Former public protector Thuli Madonsela has told The Citizen that today’s press conference by her successor, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, was the last straw for her and she has now decided to break her silence and speak out against the “false news” and “lies” that “legitimise injustice”.
Madonsela said: “I’ve noted the false news about the car and Advocate Mkhwebane and I supposedly working together. I’ve maintained silence because I believe that’s a proper thing to do but it’s not true that I still have to pay the money for the car or that I abused any car.”
She was referring to declarations made in Mkhwebane’s news conference today that Madonsela would be charged nearly R500 000 for allegedly using her state-provided BMW for longer than she should have and for her son allegedly crashing the car years ago after driving it without permission. Madonsela already said last year that the auditor-general had found she would not be liable for those damages, as she had not given her son permission to drive the car before his accident.
ALSO READ UPDATE: Madonsela ‘defied order’ to return state BMW, says Mkhwebane’s office
Madonsela also took issue with Mkhwebane saying that the two women were “working together”. She instead described a relationship that had been fraught from the outset, with Mkhwebane refusing to be part of a handover process, and that her emails to Madonsela had in fact been “angry and dismissive”.
She also confirmed that she was made aware by her former colleagues that Mkhwebane had told a group of international ombuds that Mkhwebane would boycott their event if they invited Madonsela.
“It’s not true that we are working together,” she told The Citizen via a direct message from her verified account on Twitter.
“Quite the opposite. After unilaterally cancelling a handover meeting that was to take place on Monday afternoon being Adv Mkhwebane’s first day of office [in October 2016]. Adv Mkhwebane refused to reschedule despite my written requests to her and sending my PA to hers to ask hers.”
Madonsela also rebutted an assertion that she and Mkhwebane had spoken after Madonsela’s release of audio tapes of her frustrating interview with President Jacob Zuma that had taken place for the State of Capture report.
Following the release of those recordings, Mkhwebane declared that Madonsela would be investigated by the police for possibly breaking the law in leaking the audio, a case that has evidently gone nowhere subsequently.
Madonsela maintains that she did nothing wrong, as a transcript of the full recording had already been in the public domain and she was attempting to show that Zuma had not been telling the truth when saying that he had not been given the chance to state his side of the alleged state capture matter.
Madonsela explained: “I never approached [Mkhwebane] after the release of the president’s interview. That’s not true. She never even enquired to me about it. I heard from the media she had reported it to the police.
“Her e-mails to me when I requested a meeting and initially access to investigators so that we could wrap up packaging for the court process were angry and dismissive. You may ask her for correspondence with me.
She then took issue with the BMW matter and the amount she allegedly owes. She explained that she has been trying to object to the amount charged through official channels, but is simply being ignored.
“About the car, the action to deduct [R470 000] was unilateral. On the car being used after [my time in] office, I was given a letter from VIP Protection at SAPS to do so and advised by the head at a meeting on 14 October. She never objected to me, asked for the car or indicated I would be charged [an amount of money].
“The first I heard of it was when I received a report on my gratuity and what the office intended to deduct. I objected in writing fruitlessly.
“Do ask Mkhwebane which VIP was ever protected with their own car. Is it not government practice to extend a state car with VIP protection?
“I’m breaking my silence because I believe the lies are improper and legitimise injustices. I believe I’m being made to #PayBackForZuma and not #Paybackthemoney as I never took any and never broke any rules regarding how to care for government cars.
“I was told by colleagues that Mkhwebane refused that I be invited to the AORC [African Ombudsman Research Centre] Conference I had initiated as outgoing Chairperson of the AORC. She threatened to be the one to leave if I came.
“She has denied that to the media, but have you asked AOMA?
“What about the way she has treated staff that worked with me? What about lying and saying I too removed staff from the private office when I came?
“When I [first arrived as public protector], Linda Lolelekoa, her current acting Chief of Staff, and Pona Mogaladi, who I later promoted to Executive Manager, had already been transferred by Adv [Lawrence] Mushwana [Madonsela’s predecessor] and were waiting for replacements and stayed till then.
“I removed no one on my first day of office. She [Mkhwebane] did, leaving people without office space to go to for several days, and jobs were also assigned much later.
“The ones Mushwana had not transferred I did not. Busi Jele served till I left and was promoted from Refreshment Coordinator to Executive Assistant (second PA).
“Senetra [Moodley] got a job at Treasury.”
Madonsela initially said that she was not submitting the information for publication, but for The Citizen to confront Mkhwebane with it and ask her for her response.
However, after a brief exchange, she granted us permission to publish this rebuttal.
Mkhwebane’s office responded to Madonsela’s concerns on Friday. Read that here.