced stage. They have been accused of allegedly misusing state resources by providing VIP protection for ANC MP and presidential frontrunner Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
The letter shows that there is no love lost between Mkhwebane and the DA. The party opposed her appointment in September last year and accused her of being a spy on the State Security Agency’s payroll.
Recently the DA tried to initiate a parliamentary process to have Mkhwebane removed from her position, but was unsuccessful.
She wrote: “The tone and insinuation on your aforesaid letter, especially pertaining to the pressing matters regarding the performance of the Office of the Public Protector and the need for a Public Protector who is wholly committed to fighting for the people of South Africa, is regrettable and very unfortunate.”
Maimane wrote to Mkhwebane on September 26 requesting a formal meeting to discuss a “pressing matter”. In his letter he insinuated that Mkhwebane was not committed to her job.
He told City Press yesterday that the country needed to be able to trust the Public Protector.
“The authority of her office relies on the credibility of the decisions she makes and actions she takes. Unfortunately, that credibility has taken a hard knock in the months since her appointment,” Maimane said.