NATIONAL NEWS - The High Court in Pretoria has ruled that Public Protector Busiswe Mkhwebane’s findings, which said the South African Police Service (SAPS) must offer protection to two whistle-blowers from KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) be declared invalid and set aside.
A report by Mkhwebane released in August 2018 accused Minister of Police General Bheki Cele, of gross negligence, improper conduct and maladministration for “failing” to protect the two whistle-blowers, Thabiso Zulu and Lesley Stuta, who were witnesses in her investigation into alleged multimillion-rand corruption in the Umzimkhulu Local Municipality.
The report claimed there had been ‘undue delay’ on the part of Cele and the police, in providing personal protection to the two men who were living in fear for their lives.
In the report, Mkhwebane stated that failure by the police minister and the police to act exposed the duo to assassination attempts.
In a statement on Thursday, Police Ministry spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba said Cele had always been vocal about his serious reservations on the findings and proposed remedial actions by the office of the Public Protector.
“This is the very reason why he decided to take the report under judicial review. In what is becoming a familiar sight, yet another court has declared a report by the public protector invalid.
“This time, the North Gauteng High Court has found the public protector to have misdirected herself, in saying the South African Police Service should provide personal protection to the two witnesses.
“In a separate but related matter, the same court granted an order on 26 March, which stated that Zulu is only entitled to witness protection, provided by the department of justice and constitutional development and not the SAPS,” Lirandzu said.
In light of that ruling, the judicial review brought forward by Minister Cele, which was heard on Wednesday, 3 June 2020, concluded that the public protector’s report should be declared invalid and set aside.
Cele has welcomed the outcome saying: “The turn of events has vindicated the SAPS and restored its integrity, especially since the public protector’s report swayed public opinion to come across as if the SAPS was simply dragging its feet in protecting whistleblowers.”
The minister called on the office of the public protector to exercise due diligence in her findings, especially pertaining to structures of government.
“It has always been clear that while protection of witnesses is paramount, it remains the sole responsibility of the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) as stated in the Witness Protection Act. The public protector should have known this,” Cele said.
According to IOL, Zulu and Stuta had previously testified before the Moerane Commission of Inquiry into the killing of politicians in the province.
In the fight against alleged corrupt activities in Umzimkhulu Municipality and Harry Gwala District Municipality, Zulu and Stuta worked with proportional representation councillor Sindiso Magaqa, a former African National Congress (ANC) Youth League secretary-general, who was shot and later died in hospital in 2017.
Magaqa’s murder was linked to him exposing alleged shady dealings in the refurbishment of Umzimkhulu Memorial Hall, the cost of which escalated from the initial R4 million to R16 million, but the work remained incomplete five years later.