The Public Protector is not deterred by the ‘betrayal’ of her office by former COO
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has retaliated at axed chief operations officer (COO) Basani Baloyi who claimed that she was “purged” as a result of being “an obstacle to Mkhwebane and chief executive Vussy Mahlangu using their powers for their own personal advancement”.
In an interview with City Press, Mkhwebane said Baloyi had violated the confidentiality clause in her contract in the manner that she went about discussing sensitive matters relating to an investigation done by her office, in her founding affidavit in court, and subsequently in the media.
She likened Baloyi’s actions to those of a spy masquerading in the organisation with only the motivation of destroying the office’s credibility.
“The way she has captured the information [in her court papers] and how she is now playing to this narrative in the public space is very disappointing. The contract that she signed when she joined the institution has clauses of confidentiality. It is very disappointing how she is handling this matter, especially from an individual who is at the level she was occupying. She should have read her contract because she has gone and violated those confidentiality clauses,” said Mkhwebane.
The Public Protector also questioned why Baloyi had resorted to approaching the high court instead of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) or the labour court in her attempt to deal with a work-related matter.
“Her court papers, I would say, are vindictive. We will deal with the matter, we will oppose the matter. Why take a labour matter to the high court? Why not take it to the CCMA, the labour court and then let us discuss there?
“It’s a concern to have people like this in an institution that is so credible. It’s a concern to find someone like this and you think they will be coming in to help you protect the public; it’s like betrayal or even like a spy inside, checking whatever you are doing just to destroy the credibility of this institution.”
Baloyi, speaking to City Press on Saturday, said that Mkhwebane should not impose the rules of engagement.
“How I challenge her for dismissing me is incumbent on me, and the Public Protector should not try to enforce how I should go about challenging her.
“She cannot prescribe to me how I should deal with the matter after she has treated me like trash … I never prescribed to her how she should take me out,” Baloyi said passionately.
Adding that Mkhwebane had “declared a fight” and “if she [Mkhwebane] knew her facts [the information she relied on to not confirm Baloyi’s probation] and they were correct, she would not be worried about where I go to seek restitution.
“Even if I go to a traditional chief or police station … or even if I wanted to go to a traditional healer she shouldn’t have a problem,” said Baloyi.
Mkhwebane was at pains to try to explain that she had not fired Baloyi, saying that “her probation period was not confirmed.
“At any institution you can be told that you are on a probation period of three or six months, within which you need to prove yourself so that we can either retain you or not continue your contract.
“Based on your work or the employer finding out something they do not want to be associated with, your contract might not be confirmed,” said Mkhwebane.
Mkwebane added that, contrary to the allegations Baloyi was making, she had been informed that the latter was the one who had been discussing sensitive information about investigations.
“I was informed that Baloyi was discussing sensitive information at a funeral and I requested that the chief executive address her on such behaviour,” said Mkhwebane.
She also alluded to Baloyi having left the department of communications under questionable circumstances.
“She [Mkhwebane] is lying about me having left the department of communications under questionable circumstances. This thing of her going around digging dirt about me is leading to people misleading her. I was on a three-year contract at the department,” said an irate Baloyi.
She added that she’d had impeccable working relationships with all the ministers who she worked under.
Allegations against Mkhwebane and Mahlangu
Baloyi, in her founding affidavit filed at the high court in the labour dispute with Mkhwebane and Mahlangu, said the Public Protector lied and acted unconstitutionally for her own personal ends in a number of crucial and politically sensitive investigations, including one into donations to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 election campaign in 2017.
She also alleged that Mkhwebane improperly conducted investigations against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan as well as Water and Sanitation Minister Gugile Nkwinti, reports that have since been challenged in court.
Baloyi said both these investigations were handled in a way that was “extremely unusual”, while also questioning Mkhwebane’s choice not to investigate Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma even though former Bosasa boss Gavin Watson allegedly admitted to having donated to her election campaign.
Responding to this, Mkhwebane said “Baloyi was so senior to the point that she sat in the leadership meetings which included myself, deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga, the chief executive and chief financial officer Yalekile Lusibane.
“In fact, she also sat in dashboard meetings where we dealt with the investigations. If she had concerns she should have raised those concerns in those meetings.”
Mkhwebane said the investigations that Baloyi was making reference to were “very difficult investigations” which were overseen by qualified investigators with years of experience.
“This institution is there to protect South Africans and that is what we are doing. These smear campaigns in the media do not deter us,” said Mkhwebane.