Parliament, Thursday, 8 September 2022 – The Committee for Section 194 Enquiry into Public Protector (PP) Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office today heard that legal costs associated with cases involving the Office of the PP amounted to close to R147 million.

Adv Nazreen Bawa SC, one of the evidence leaders at the start of today’s hearings, dealt with reviews and related applications involving Adv Mkhwebane. She told the committee that consulting and professional fees came to R158 976 155. Of this, R146 998 047 was spent from the 2016/17 financial year to the end of the 2021/2022 financial year

The committee heard that the ABSA/CIEX/South African Reserve Bank matter's total Bill is more than R14 million. The DA/Casac matter cost over R5 million. The litigation involving a challenge to the Rules of Parliament has so far exceeded R15 million.

Adv Bawa told the committee that more than 80 review applications have been brought. At least 37 formal reports have been set reviewed. In addition, there are 24 review applications pending that the Office is opposing and 23 that are not opposed. There are a number of matters not relating to reviews that are pending, including Adv Mkhwebane's applications to stop this committee process and her suspension.

During cross examination of Mr Thembinkosi Muntu Sithole, Manager for Legal Services at the Office of the PP, Adv Dali Mpofu on behalf of the PP said that Adv Mkwebane’s late chief of staff Mr Sibusiso Nyembe was a “big admirer” of Mr Paul Ngobeni. Mr Ngobeni is alleged to have written articles attacking those who criticised the PP and in return received large payments for it.

According to Adv Mpofu, one of the reasons for recommending Mr Ngobeni, who was referred to during previous hearings as a fugitive from justice in the US, for a particular task was because of his legal expertise, but also because he was a writer in the public space. Adv Mpofu said sometimes he delivered legal input, other times communications input.

During the question session from Members of the committee, some enquired why it seemed that Adv Mkhwebane's personal attorneys, Seanego Attorneys, were getting the lion's share of the cases being litigated by the Office of the PP. Mr Sithole said in response that the firm received high-profile matters and this created the impression that they were receiving the bulk of cases.

Members of the committee also enquired why the Office removed the previous law firm in the DA/Casac matter and then appointed Seanego Attorneys. According to Mr Sithole, Seanego was appointed when the matter went to Supreme Court of Appeal, but he cannot recall the reasons for removing the initial law firm.

Committee Chairperson Mr Qubudile Dyantyi said the hearings will continue tomorrow. Committee documents can be found at: Committee for Section 194 Enquiry - Parliament of South Africa


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