Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane allegedly threatened SA’s largest horse-racing body with a far-reaching investigation into its operations after it refused to pay one of its main accusers a proposed R10m legal settlement, says a Business Day report.

Phumelela Gaming and Leisure Limited has said that a November 2018 letter Mkhwebane sent to it about its ‘regrettable’ decision not to agree to a settlement proposal made by thoroughbred racehorse breeder Phindiwe Kema demonstrated that the Public Protector was biased against the company and failed to uphold the constitutional obligations of her office.

Kema had tried to buy the Arlington racecourse from Phumelela, but the deal never materialised because of disagreements about price.

Kema sought the R10m payout in relation to any future claim she would make in relation to the Arlington racecourse, and also ‘pain, suffering, public humiliation as well as to enable her to rebuild her life’.

Phumelela is now pushing for a personal costs order against Mkhwebane for 25% of the legal costs attached to its review of her May 2019 report on the privatisation of SA’s horse-racing industry, should she lose that case.

Mkhwebane’s office is adamant that she did no wrong, and it has rubbished any suggestion that the Public Protector was attempting to blackmail or coerce Phumelela into ‘paying off’ Kema to make her complaints go away.

‘The matter is before court, and the Public Protector will deal substantively with all the allegations contained in the Phumelela court papers in her replying affidavit,’ her spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, reportedly told Business Day.

That said, the Public Protector denies claims that she asked Phumelela to pay Kema any money, and confirms that settlement proposals were made among the parties, and that process failed.’

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