South Africa: Busisiwe Mkhwebane Sends Stern Warning to Limpopo Government Officials

Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane has warned Limpopo's premier, Stan Mathabatha, and his executive to refrain from meddling in procurement matters.

Mkhwebane said that such interference could get them into trouble with the law.

She was addressing the newly elected executive in Bela-Bela, Limpopo, as part of their induction programme, which coincided with her office's annual stakeholder roadshow.

Mkhwebane also warned against the referral of friends or relatives to officials for opportunities, as that could place members of the executive in conflict with their official duties and private interests.

"Don't ever find yourself instructing officials as to which company should be given business. If you are there to serve the public, forget about yourself," she said.

In 2017, Mkhwebane found that the former Limpopo MEC for transport, Mapula Mokaba-Phukwana, had irregularly awarded a contract to MPA Investigation Team to conduct a forensic investigation without proper legal authority and without following proper procurement processes.

She also found that the head of department, Hanli du Plessis, irregularly regularised the contract awarded to MPA Investigation Team by re-appointing the company on the basis of a verbal instruction or directive issued by Mokaba-Phukwana.

Both Mokaba-Phukwana and Du Plessis took the report on judicial review.

The Public Protector has since won the case involving Du Plessis, while the one concerning Mokaba-Phukwana is still pending before the courts.

Mkhwebane told Mathabatha that the mere action of taking her reports on review does not suspend the implementation of remedial action.

She also indicated that nothing stopped members of the executive from referring matters to her office or requesting her assistance as a mediator in disputes such as the Vuwani stand-off, which robbed pupils of valuable learning time thereby infringing on their right to education.

Mkhwebane reminded them that Kader Asmal, who served as a minister under former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, once approached the Public Protector to help probe the cause of ineffective communication in state affairs.

Over the years, the Public Protector has investigated numerous complaints of alleged breaches of the code of ethics by members of the executive at both the national and provincial levels of the government.

These include alleged incidents of misleading the legislature, acting in a manner that was inconsistent with their offices, using the positions entrusted to them to enrich themselves or improperly benefiting another person and exposing themselves to situations involving the risk of a conflict between their official responsibilities and their private interests.

Mkhwebane's roadshow will head to the Eastern Cape in July, followed by Gauteng in August and the Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal in September. From there, it will go to the Western Cape in October, Free State in November, North West in December and Mpumalanga in March 2020.


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