Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane allegedly instructed that former spokesperson Cleo Mosana should be removed from her Private Office for not doing her work and for calling Mkhwebane by her first name, Busisiwe. This was revealed at the Section 194 Parliamentary Inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office when Acting Head of Corporate Services and Human Resource Manager in the Office of the Public Protector Gumbi Tyelela was testifying.
However, Tyelela faced intense questions from ANC MP Sahlulele Luzipo on the matter. Luzipo wanted to know what Tyelela did as an HR practitioner to refuse an instruction that may have been irregular if there was such an instruction.
He also wanted to know if such an instruction was given in writing. Luzipo says as an HR practitioner, Tyelela’s responsibility is to follow the HR rules. Tyelela was quizzed by MPs after cross examination from Mkhwebane’s legal representative Dali Mpofu.
During his testimony, it was revealed that Mosana, who has since resigned, was demoted. At the centre of human resource concerns in the PP’s office were allegations of victimisation, intimidation, harassment of staff. This also forms part of the charge in the motion to investigate Mkhwebane for her fitness to hold office.
During clarity seeking questions, Tyelela’s human resource and labour relations know how came into question in an interaction with Luzipo.
” Mr Tyelela can I assume or endorse you as someone who by where you are located is someone who understood to understands to the best of that institution, how labour relations and human resource matters are supposed to unfold,” Luzipo asked Tyelela.
” Yes I believe so,” responded Tyelela.
Luzipo: ” Ok. I won’t read this part but I want to start to (at paragraph) 64. And on 64 I want to start on the second question. It says present was both Miss Mosana and then Chief of staff Linda Molelekoa. The PP came in she was upset, indicated that she no longer wanted to work with Miss Mosana and she (Mosana) did not want to be doing her work, and that Miss Mosana was disrespecting her by calling her by her first name Busisiwe. Now, what do you call that incident? “, asked Luzipo.
Tyelela replies: “I am not sure if I understand the question……Well, it was a meeting where PP raised her unhappiness about the spokesperson.”
Luzipo was not convinced: ” No no, I am trying to read because, from when you read below, definitely as a public servant, we don’t want to assume. I don’t get something here that says you were then instructed. If there was something, but there is a process after the incident of what had happened, that’s why I’m asking what do you call what happened on that day in terms of Public Service Code of Conduct?”
Tyelela answers again: “I am not sure if I understand the question. On that day as I indicated in my affidavit, PP that she said the issue was that she was unhappy and then she said uCleo must go home to serve notice. That is where then I intervened”
Luzipo: “But I can’t find something that says she (Mkhwebane) was unhappy. You said she was upset and indicated that, – let’s use the words that are used and indicated that she no longer wanted to work with Miss Mosana, that’s what is here”
Tyelela: “That’s correct , yes. Well I’m saying to me it means the same thing.
Luzipo continued to probe: ” Ok let me lead you. In terms of the rules of fairness and equity, and proper public service conduct, and you are a senior official in the Public Service. What should you have done, or will I be wrong to say that if it was an instruction or you understood to have been an instruction, you should have requested the Public Protector to put it in writing. According to you if it was an instruction was it indeed an irregular instruction, does Public Service not instruct you to request your superior to put that in writing?”
Tyelela: ” That could be one way of doing it butt but we felt that we could correct it by taking it over from the PP and deal with the matter,”
Luzipo: ” So, you don’t take it that as if it was an instruction?”
Tyelela again: ” Yes…….You could say it was an instruction, because she actually said she must go but we indicated that she cannot do that.”
Luzipo: “As a senior Public Service practitioner the rules you know. Don’t they say if that instruction coming to what you say,- because one could argue and say, you (Tyelela) then facilitated an irregular instruction that have led to someone losing her job”
Tyelela: ” Well my understanding is that we were correcting what PP wanted to do which was incorrect”
Luzipo: ” No, no no, the point here is that you are a Public Service practitioner in human resource practice. Not the Public Protector. It’s you. I am asking didn’t you believe that the instruction was irregular and you facilitated, and when you facilitated you then, that’s the action you take, is then to agree on demotion. The rules again are straight forward. On what ground (did you follow the instruction)?, there are only two grounds you can take a person, is on misconduct, gross misconduct or incapacity as far as I know. On which human resource rule the procedure you followed as a person I treat, is highly an expert?”
Tyelela: ” Well in terms of what PP was saying, if PP was not happy with the work of Miss Mosana, if Miss Mosana was not delivering on what was expected of her, that would fall under misconduct.”
Luzipo ended: ” My last point is just simple. Is there any evidence you can present that you have requested a written instruction on what you believe is an irregular instruction, because if you know Mr Mahlangu, I can’t find anything what that was said to you, not what as this committee, can be an evidence to be used that you acted according to what is expected of a person of yourself on the office that you occupy”
Tyelela: ” Well.. I did not tell the committee that I requested for a written instruction, so there will be no evidence to that because I did not request for it”
Securitisation of the Public Protector’s office
Allegations of the involvement of the State Security Agency and the general securitisation of the Public Protector’s Office since Mkhwebane took office, continued to come under the spotlight. Towards the end, Committee Chairperson Richard Dyantyi also sought further clarity from Tyelela.
” There are issues that you can assist me to help me just understand better. Honourable (Kevin) Mileham asked you a question about the view that securitisation of the office happened at the arrival of the Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. And you answered that in the affirmative in a response. The first thing I want to know that you can assist this committee with, what are the features of a securitised institution”, Dyantyi asked.
Tyelela replied: ” One example I can make is that we did not have a standalone security management unit. It was part of facilities and logistics. Then when PP came, it became a separate independent unit, with a senior manager. There was no senior manager before in security. That is one example”
Reginald Ndou to testify next
One of the senior managers in the Office of the Public Protector Reginald Ndou is expected to take the stand on Thursday morning.
Ndou is expected to be questioned extensively about various issues. These include claims that he had instructed that the so-called Gupta Leaks not be included in the Vrede Dairy report. He is further expected to be questioned about a case of sexual harassment that was laid against him.