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A former head of security in the office of public protector says he received a call from former spy boss Arthur Fraser telling him that he was not giving Busisiwe Mkhwebane enough support.
This call, Baldwin Neshunzhi said, was baffling as he received no complaints about his work from Mkhwebane or anyone in the office.
Neshunzhi was giving evidence on Thursday at the parliamentary inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office.
He said Fraser’s call came after he was asked as head of security to investigate the office’s leave system and a purported leak of documents from the president. He did not uncover anything untoward and there was unhappiness with this outcome, he said.
It was later found that there was no leak on the president’s documents and that information in the public domain came from the presidency through a media statement.
Neshunzhi said he initially did not find anything wrong with Fraser’s call as he thought he was to alert him of a security risk involving the office.
He was, however, taken aback when Fraser, who was head of state security then, spoke to him about internal operational matters at the Office of the Public Protector.
“Of course, when he told me that I was not providing sufficient support to the [public protector] that’s when I got concerned because I did not know in which way I was not proving that support.”
“At the time I did not know how precisely I was said to have failed in my job as this was not directly relayed to me by the [public protector]. I did not know how I failed to support the [public protector].”
Fraser’s call became a point of interest in the parliamentary inquiry with MPs trying to uncover the level of relationship Mkhwebane had with intelligence operatives.
Two witnesses have queried the involvement of intelligence operatives in the office.
It has been said in the inquiry that intelligence operatives would frequent the office, attend interview processes at times and even provide wording for amendment of the constitution which her CIEX-Bankorp report used as part of the recommendations.
Neshunzhi said: “I’m not sure about the frequency of their visits because I didn’t see them frequenting and I was not informed if they usually meet the PP. However, they could, some may come to alert me about certain developments which needs to be taken into consideration.
“The visits that I can point out would be regarding the assistance from state security with regard to that case management system and perhaps auditing of our ICT environment because that was paramount given the fact that our infrastructure was ageing and we would require audits of our IT system from time to time and the best possible that would do that would be the experts from the intelligence,” he said.
He said that he could not say that Mkhwebane maintained close ties with the state security agency as the number of visits he was aware of were only twice a year.
“It could be twice a year [number of times the State Security Agency) visited offices]. They would visit the office for various reasons for training awareness around various legislation,” he said.
“I did not observe the strong ties with the state security. If any state security would want to come, any personnel, she will normally direct to me as head of security but regarding whether she kept the ties with the state security I’ve got no comment on that I did not observe that.”
Mkhwebane previously worked for the intelligence department.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.