Mkhwebane defends her special adviser’s appointment

Public Protector Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane is seen during a press briefing held at her offices, 4 December 2017, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Public Protector Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane is seen during a press briefing held at her offices, 4 December 2017, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Public protector says minister of finance replied last week he did not support her policy to appoint a special adviser and they should ‘consult afresh’.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on Wednesday defended her appointment of a special adviser after coming under fire from MPs.

Briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice, Mkhwebane told MPs she had signed and implemented the policy to appoint her special adviser Sibusiso Nyembe, a conveyancing attorney, and determine his remuneration before receiving approval from Treasury or Parliament, as her office’s functioning could not be hampered by the delay in responses from the two.

“Even the PP Act is very clear in section 3 (11) (b) and (c) where it indicates beyond doubt that the functioning of the public protector processes cannot be halted while waiting for the processes to unfold.”

Mkhwebane said she wrote to the minister of finance on February 23 in terms of her duty to consult with National Treasury. The minister only replied last week that he did not support her policy and that they should “consult afresh”.

She told MPs she had also written to National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete to ensure the policy was tabled in the National Assembly for approval. No response was received, she said.

Nyembe was appointed on April 1 on a three-month contract, which will lapse on June 30.

The public protector said while he was a qualified conveyancing attorney, which raised concern with MPs who questioned his qualifications to advise Mkhwebane, Nyembe had other skills, including on “economic transformation and the theory of class”.

“The person is legally qualified. He is an admitted attorney. He is a conveyancer and has some qualifications in banking law, but again the special skills go further again into socio-political issues for this particular person,” she said.

“This capacity was assisting to beef up within legal services and I must indicate he worked for more than seven years as an executive manager corporate services in one of the parks boards.”

Nyembe was helping Mkhwebane with her Supreme Court of Appeal petition against a court order to pay 15 percent of the court costs of the SA Reserve Bank (SARB) in the Bankorp/Ciex matter.

In March the high court in Pretoria dismissed an appeal by Mkhwebane for leave to appeal a previous judgment that she be held personally liable to pay some of the costs incurred by the SARB when it successfully challenged the CIEX report that sought to change the constitutional mandate of the central bank.

The court set aside the report, released in June last year, in which Mkhwebane ordered Absa to pay back R1,125 billion for an apartheid-era bailout provided to its predecessor Bankorp by the Reserve Bank.

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