Mkhwebane turns back on ‘free advice’
● The public protector has hired a special adviser to give her counsel on current affairs, sociopolitical and legal issues at a cost of R1.2-million a year instead of using a panel that advised her office for free.
This was after she drafted and implemented a new policy on the appointment of advisers, which gives her powers to do so without following recruitment processes.
Busisiwe Mkhwebane has disbanded a governance advisory board appointed by her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, which advised pro bono. It was headed by businesswoman Wendy Luhabe. The other members were governance expert Koogan Pillay and chartered accountant Vusi Mokwena.
Mkhwebane disbanded the panel in April last year and appointed special adviser Sibusiso Nyembe in April this year on a threemonth contract. She was to explain her new policy in parliament this week but failed to show up, citing “a family emergency”. She has been called to another meeting, at which a request for an inquiry into her fitness to hold office is also expected to be discussed.
Her policy cites the constitution, the Public Protector Act and instruments allowing such appointments in order to deal with matters efficiently and effectively: “This requires the public protector to have access to high-level specialist advice on each matter.”
Public protector spokesman Oupa Segalwe said there was nothing untoward about the appointment of Nyembe, who was an attorney of the high court with a BProc degree and more than 20 years’ experience.
Mkhwebane had opted for an adviser to assist her achieve her Vision 2023 strategy, Segalwe said. Madonsela had also had a paid adviser, for advice on writing reports.
On Twitter, Nyembe is a strong defender of Mkhwebane.
In April, when she was slammed by MPs for involving the State Security Agency in her operations, he tweeted: “Only malicious minds will question honest assistance between state organs!”