“We released a statement saying [what he said] is not a government position. He was speaking in his personal capacity,” spokeswoman Phumla Williams said when asked whether Maphatsoe could face disciplinary action.
“We are not in a position to comment [on the question]. It is a matter for the executive.”
In the statement, the government distanced itself from Maphatsoe’s comments.
“Government distances itself from such accusations as they were never discussed at any official government meeting nor do they reflect the views and thinking of government,” said Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe.
“Comments or allegations against any country or persons, including those responsible for guarding and upholding constitutional values, should be raised and addressed at appropriate platforms. South Africa enjoys a cordial diplomatic relationship with the United States of America.”
Radebe, who is also the chairman of the inter-ministerial committee on information and publicity, said the government reiterated its trust in Chapter Nine institutions, like the office of the Public Protector.
It was reported on Monday that Maphatsoe, who chairs the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA), had accused Madonsela of being a CIA plant.
“We can’t allow people to hijack the ANC. We’ll fight and defend the African National Congress. uThuliumele asitshele ukuthi ubani ihandler yakhe [Thuli must tell us who her handler is],” Maphatsoe reportedly said in Soweto on Saturday.
“They are even using our institution now…. These Chapter Nine institutions were created by the ANC but are now being used against us, and if you ask why it is the Central Intelligence Agency. Ama [the] Americans want their own CEO in South Africa and we must not allow that,” Maphatsoe reportedly said.
However, at a press briefing later on Monday the MKMVA denied the statement, but conceded that a reference to the CIA had been made.
“He did make reference to the possibility of a CIA machination in an attempt to destabilise the country,” Maphatsoe’s special adviser Ike Moroe told reporters in Johannesburg.
US Embassy spokesman Jack Hillmeyer confirmed on Monday that the country’s ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard would lodge an official diplomatic complaint about the allegations.
Madonsela has given Maphatsoe three days to prove his claim.
“She also expects Mr Maphatsoe to issue a retraction and public apology within the said period, failing which she will be left with no choice but to invoke the contempt of the Public Protector powers in terms of sections nine and 11 of the Public Protector Act 23 of 1994,” her spokesman Oupa Segalwe said.
According to the act, it is a crime to insult the Public Protector.
Christian Democratic Party leader Rev Theunis Botha said the ANC had to stop criticising Madonsela.
“In fact, many ministers and other office bearers can take a leaf from Madonsela’s book as to how they should perform their duties with integrity,” he said.
Madonsela has come under attack from the ANC and some alliance structures ever since sending a letter to President Jacob Zuma last month asking him for details of when he would respond to recommendations in her report on the upgrades at his home at Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal.
The National Freedom Party Youth Movement said it was “extremely disappointed” by Maphatsoe’s comments.
“We all know what used to happen to people who were called spies or accused of being one,” it said.
“Kebby Mphatsoe’s utterances that advocate Thuli Madonsela was the enemy of the ANC and government is inciting violence against her. We view this senseless and barbaric statement as a message that Adv Madonsela must be dealt with the same old ways they used to do.”
During apartheid, alleged government collaborators or spies were necklaced, which involved placing a rubber tyre filled with petrol around a person and setting it on fire.