Parliament, Thursday, 18 August 2022 – The Committee for Section 194 Enquiry into Public Protector (PP) Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office heard today from Mr Lufuno Reginald Ndou that the PP indicated that she “would be happy” if the Vrede Dairy investigation report did not contain any adverse findings.

Mr Ndou served the Office of the PP for 19 years in various capacities, starting as a senior investigator and filling the role of Acting Chief Executive Officer of the PP from 1 December 2016 to 31 January 2017. He resigned in 2018.

Mr Ndou testified that he received a phone call from the PP in September or October 2017 in which she raised concerns with the Vrede Dairy investigation. Mr Ndou said that Adv Mkhwebane told him that Ms Erika Cilliers was doing the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) bidding and it was clear she worked for the DA. Mr Ndou also reported that the PP went on to say that she would be happy if there were no adverse findings in the report. His interpretation of this was that this was Adv Mkhwebane’s desire and not an instruction. This was on the same day that the Vrede Dairy file was transferred to Head Office and no discussion regarding the evidence had yet taken place.

He further reported Adv Mkhwebane as saying that the Gupta leaks should not be used during the investigation, although this was contrary to a previous instruction she had made saying the leaks should be used. He raised his concerns with Adv Mkhwebane when he noticed that only one line of the Gupta leaks was included in the draft report, saying this could be grounds for a review. He raised the matter again during a task team meeting and was advised by some colleagues, who had also previously unsuccessfully tried to raise the issue, to let it go.

At the close of Mr Ndou’s evidence, one of the evidence leaders, Adv Nazreen Bawa (SC), advised that charges of sexual harassment against the witness were not relevant to the enquiry, but that such questioning might arise. She advised that it was preferable if such a line of questioning not be allowed by the committee, but if it was, then it should take place behind closed doors.

Committee Chairperson Mr Qubudile Dyantyi said that the committee had discussed the way forward behind closed doors, as this is a sensitive matter unrelated to the charges before the committee. The committee later informed both the evidence leaders and the PP’s legal team about the discussion. “It was agreed that should questions regarding the dismissed sexual harassment claims be prompted, it would be done so behind closed doors. It will only be that part of questions to the witness that will be in-camera,” said Mr Dyantyi.

The hearings will continue on Monday. The committee was established by the National Assembly (NA) on 16 March 2021 to conduct a constitutional inquiry into the Public Protector’s fitness to hold office. The enquiry is hybrid and can be followed live on Parliament’s media platforms. Committee documents can be found on its page on Committee for Section 194 Enquiry - Parliament of South Africa


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