Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says suggestions by the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution that she protected politicians in the Vrede dairy scandal are false. Chris Barron asked CASAC’s LAWSON NAIDOO . . .
Did she protect Ace Magashule and Mosebenzi Zwane?
Now that we have the background documents it is very clear she did.
Do you believe she was acting on instructions?
That is something she will have to explain. She’s conceded now that there was a provisional report that was prepared by her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela.
She didn’t deny it but she did not include any reference to it in her own final report published in January. So we were unaware of the existence of this report until the record of decision was made available to us at the end of March.
Why should she have made reference to it in her report?
She ought to have said on what basis she changed its recommendations.
She was, but needed to provide a rationale for doing so. She has changed critical aspects of the remedial action that exonerates, or certainly takes out of the picture, certain key political players without providing any explanation.
She says it had no legal status . . .
Nobody’s disputing the fact that the provisional report has no legal binding status. But at the very least, as a matter of logic, she ought to explain why she decided to differ from the contents of that provisional report.
She says it wasn’t even signed.
Whether or not it was signed is a mere technicality she’s seeking to hide behind.
She says the provisional report shows that the involvement of politicians was never part of the investigation.
The fact that it wasn’t investigated was down to her.
We have now. It has been made available to us as a result of the court process. We’re also in receipt of an investigation by National Treasury in 2013. Again, a critical document not revealed in her initial report.
It picked up that there were possible fraudulent aspects of the project.
Did it point fingers at Magashule and Zwane?
It made reference to the roles they played in providing political approval, and it signalled the involvement of the Gupta family.
So it raised significant red flags?
Very significant red flags.
Should it have been made public sooner?
It should indeed have been made public, and should have been attached to the public protector’s final report.
Shouldn’t the Treasury itself have made it public when it was clear she had ignored its red flags?
There’s certainly a good argument for that to have happened. I agree they should have. There should have been an obligation on Treasury to make it public.
Does this make former finance minister Malusi Gigaba complicit in the cover-up?
That may be a stretch too far, but certainly Treasury would need to explain why they took a decision not to make the report public when they realised that it had been withheld from her report.