According to a report in City Press, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane allegedly went “out of her way” to conceal the fact that she had received submissions from Black First Land First (BLF) about her investigation into the apartheid-era bailout of Bankorp by the Reserve Bank.
It’s unknown why she denied in sworn legal papers that the BLF had made a submission to her office on the bailout because there are official records of this as well as other evidence that she had spoken to the BLF and acted on their concerns.
Barclays Africa’s CEO, Maria Ramos, included this startling revelation in her court submission against Mkhwebane’s controversial report and recommendations. Barclays also alleged that Mkhwebane withheld crucial documents about the inexplicable involvement of the State Security Agency (SSA) in her investigation.
Mkhwebane filed court papers declaring she never met with the BLF or received submissions from them. However, BLF leader Andile Mngxitama did make an official submission to the public protector in February, which was emailed directly to Mkhwebane and two of her staff members.
He asked for R3.2 billion plus the loss in tax revenue and interest to be recovered from Absa and for any implicated parties to be charged criminally.
City Press adds that Mkhwebane and the BLF reached an agreement at her offices in January 12.
The BLF had previously received little joy from the former public protector, Thuli Madonsela. They were arrested for illegally storming her offices last year to protest about the Absa case and the alleged lack of progress being made on it.
Mkhwebane then reportedly acted on the BLF’s submission by asking tax boss Tom Moyane to explain what the tax implication of the R1.25 billion donation to Bankorp might be.
Moyane responded by telling her that, because of taxpayer confidentiality, he could not assist her.
Absa’s lawyers also accuse Mkhwebane of not being transparent about receiving submissions from the SSA and economist Chris Malikane, who “were discussing remedial action against Absa two weeks before the release of the final report”.
Ramos said she was “disturbed” that the SSA had been allowed to have any views on this at all.
Mkhwebane recommended earlier this year that Absa should “repay” R1.125 billion. She found that government had acted improperly by failing to act on a report by a United Kingdom-based asset recovery agency, CIEX, which was contracted 20 years ago to recover public funds and assets allegedly misappropriated during apartheid.
She criticised government and the Reserve Bank for failing to recover more than R1 billion rand from Bankorp Limited/Absa Bank billions advanced as an “illegal gift” to the Bankorp group, which was bought by Absa in the early 1990s.
Absa slammed her findings, saying they were wholly misinformed, inaccurate and misdirected.