6 March 2018

South Africa: No Complaints About Magashule, Guptas - Mkhwebane On Vrede Report

Photo: Parliament of South Africa
Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane,

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has told MPs that there were no complaints about Free State Premier Ace Magashule or the infamous Gupta family at the time that her office compiled the Vrede dairy report.

Mkhwebane appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Justice on Tuesday, and said new information only came to light in the so-called Gupta Leaks, after the report had been completed and "think-tanked" in 2015.

Her office has come under fire for not including remedial actions against Magashule, the Guptas or then agriculture MEC in the province Mosebenzi Zwane, in her report, which was released earlier this year.

The matter though, was brought to the attention of her predecessor in 2013 by a Democratic Alliance member in the Free State, before her time, and it only asked to probe mismanagement of funds in government, Mkhwebane said.

"There was no [mention] in the report where it was also implicating certain politicians or stuff like that," she told MPs.

"There was no stage where the executive or politicians were investigated on their own, and there is no information in the record [before my time], that questions were asked."

The issue was out of the scope of the initial request, she added.

The actual probe, she continued, was completed in 2014 and then sent to her office's "think tank" in 2015, where it was agreed the report was ready, she continued.

With regards to "new" Gupta Leaks information, revealed in June 2017, she said her office "couldn't just investigate matters simply because it is mentioned in the media".

"The Gupta Leaks was received by Outa [Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse]. But we could not rely on the information, we had to do our own investigation."

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach however, took issue with her answers.

"There was nothing preventing you from extending the scope of your investigation. There was no reason to get the report out at the time you said," Breytenbach said. "Did you not think these allegations were egregious?"

African National Congress MP Stan Maila wanted to know why the report was not released in 2015, if it was ready then.

Economic Freedom Fighters MP Tilivhali Mulaudzi said: "It's a matter of concern for us that the premier [Ace Magashule] must be included in your remedial actions."

DA MP Werner Horn likened her answer to a situation in which police are alerted to a broken window at a home and they find a dead body inside, but only decide to investigate a housebreaking.

Mkhwebane said that, upon assuming office in late 2016, she decided to revisit the matter and she only approached the office of the Free State premier to inform him that the report was ready for publication.

The request focussed primarily on the way in which contracts were signed and how money was used.

She also said the threat to whistleblowers dictated that she releases the report timeously.

She "reminded" MPs of the sub judice rule. Her report has been taken on review by the Democratic Alliance, and so she was limited in what she could discuss.

She would be presenting her evidence before the court when the matter is heard.

Her office has given Magashule 30 days to initiate her remedial actions to discipline members in his provincial government.

Earlier on Tuesday, members of Black First Land First disrupted proceedings by staging a silent protest. Some of them held up placards saying MPs who protected white monopoly capital should be fired.

They left the meeting after the committee chair threatened to call parliamentary security.

The meeting continues on Tuesday.

Source: News24

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