Former public protector Thuli Madonsela allegedly continued to use state-provided BMW after her term finished without the permission of the office of the public protector.
Spokesperson Oupa Segalwe told The Citizen that the office’s former CEO, Louisa Zondo (who resigned shortly after the departure of Madonsela), warned Madonsela in writing that there would be a cost in the event that the car was not returned, and further allegedly asked her to return it as her term in office had expired.
Segalwe alleges Madonsela was not given permission to use the car, despite Madonsela arguing a completely different view – namely that the use of the vehicle was arranged through the SA Police Service’s VIP protection service.
“We are not aware of any such permission or from whom it would have come,” said Segalwe.
“Regarding whether she was made aware of the possible liabilities, the former CEO Louisa Zondo did write to the former Public Protector, asking that the car be returned and that there would be costs in the event the car was not returned.”
However, Madonsela protested on Thursday about the matter after a public protector press conference that mentioned an amount of about R470 000 related to past damages to the BMW and the alleged unauthorised use of the vehicle. She told The Citizen that the decision to dock the amount from her gratuity was unilateral because she was allegedly not given a chance to air her side of the story.
Madonsela told The Citizen, hours after the press conference: “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?
“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 [Mkhwebane] 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.”
Madonsela admitted on Thursday that she felt as though she is being targeted as payback for her investigations and reports on President Jacob Zuma. She also took issue with Mkhwebane saying that she had worked together with Madonsela on any reports. Madonsela accused Mkhwebane of being dismissive in emails.
Segalwe, however, denied claims from Madonsela that Mkhwebane had refused to go to a handover meeting with her predecessor, saying “there hasn’t been a mutually convenient time to meet. However, Adv. Madonsela did submit comprehensive written handover material, which was deemed sufficient.”
As for the allegation that Mkhwebane refused to allow Madonsela to be invited to the African Ombudsman Research Centre (AORC) conference in Durban, and that she threatened to leave if Madonsela attended, Segalwe dismissed that claim as “baseless”, though Madonsela has advised that the media should ask the AORC itself whether Mkhwebane threatened to boycott the event if Madonsela was invited. Madonsela said yesterday she had heard from her former colleagues that this was indeed the case.
The event took place at the start of November and Madonsela did not attend despite being honoured with a trophy and certificate in absentia for her outstanding and exemplary service while in office.