Former president Thabo Mbeki may have come under fire unfairly in Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report, released yesterday, which concluded that Absa should return millions loaned to it in an apartheid-era bailout.
In her report, Mkhwebane said Mbeki’s reasons for failing to implement the CIEX report and its recommendations were unsatisfactory. Mbeki was interviewed by both Mkhwebane and former public protector Thuli Madonsela on his role in giving a directive for the CIEX report to be undertaken by government, Treasury and the Reserve Bank.
However, Michael Oatley, the former British spy who approached the South African government with the CIEX operation, said it was the then president, Nelson Mandela, who had not been keen on pursuing the case further.
According to Oatley, Mbeki wanted to pursue the findings made in CIEX but was talked out of it by Mandela.
“He [Mbeki] particularly liked my suggestion that we would provide revelations about systemic Afrikaner white corruption to balance the much lesser [then] instances of black official corruption, which were being hyped by an unfriendly media,” said Oatley of Mbeki.
Listen to Madonsela’s interview with Mbeki below
The Ciex report was commissioned by government in 1997 after Oatley approached it to investigate and possibly recover billions that had been looted and siphoned by the apartheid state under the premise of business bailouts or ‘lifeboats’. The report, after two state investigations, was eventually shelved by government and nothing was done to further investigate the possibility that the money could be recovered.
Mkwebane’s report has been heavily scrutinised by the Reserve Bank, which said it would take her findings on review. It also added that, in their view, the recommendations were unlawful and Mkhwebane could not pronounce on any of the central bank’s rules and regulations.
In addition, Absa said it was not liable to pay back the money while the Banking Association agreed Mkhwebane had erred.
“In our view, the public protector has erred in making comments and recommendations about the constitutional mandate of the Reserve Bank and its relationship with National Treasury.
“It is not the role of the public protector to pronounce on these matters. In her eagerness to demonstrate her independence and bare her teeth, she has gone too far,” said Cas Coovadia, president of the organisation.