Public protector employee suspended for writing and sharing 'disparaging' letter about Mkhwebane
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has put a Free State representative of her office on suspension after he allegedly distributed a “disparaging” letter he had addressed to her.
Her office announced on Thursday that it had put Sphelo Hamilton Samuel on precautionary suspension with immediate effect.
“Mr Samuel e-mailed the letter to the public protector and copied staff. The correspondence in question subsequently surfaced in the public domain. He then conducted extensive media interviews on the letter, during which he continued to disparage the public protector,” Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said.
He said Samuel had written and e-mailed the letter using office resources, including a branded letterhead and his official e-mail.
In so doing, Segalwe said, Samuel not only disrupted operations at the public protector and incited staff to turn against Mkhwebane, but he also abused the employer’s facilities to pursue his personal vendetta against the protector.
According to Segalwe, Samuel’s suspension was not a sanction but an interim measure meant to grant the public protector an “unhindered” opportunity to carry out an investigation into his conduct.
Samuel will have his full benefits paid out during the course of the suspension, Segalwe said.
“This development comes at a time when Mr Samuel is due to undergo a disciplinary hearing for an unrelated matter.
“A lawsuit was recently launched against the public protector by a member of the public who, in 2017, secured a conviction against Mr Samuel for assault in the public protector’s Polokwane office. The court subsequently sentenced Mr Samuel to a jail term or a fine. He opted to pay the fine, thereby admitting guilt. The hearing relates to this assault case,” said Segalwe.
Samuel, speaking on 702, said Mkhwebane had taken his criticism “personally” and, thus, decided to suspend him. He added that he was in contact with his lawyers.
“I believe she's failing to lead the institution properly. Her knowledge of the law ... is not up to scratch, which is why she's making so many mistakes and, effectively, leading the institute astray,” he said.