Legal counsel for suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has challenged the relevance of the latest witness in the Parliamentary impeachment process probing Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office.
Senior Manager in the Public Protector’s officer, Baldwin Neshundzi was about to testify at the inquiry on Friday before his relevance was challenged by Mkhwebane’s counsel, Advocate Dali Mpofu.
However, evidence leader, advocate Nazreen Bawa and Inquiry Chairperson, Qubudile Dyantyi shot down Mpofu’s protestation over the witness.
Mpofu argued that evidence must be based on the misconduct and incompetence charges adding that the inquiry must not be used as a staff complaints office.
“Says the core charges are misconduct and incompetence based on adverse findings by judges in the reports of CIEX, Vrede, financial sector conduct authority and CR17 and Bosasa,” says Mpofu.
However, the evidence leader says they cannot control what information witnesses put in their affidavits, adding that irrelevant testimony will be sifted out by the inquiry.
“There are at least three aspects in which this witness’ evidence bares relevance in the context of the CIEX matter. Mr Moodley was identified as one of the people who handed over a piece of paper containing the amendment of the Constitution to the Public Protector in a meeting and he testified he worked in a computer-related field and not an economics-related field,” defends Evidence leader Nazreen Bawa.
The inquiry chairperson agreed that the witness could go ahead and testify. But some parties like the GOOD Party said the relevance of some previous witnesses was questionable.
In the end, the witness took the stand. He was then grilled on being put on garden leave in order to get security training by the State Security Agency in 2018.
This was after documents from the President were suspected to have leaked in the Public Protector’s office but Neshundzi said the information came from a media release by the Presidency.
Neshundzi says he was summoned by former State Security Agency Director General, Arthur Fraser to his office.
“He said I must avail myself at the SSA when he approached he said I got concerns raised by the public protector. He told me the PP was not getting the necessary support from me in the institution. I thought she was happy but I was told I was not doing enough,” recounts Neshundzi.
Neshundzi adds that he did as he was told by Fraser to support Mkhwebane.
Meanwhile, Neshundzi was also grilled on whether the security clearance requirement started under Mkhwebane or former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
“Is that the policy introduced by Madonsela?” Adv Hangwi Matlhape, Mkwebane’s counsel asks.
“Correct,” Neshundzi answered.
“This notion of saying PP came with spying tendencies is false? said Matlhape.
“CORRECT,” Neshundzi responded.
Neshundzi also conceded that the State Security Agency was reluctant to give security clearance to former CEO, Vussy Mahlangu as he had pending dismissal labour disputes with his previous employer.
This was in the context that staff needed security clearance as they sometimes handled secret information.
Advocate Matlaphe used the examples of the sealed CR17 bank statements and the Phala Phala investigation to which Neshundzi said security clearance is done to safeguard investigations.
The inquiry continues.