Newly appointed Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on Sunday denied harbouring “ill will” towards her predecessor Thuli Madonsela.
Mkhwebane was “disappointed at the peddling of false information that is doing the rounds in the public domain” suggesting that the decision to withhold a portion of Madonsela’s gratuity pay-out was “informed by antagonism”, Mkhwebane’s spokesman Oupa Segalwe said in a statement.
As indicated at a recent press conference, a legal opinion had been sought from the office of the state attorney to clarify whether Madonsela was liable for the costs associated with fixing the 2012 accident damage to a state car entrusted to her, he said.
“Pending the procurement of the legal advice it was decided that due care must be taken to not inconvenience adv Madonsela, hence the office released to her the rest of her gratuity pay-out. Only the amount that is in dispute has been withheld. In the event the legal opinion indicates that adv Madonsela cannot be held liable for the costs, which the Government Garage is charging the office for, the money will be released to her.”
Mkhwebane “would like to stress that there are no sinister motives behind this action”. This was being done purely as part of the due diligence and governance practices that underpinned any transaction that involved the use of public funds. This way, the office would be in a position to account to auditors and to Parliament when questions on the expenditure arose, he said.
On the issue of the use of a state car beyond Madonsela’s term of office, a service the government garage was charging the office for, Mkhwebane had noted the statements that this was authorised by the South African Police Service’s VIP protection unit.
“She was not privy to this information as adv Madonsela’s correspondence to the office about these matters was addressed to the chief executive officer who has since resigned. The public protector will look into this.
“The public protector further wishes to reiterate the point that she harbours no ill will towards adv Madonsela. She respects adv Madonsela and is grateful to her for the admirable contribution she made to South Africa’s democracy during her term of office. Working with the team, she plans to build on those successes to take the office to new heights. All she asks for is half a chance to prove herself.
“The public protector does not wish to engage in a public spat and will not be commenting further on this matter. She wants to channel all her energies towards the job at hand, which is to investigate, report on, and remedy any suspected or alleged improper conduct in state affairs,” Segalwe said.