Investigate journalist Jacques Pauw has challenged public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to detail when she or her office met Keletso Bizoski Manyike, following a backlash on his Sunday Times report.
Pauw released a report in the Sunday Times alleging that the recently released report by Mkhwebane finding Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan had violated the constitution was far from “damning”, and called into question her sources.
The article focused on a former Sars employee described as an “unemployed, dope-smoking Rastafarian” who Mkhwebane presented as a “specialist agent” at Sars but who reportedly told Pauw he wasn’t part of the “rogue unit” or even a spy, as the public protector alleged.
Mkhwebane’s report alleges that Manyike spied on taxpayers and politicians, bugging their phones. She also suggests that he received paramilitary training.
However, Manyike reportedly told Pauw she must have been “confused”, that he had “no real knowledge” of the goings on of the “rogue unit” and that Mkhwebane was “completely wrong” about his role at Sars.
Manyike further told the publication that the public protector’s office contacted him about a month ago because they were looking for former Sars official Michael Peega’s contact details.
“This person asked me if I have his contact details. I said I had lost touch with him. They didn’t ask me anything else and I never heard from them again,” he was quoted as saying.
But the public protector insists on having met Manyike on two occasions and further defended Manyike’s right to freedom of religion.
It said: “We won’t lend credence to propaganda by commenting on desperate attempts to discredit our report. We don’t have ‘star or key witnesses’ but multiple sources of evidence, including but not limited to documentation, video and audio recordings, and oral testimony shared under oath.
“And we did meet with Mr Manyike on two occasions. Further, facts of law-breaking speak for themselves, are incontrovertible and stand there unshakeable. Lastly, our reports are reviewed only in court, not in newspapers.
“Everyone has the right to freedom of religion. No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on the grounds of religion. Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.”
Responding to the public protector, Pauw challenged her to detail the two meetings her office said took place.
“I challenge Mkhwebane to detail when she or her office had met Manyike. I have spoken to him twice and he is adamant that he never saw her. But he did see the previous PP after he submitted his complaint in 2014. And even if Mkhwebane had seen him, how could she get it so wrong?”