Public protector-convened meeting ‘did not violate lockdown’, says spokesman

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane during a press briefing at the Public Protector's House, 12 December 2019, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

DA councillor Leah Knott accused Mkhwebane of violating lockdown rules by convening a community meeting with residents of Ruimsig on Friday.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane could not have violated any lockdown regulation rules as she was not even present at a community meeting, despite complaints about it by the Democratic Alliance (DA).

DA councillor Leah Knott has accused Mkhwebane of violating the lockdown rules by convening a community meeting with the residents of Ruimsig in Johannesburg on Friday.

“The public protector must advise why she is holding a meeting in ward 97: a) in contravention of lockdown regulations, b) without informing the elected [councillor] and c) with ANC branches who don’t have permits to operate.

“Stop playing politics with people’s lives,” Knott tweeted.

But no rules were violated, said the public protector’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe.

“It was only a small meeting of less than 20 people who adhered to social distancing and had protective equipment on,” Segalwe said.

He explained that the community leaders of Ikemeleng in Ruimsig had only met Mkhwebane in August last year to complain about lack of service delivery on the government property they lived on.

Government placed about 64 families in makeshift tents in 2016 after they were evicted from a privately owned plot in Ruimsig.

Last week, the community again reached out to the public protector’s office as their appeal in August for basic services and better shelter had not yielded any results.

Two officials from Mkhwebane’s office met the community leaders and representatives from the City of Joburg on Friday for a brief meeting, Segalwe said.

The public protector’s office was an essential service in terms of Regulation 11A, B27 of the lockdown rules, he added.

“The office was recently contacted by community leader Lebo Mofokane, who complained there had been little or no progress in their living conditions since the August 2019 meeting and subsequent alternative dispute resolution.”

He said Friday’s meeting was for Mofokane to be introduced to the project manager from the Johannesburg metro, so there could be liaison between the city and the community.

Mkhwebane was not present at the meeting and was represented by the executive manager of provincial investigations and integration, Nelisiwe Thejane.

“No lockdown regulation was broken. There were less than 20 people in attendance, which is far less than the legal threshold of 50.

“The intervention was itself geared towards improving the residents’ living conditions so as to help curb the potential spread of Covid-19.

“In addition, safety precautions were observed.”

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