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Mkhwebane rubbishes Casac claims that she watered down Vrede report

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says the claim that she “watered down” the unsigned Vrede Integrated Dairy Project investigation draft provisional report‚ prepared by her predecessor Thuli Madonsela‚ was without any substance.

Mkhwebane was responding to a statement issued by the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) that Mkhwebane had deliberately curtailed the investigation and acted in a manner inconsistent with the demands of an independent office.

Casac and the Democratic Alliance in February applied to the high court for the report to be set aside. Casac said in its court application that it obtained the record of decision from the Public Protector.

It said the record revealed that a National Treasury report‚ which had not previously been made public‚ pointed to the active involvement of then-Free State premier Ace Magashule and then-MEC for Agriculture Mosebenzi Zwane in facilitating the unlawful project.

Casac said the treasury report recommended that disciplinary action be taken against Department of Agriculture head Peter Thabethe and its CFO‚ Seipati Dlamini. It said no such action has been taken.

Casac said that in the PP's final report on the Vrede project‚ released on February 8‚ Mkhwebane made no reference to a provisional report having been prepared as is the custom in such investigations by the Public Protector. Casac said the record showed Madonsela prepared a provisional report.

“Of particular concern is that it now appears that advocate Mkhwebane altered that provisional report in material ways to exonerate the officials named.”

In her response on Monday‚ Mkhwebane said although the matter was in court‚ she was of the strong view that letting the allegations concerned go without a challenge would have dire implications for her office in the eyes of the public. “The Public Protector has always been at pains to explain to the public that so-called provisional reports have no legal status. This explanation predates advocate Mkhwebane’ s tenure.”

Mkhwebane said the reason such documents did not enjoy any legal status was because they were essentially drafts or working documents.

“Second‚ it is not true that there was any ‘watering down’ of the purported provisional report.

“As indicated‚ such reports are drafts with no legal status and‚ accordingly‚ the Public Protector had no legal obligation to implement any purported unsigned provisional report that she would have found in office on assumption of duty‚” Mkhwebane said.

She said the simple reading of the purported provisional report would show that the involvement of the politicians was never part of the investigation and neither did it form part of the report. “Any suggestion that the Public Protector shielded politicians is therefore devoid of any truth and is malicious.”

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