CAPE TOWN - The Bhisho High Court on Tuesday suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report into allegations of corruption by Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane and Public Works MEC Babalo Madikizela.
This after the legal defence team of Mabuyane and Madikizela argued before Judge Rossan Kruger that the failure to grant interim relief, pending the final review of the report, would prejudice the political careers of their clients.
Mkhwebane had found Mabuyane and Madikizela to have “improperly” benefited from the R450 000 and R350 000 respectively to ferry mourners to a memorial service of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in Mbizana in 2018.
Mkhwebane said Mabuyane used the money to renovate his home in East London.
But Mabuyane has been arguing that he borrowed the money from Madikizela and had repaid it by the time Mkhwebane was to start an investigation into him.
Last week Mkhwebane filed a notice to abide by the decision of the court in as far as remedial actions are concerned.
Mabuyane was not present at the court while Madikizela attended the proceedings.
Adv Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, for Mabuyane told the court that when the Public Protector began her investigation in December 2019, Mabuyane told her in writing that he had a loan agreement with Madikizela and that by the time she began her investigation, he had already repaid the loan.
“She (Mkhwebane) has not referred to that letter or the proof of payment. You cannot run an investigation on a one track mentality. It’s a crass error of the law. It basically shows she does not know how to conduct an investigation.
“There is gross incompetence or possibly a double agenda (on the part of the Public Protector). She has a goal in mind, she wants to achieve. She does not care. She just won’t let the facts stand in her way of a conclusion which is predetermined. She confuses the legislation,” Ngcukaitobi said.
Ngcukaitobi said Mabuyane was at the risk of losing his job because of the “gross incompetence” by Mkhwebane.
“The ANC’s rule is clear: once there are allegations of corruption against you, report yourself to the (ANC’s) Integrity Commission and step aside. Now we have a premier who potentially can lose his job because of this gross incompetence by the Public Protector where facts have been ignored and shifted aside. My client is facing the real risk of the (ANC’s) step aside rule because of this.”
Adv Anton Katz SC, for Madikizela, argued that the Public Protector’s report needed to be set aside. “What we do know is that there is something fishy about the Public Protector’s report.”
Judge Kruger ordered that the Public Protector’s remedial order of her report on the investigation into allegations of corruption, maladministration and misuse of public funds by Mabuyane and Madikizela be “suspended and the Public Protector is interdicted from enforcing her remedial order” against the two.
The Public Protector’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said: “It is important to reiterate that both Premier Mabuyane and MEC Madikizela’s court actions are two-pronged, Part A and B.
“In Part A of their applications, they sought interim orders suspending the implementation of the remedial action taken by the Public Protector, which was granted earlier today, pending the finalisation of the reliefs they seek in Part B of their applications, in terms of which they want the Public Protector’s report reviewed and set aside.
“The Office of the Public Protector did not oppose Part A of the respective applications because the office will not suffer any prejudice if the relief sought is granted.
“In any event, it is the Public Protector who always encourages those who take the office’s reports on judicial review to also obtain interim interdicts to stay the implementation of the remedial action because the launch of review proceedings on their own does not suspend the remedial action. The office has already filed notices to abide by the court decision in respect of Part A of the two applications. The office is however opposing Part B of the applications.”