Senior Manager for Executive Support in the Office of the Public Protector, Simon Futana Tebele was taken by surprise by a text message revealing that suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane may not have trusted him.
The SMS was revealed by Evidence Leader Adv Ncumisa Mayosi during Tebele’s testimony in the inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office, on Wednesday.
This was done soon after Tebele had also confirmed that he knew Mkhwebane from university days, long before he joined the Public Protector’s Office.
Mayosi told Tebele that the SMS will form part of the testimony of the former Chief Operations Officer (COO) in the Office of the Public Protector Basani Baloyi.
Advocate Mayosi read the SMS which was displayed on the screen.
“Bundle F item 69, so this relates to the testimony that Basani Baloyi, former COO is going to give. She will testify that on the 18 of February 2019 soon after she started at the PPSA she received a text from the PP that reads as follows…COO careful of what you hear from Pona and Tebele. But you are an adult be wise. She will of course say she interpreted that to mean that she should not trust you. But my question to you, do you know any reason why the PP would issue such a warning about you? Do you know what this related to?” interrogates Mayosi.
Tebele, who testified virtually, only became aware of the SMS on the day of testimony on Wednesday. He expresses surprise when he responded to Mayosi.
”Well it’s for the first time that I see the note and throughout working in PPSA and working with Public Protector, Adv Mkhwebane, I have never created an environment where I believe that I would have been not trusted but I will leave it up to the Public Protector because I wouldn’t know why she said what she said if it’s her who said (it). I always believe that she trusted me and even today I still do believe that she trust(s) me and not only her but even the CEO whom I’m serving under. So I see myself as a person who can be trusted in the institution,” says Tebele.
Earlier Tebele was also quizzed about the move of the Senior Manager responsible for Security in the Office of the Public Protector, Balwin Neshundzhi to Customer Services. Mayosi questioned Tebele on Neshunhzi’s move saying Neshundhzi will testify that he did not apply for the position. This is the interaction between Mayosi and Tebele.
“According to him (Neshundhzi) he was moved from the position of Senior Manager for Security with effect from 1 August 2019. He was moved into the position of senior manager in another branch, Customer Service Management, do you recall that?” Mayosi asks.
“Yes, I recall that,” Tebele responds.
“So he says that he will say that he didn’t apply for the position and he did not at that stage have any experience in the matters that the Customer Services Management branch dealt with. Can you explain to the committee why Mr Neshundhzi was moved from Security to Customer Services?” Mayosi asks again.
“What I will say is what I know, not that I actively participated in it. When Mr Neshundhzi came back I would call it from the suspension. There was a report which I did not have a preview too. And apparently, in that report, there was a recommendation that he be moved. I haven’t seen the report but I was approached by the former CEO Mr (Vussy) Mahlangu. He said to me because of the role that Mr Neshundhzi is playing in security and the current cloud that it’s there in terms of leaking information, he deemed it best that he be moved out of that portfolio so that somebody maybe can come and manage that portfolio because he is saying that information security that he is responsible for, he could not handle it the way that it needed to be handled. And there were areas in which they needed to check, which area was the best suited to,” Tebele answers.
And I remember when he (Neshundhzi) came back I also indicated to him that the leadership is of the view that you (Neshundhzi) be moved from the office of the Security to another area. And at that time there was an opening in the unit called Customer Services Management (CSM) and Mr Neshundhzi was moved to CSM to be responsible I think for intake and assessment. That is how far I understand the situation of Mr Neshundhzi. Indeed yes he did not apply. For operational reasons, he was moved to that area,” Tebele emphasises.
Neshundhzi set to testify on Thursday
Meanwhile, Neshundhzi is expected to take the stand on Thursday morning. The announcement was made by Committee Chairperson, Richard Dyantyi at the end of the session with Tebele whom he thanked for availing himself.
“I want on behalf of this committee and everybody else in this inquiry to thank Mr Tebele for availing himself, participating throughout this process, and answering all questions even if the person who’s asking is not happy. We want to appreciate the role that he’s played hopefully. His contribution is also going to assist this committee in its final deliberations. Thank you very much, with that the inquiry is adjourned. We meet tomorrow at 10 (AM) when we will be interacting with witness Baldwin Neshundhzi. Thank you very much meeting is adjourned,” says Dyantyi.
Senior Manager at Public Protector’s office testifies at Mkhwebane Inquiry: