MPs grill candidates vying for deputy public protector role
The pasts of the three candidates interviewed by parliament’s justice committee came under the spotlight
Three candidates for the position of deputy public protector were asked to account for their pasts, in parliament on Wednesday.
Three advocates — Lwazi Kubukeli, Puleng Matshelo and Kholeka Gcaleka — were grilled by members of the justice and correctional services committee during the second day of interviews for the position of deputy public protector. The position becomes vacant in December when the incumbent, Kevin Malunga, leaves his post.
For Kubukeli it was his past involvement with the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, that was under the spotlight. ACDP MP Steve Swart wanted to know whether, given that background, he would have any qualms about holding political office-bearers to account.
Kubukeli insisted that he had not used his MK background for any political gain and had never asked a politician for any money. He said he had written articles criticising the governing party and other parties when he believed they had crossed the line.
Kubukeli said that if, as deputy public protector, he were approached to cut corners, he would call the Hawks “on speed dial” to arrest the person.
Questioned about his view of the performance of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, Kubukeli said he failed to understand some of the shortfalls in her investigations, such as her failure to interview members of the community in the Estina dairy case.
Mkhwebane’s report on the Estina matter was one of several criticised by the courts.
For Matshelo, it was a question of her political allegiances, given her employment as a lawyer by the Bophuthatswana defence force during the apartheid era.
EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi asked how the committee could have confidence in her as a fighter for justice when she had worked for a reactionary government for money.
Matshelo replied that at that time, she was employed at the age of about 21, was not politically aware and was in need of a well-paid job. Her decision was an economics one, not a political one. She insisted that her values had changed since then.
Gcaleka, who served as a special adviser to former home affairs and former finance minister Malusi Gigaba, defended herself on the issues flagged as a concern by Corruption Watch. She is now the adviser to public service and administration minister Senzo Mchunu, and said she felt that the accusations made against her were “highly unfair”.
She denied that in 2010, as chair of the Society of State Advocates of SA, she had supported then national director of public prosecutions Menzi Simelane’s plan to close the specialised crime unit and Asset Forfeiture Unit.
She also said that the court had rejected claims by a witness in the case of Richard Mdluli — a former head of police crime intelligence and now a convicted criminal — that she had tried to coerce him into implicating Mdluli as a guilty party. She served as senior deputy director of public prosecutions between 2011 and 2016.