‘Persistent complainer’ sings protector’s praises

‘Things changed when Busi came’

- By Tania Broughton

South African Roadies Associatio­n (Sara) head Freddie Nyathela said yesterday he had no personal knowledge of matters linked to charges suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is facing at parliament’s section 194 committee proceeding­s.

“My being here was to present our experience with the work of public protector [Mkhwebane] ... what she did for us and our young people. In terms of these other issues, the Reserve Bank and all of that ... those are other issues,” he said.

Earlier yesterday, Nyathela sang Mkhwebane’s praises for reports she wrote which resulted in Sara securing funding from the department of sport, arts & culture for operationa­l expenses and renovation­s to its central Johannesbu­rg training centre.

She also “vindicated ” Sara ’ s complaint against the National Arts Council (NAC) and its policy, which he said permitted wholesale looting by officials. He said in 2017 he met Mkhwebane. She told him: “I got you.”

Nyathela said: “I won ’ t forget that meeting. It will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

Mkhwebane wrote a report directing remedial action which “vindicated” him.

She also upheld a complaint he laid against the NAC, ordering remedial action. She successful­ly opposed legal challenges against both reports.

Nyathela said she had “come to the rescue” because Sara could not afford lawyers.

The organisati­on takes care of workers in the sector of the arts whose specialty is to prepare venues and set up stages for live music events. In spite of the public protector’s report ordering the implementa­tion of the settlement agreement, which was made an order of court, the department “continued to drag its feet”.

He alleged officials had lied to parliament’s portfolio committee about the implementa­tion of the agreement and he had written to the speaker, but “those officials were not held accountabl­e to this day”.

Sara eventually received the funding after Mkhwebane intervened on its behalf. The renovation­s – which should have cost about R2m if the funding had been approved when first applied for in 2005 – cost R25m but would “never have happened without the public protector”.

He claimed opposition to the renovation­s funding was rooted in an agenda involving City of Johannesbu­rg officials who wanted the city to take over the building because it was in a strategic position near the Market Theatre.

Evidence leader Nazreen Bawa said she wanted to assess where his evidence fit in and read out most of the charges.

Responding, he said he knew little about them, other than what he had read in newspapers or seen on TV. He said he could only comment on a charge of incompeten­ce.

But Bawa then took him through documents to show Mkhwebane’s predecesso­rs had dealt with the funding issue and overseen the signing of two settlement agreements.

She then took him through each of the cases he lodged with the office of the public protector and asked him how he would respond if it was suggested he was a “persistent complainer”.

However, Nyathela told the committee that once Mkhwebane took office, “things changed for the better for us”.–

 ?? /BRENTON GEACH/ GALLO IMAGES ?? Suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is credited with ‘rescuing’ the South African Roadies Associatio­n.
/BRENTON GEACH/ GALLO IMAGES Suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is credited with ‘rescuing’ the South African Roadies Associatio­n.

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