27 November 2012

South Africa: Whistleblowers Please Call

Cape Town — Instead of writing anonymous letters complaining about the Public Protector, Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development has urged whistleblowers to contact it.

The committee resolved on Tuesday that whistleblowers who took up its offer would be afforded protection when they appeared before it to give evidence. Whistleblowers have until 15 January next year to contact the committee.

The committee also decided to call in Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela early in the New Year to answer allegations made against her. Madonsela had actually asked the committee to investigate the allegations made against her in anonymous letters.

The Portfolio Committee took the unusual step to invite whistleblowers to a meeting after listening to allegations of governance failures and maladministration from outgoing Deputy Public Prosecutor Advocate Mamiki Shai.

Shai told the committee that relations between her and Madonsela were good, but had deteriorated over time, to such an extent that she did not want to work with or befriend Madonsela.

Shai also said Madonsela had sidelined her by not inviting her to events, sending the invitation at the proverbial-last minute or deploying her somewhere else.

In what she described as an infringement of her privacy, she said documents were removed from her office without her permission. The Public Protector also did not have a code of conduct for her or Madonsela, or even a dispute resolution mechanism.

There was also no clear division of what the Public Protector, her Deputy or the CEO did. The executive committee only served to rubberstamp decisions already made by Madonsela, Shai said.

On 31 December 2011, a day in which their office was closed, she said, someone had entered her office to remove information about investigations from her computer's hard drive.

She urged the committee to investigate the allegations, adding that she would co-operate with it, even if Friday was her last day as Deputy Public Protector.

Committee chairman Llewellyn Landers said: "We want to take this further now. We want to invite whistleblowers to please take this step and come forward. It's extremely difficult for us to give credence two 12 pages (of allegations) unless the person or persons who wrote it come forward so that we can assess if there's any veracity."

He said the committee would also be approaching Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa for information regarding a criminal investigation by Brooklyn police station into allegations that Themba Mthethwa, CEO in the Public Protector's office, had fraudulently obtained Shai's signature to change a performance assessment.

Mthethwa informed the committee reports that Madonsela had been suspended by the International Ombudsman Institution because of the allegations against her was untrue.

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