Mkhwebane’s management style laid bare
Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane – battered and bruised after days of damning cross examination – yesterday received a glowing report from a former aide.
Appearing before Parliament's Section 194 Committee that is inquiring into Mkhwebane's fitness for office, senior manager Futana Tebele repeatedly referred to Mkhwebane as the ‘executive authority’.
Business Day reports that he said they knew one another from university days and were ‘study mates’.
‘But it’s not a personal relationship that I would say every day we were talking ... we would spend two years without talking,’ he said.
While he saw colleagues reprimanded, in his view this was due to their own shortcomings. With regard to a rise in litigation involving the office, he argued this was due to the courts’ approach and disgruntled applicants challenging her binding findings.
Tebele argued the courts had created the problem by ruling the Public Protector’s remedial action was binding in the Nkandla case.
He said Mkhwebane was highly motivated to end a backlog by September 2021 and ‘pressure was being applied to everybody with that end goal in mind’. While he did not dispute expectations ‘may have been perceived to be unreasonable’, he thought Mkhwebane made fair demands.
Tebele compared Mkhwebane’s performance to that of her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, and thought his boss produced far more reports. He highlighted Mkhwebane inherited a manual case management system which was ineffective in tracking complaints.
Responding to a question from evidence leader advocate Ncumisa Mayosi, Tebele said Mkhwebane reads all the reports issued by her office ‘and sends them back if she is not happy with them’.
The Cape Times reports that Tebele confirmed that he had seen Mkhwebane reprimand employees when they did not meet their deadlines and would even raise her voice when demanding the work.
'In meetings I would have sat in where work was demanded, the Public Protector would talk about the investigators ignoring their commitments,' he said.
He said they were grilled for work that was not properly done.
News24 reports that the crux of the charges before the committee – that Mkhwebane had behaved improperly and is incompetent – stem from scathing court rulings against her in relation to the Vrede dairy farm report, the CIEX/Reserve Bank report, the CR17 matter and the so-called ‘rogue unit’ investigation.
Tebele testified that Mkhwebane's backlog-clearing initiative ‘created a lot of pressure on people within the office of the Public Protector to work’.
‘There was lots of pressure on them to complete their work with frequent and constant meetings being held to ascertain how far investigations were and what was being done in respect of reducing the backlog,’ he added.
Article disclaimer: While we have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide final legal advice as facts and situations will differ from case to case, and therefore specific legal advice should be sought with a lawyer.