Wed, 11 Dec 2019

A complaint to the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's office, which DA chief whip John Steenhuisen claims to have filed, has seemingly disappeared from her office.

Steenhuisen told News24 he laid a complaint against former Minister of State Security Bongani Bongo in 2017. However, Bongo said the Public Protector's office told him there was no such complaint.

Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe told News24 he had seen reports about the complaint in the media but added: "We do not seem to have a complaint against him."

Already, Mkhwebane has been the subject of public outcry this week for her scrapping of the Gupta Waterkloof landing report.

Now, another investigation has led to nothing but radio silence.

In 2017, an attempt to intervene in the state capture inquiry allegedly led Bongo to offer parliamentary evidence leader advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara a blank check to resign.

This is according to the Sunday Times, which reported that it had seen an affidavit Vanara submitted to former National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete.

As a result, Steenhuisen said he laid a complaint with Mkhwebane's office that same year but received no response except a letter of acknowledgement.

"I don't know what the status of it is because I've had no return from the Public Protector's office. There's been no response back - one of the many complaints that have gone into the office that have not been finalised," he told News24.

He added: "The bulk of the complaint was actually being processed by the parliamentary ethics committee where the majority of the evidence had been led and it reached inquiry stage. I don't know what the status of that is because all business before the House at the end of a term falls away. There are a number of outstanding complaints that have been lodged."

Bongo, however, seemed surprised by this.

"I'm not even sure whether there is even such a complaint from their office... I did ask that office whether there is such a complaint and they said: 'We don't have a complaint.'"

Steenhuisen confirmed on Friday that his request for an inquiry into Mkhwebane's fitness to hold office has been referred to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services for consideration.

TIMELINE: Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's term in office so far

The Bongo Alliance

Bongo and Mkhwebane's relationship dates back to 2016 when Bongo was part of the ad-hoc committee that interviewed candidates for the Public Protector position. He has been an outspoken advocate for Mkhwebane's appointment.

In 2016, News24 reported on Bongo's support, stating that Bongo said she was "right for the job as she could hit the ground running, as she had worked for the office before".

City Press also reported that Bongo was not a fan of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and harassed her in meetings with questions about her personal life.

While Mkhwebane faced criticism for her recommendation to amend the Constitution and accommodate changes to the mandate of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), Bongo backed her.

When she decided to withdraw this after the backlash, Bongo also backed her.

His sudden rise to Minister of State Security in 2017 also raised some eyebrows.

Three years before his promotion, he was an unknown MP in Mpumalanga, having only been in Parliament for six months. His allegiance to former president Jacob Zuma went as far as supporting government efforts to ban Jacques Pauw's controversial book about Zuma.

As for the beleaguered Mkhwebane, this week has been a stressful one. On Wednesday, she revealed that she had closed Madonsela's investigation into the Gupta Waterkloof landing of 2013.

The complaint, lodged by Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson, pertained to her treatment of the justice, crime prevention and security (JCPS) task team.

Mkhwebane said she decided to close the case because charges against Anderson had been withdrawn. She was already retired and Mkhwebane was satisfied that the task team had treated Anderson fairly.

Madonsela, however, confirmed to News24 that the investigation related to much more than just Anderson.

"The investigation covered everything that happened - the landing, the home affairs people, everything. We covered everything ..." she said.

She added: "The intention was to publish the report dealing with what happened and then our commentary on what the task team was expected to do, but we needed to know what happened to be able to comment on the failures of the task team in investigating what happened."

David Maynier, now Democratic Alliance Finance MEC in the Western Cape, also laid a complaint with Madonsela's office.

Speaking to News24 about Mkhwebane's scrapping of the report, Maynier said he was concerned about other investigations that have been scrapped of which the public are unaware.

"[An issue] that needs to be looked at is the practice of closing investigations but keeping the fact of that secret. There is now a question of other investigations that have been closed and not been made public," he said.

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