10 January 2013

South Africa: Public Protector Saddened By Communication Workers Union Threats

press release

The Public Protector on Thursday noted with sadness the open letter attributed to the spokesperson of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), Mr Matankana Mothapo, in which worrying threats are made against her office.

The threats relate to an investigation the Public Protector is conducting following a complaint lodged by the CWU in May 2011. The complaint concerns allegations of maladministration at the South African Post Office.

The Public Protector would like to assure the people of South Africa that it is not true that she is "cherry-picking" cases or dragging her feet to conclude certain matters as alleged by Mr Mothapo. She oversees a number of investigation teams that are dealing with many matters lodged by different political parties and individuals at a time. Some of these investigations are much older than the matter Mr Mothapo refers to.

It is also important to note that the Public Protector relies on different pieces of legislation to conduct investigations. Matters relating to the ethical conduct of members of the executive such as the President and Ministers are dealt with in terms of the Executive Members Ethics Act, which requires the Public Protector to conclude her investigations within a month. Even in such matters, the Public Protector hardly meets the one month deadline due to various reasons, including capacity constraints, cooperation with investigations by concerned organs of state and the complexity of cases.

Regarding the specific investigation at the centre of Mr Mothapo's complaint, it is true that there was an undertaking to complete the matter by September 2012. However, there was a delay in terms of obtaining crucial information from South African Post Office (SAPO). Among other things, there was a change of guard at SAPO sometime last year, with the former chairperson leaving and a successor appointed. As a result of this, we got the information we needed only in November 2012.

At the moment, the investigation is complete and is at a report writing stage. We will expedite the process and advice interested parties as soon as the report is ready. It is also worth noting that the investigation team has been reporting developments on this matter to the CWU on a regular basis as promised in a meeting where the September 2012 deadline undertaking was made. This means the CWU has been kept in the loop since the meeting it held with the Public Protector in July 2012. It is therefore unfortunate that Mr Mothapo seeks to give an impression that the CWU was ignored and kept in the dark.

The Public Protector hopes that these unwarranted threats directed at this constitutional body by Mr Mothapo are not supported by the Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU), under which CWU is an affiliate, because they amount to interfering with the functioning of her office - an act that is outlawed by section 181(4) of the Constitution.

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