Public Protector’s relations with State Security Agency questioned

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Members of the parliamentary inquiry into Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office of the Public Protector have raised more questions about the close proximity between her and State Security Agency.

Members put questions to the Public Protector’s former head of Provincial Investigations and Integration, Reginald Ndou about this relationship.

He admitted that this practice was strange and had not been the case with other Public Protectors. He was also asked about the so-called audi letters that were reportedly used to intimidate staff.

The close working relationship between the office of the Public Protector and State Security Agency has been hanging around these hearings since they resumed. And members have kept the questions coming as various current and former officials testify, including Reginald Ndou.

Democratic Alliance’s Mimmy Gondwe asked about the relationship between the Public Protector and the State Security Agency.

“Did you ever get the distinct impression that the office of the Public Protector under Busisiwe Mkhwebane maintained a close relationship or links with the SSA? My sense would be to say that I sense that there was this open comm between SSA and us.  I had been involved in a project to put together a case management system but it wasn’t finalised. But I was aware that at some point SSA waited to put together a system for us. The second one involved the appointment of Neshunzi. The fact there was somebody from SSA suggested there was open communication with SSA.”

African National Congress (ANC)’s Gijimani Skosana asks, “Was there anything unusual about having a representative from SSA on the panel? For me, it was unusual yet given the role as I understood having somebody from SSA sitting in such a meeting.”

Several officials have also spoken about so-called audi letters. These are letters that are sent to staff as a first step before disciplinary measures are taken. Ndou was asked if other Public Protectors had also issued these letters.

Kevin Mileham of the DA asked about this. “In my time with previous Public Protectors, I was not aware of any Audi letters. It was not a matter of n increase it was almost something new. What did that do to staff morale and the culture in the office? Speaking of the two incidents that IO was involved in, one was the PR for the EC and she didn’t take kindly. The other one related to the PR for MP and so he wasn’t very happy about it given the circumstances surrounding what had happened.”