The outgoing deputy public protector is using his last few months in office to make it clear that ‘it wasn’t me’.
Outgoing deputy public protector Kevin Malunga has once again said all he can to drive home the point that he had little to nothing to do with numerous public protector reports that have taken a beating in court.
He already said in a televised interview in July that he had played no part in Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report into the Absa bank/Bankorp bailout involving the Reserve Bank, which has been her most humiliating court defeat to date.
The Constitutional Court ultimately upheld a High Court order that Mkhwebane should pay a punitive personal cost order of 15% of the Reserve Bank’s legal fees.
She was found to have acted in bad faith and even been dishonest.
Malunga revealed shortly afterwards that, under former public protector Thuli Madonsela, there had been a think-tank process involving far more investigators in the public protector’s head office and satellite offices to ensure that reports were quality assured, but Mkhwebane had scrapped this soon after taking office.
She had instead appointed a quality assurance investigator.
Now Malunga, who leaves office in December and has no interest in running for a second seven-year term, has expanded on his views in an interview with the Sunday Times.
He called for old quality control mechanisms to be brought back, or for something similar to be instituted, as a way to protect against reports being so easily challenged or overturned in the courts.
He once again “pleaded ignorance” about the Mkhwebane’s most controversial findings, since he’d not been asked to work on them.
These included her other controversial reports about Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, President Cyril Ramaphosa, and the Estina Dairy Farm.
He said “I wash my hands” of the reports because he had not been at all involved in drafting them, though he argued that he should have been.
“One could not stop the train while it was moving,” he was quoted as saying, clarifying that his relationship with Mkhwebane was supposedly not antagonistic despite his criticism.
Public protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe acknowledged that Madonsela think-tank approach had been scrapped, but only because it was too expensive and the public protector’s office couldn’t afford it.
At least 28 people are vying to replace Malunga, and he offered a few words of advice to whoever gets his job, particularly that they should do all they could not to be a political “lackey”.
The top names in the race for deputy public protector include Robert McBride, the former head of police watchdog Ipid, advocate Sonwabile Mancotywa (National Heritage Council CEO), the SA Human Rights Commission’s acting head of legal services, advocate Buang Jones, and former ANC MP advocate Loyiso Mpumlwana.
The portfolio committee on justice and correctional services has called for public comments on the names of the 28 applicants/nominees, the majority of whom are advocates.
Observers, however, see it as a close contest between Mancotywa, Mpumlwana and Jones.
Both Mancotywa and Mpumlwana have served in ANC structures, including the national and the provincial legislatures, while Mancotywa was once an MEC for sport, arts and culture in Eastern Cape.
Mancotywa’s nomination for the position came from Tembile Yako.
The candidate holds an LLB degree and a post-graduate management qualification.
Mpumlwana was nominated by advocate M Matyumza and Inkosi advocate Mwelo Nonkoyana, and has an LLB with a number of post-graduate law and management qualifications.
Jones had been with the South African Human Rights Council for a long time, having served as its communications head in the Free State and later the commission’s Gauteng head.
He holds an LLM (corporate law) degree and was nominated by Anna Mapaseka Madonsela and Jacob George Mathabathe.
Some have said McBride could make an interesting and even good deputy public protector, considering his performance as head of Ipid. He has a B Tech (law) degree and a BA in international politics.
However, the public protector this week found against him in a report, and he called her work “irrational”, which might make his first day on the job somewhat awkward if he gets it.
Mkhwebane found that McBride’s appointment of a candidate to an Ipid position that had not existed before amounted to cumulative and progressive irregular expenditure and was a violation of the Public Finance Management Act.