Mkhwebane denies threatening to withdraw from conference Madonsela was invited to

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's term so far has been marred by allegations that she is working too closely with government. (Gallo)

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's term so far has been marred by allegations that she is working too closely with government. (Gallo)

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has denied allegations that she threatened to withdraw South Africa’s hosting of an African ombuds’ conference if her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, was invited and that she had dismissed her office’s former chief of staff unfairly.

“Public protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane has noted with disappointment the allegations, peddled in the media at the weekend, suggesting that she threatened to withdraw South Africa’s hosting of the recent African Ombudsman and Mediators Association (Aoma) general assembly in Durban if her predecessor was invited,” a statement from the public protector’s office read.

“Advocate Mkhwebane rejects the claims as baseless and malicious.”

The City Press reported at the weekend that Mkhwebane had told the secretariat of the Aoma that South Africa would not host the event if Madonsela attended, despite the Aoma’s decision to honour Madonsela for her work when she was public protector. 

The report went on to say that Bonginkosi Dhlamini, Madonsela’s chief of staff during her term in the public protector’s office, had a heated email exchange with Mkhwebane, which included the threat to withdraw South Africa as host of the conference.

“I will also ask Parliament whether it gave you a mandate to tell the Aoma that you will not host the fifth anniversary and conference if [Aoma] invited your predecessor to receive an award that she deserved,” reads an email quoted by City Press.

Dhlamini was reportedly fired by Mkhwebane because his position did not match his expertise. Mkhwebane has said the dismissal was fair as new heads of office “prefer their private office to be run by people they have appointed themselves”.

“The private office is similar to a ministry in government circles. Even advocate Mkwhebane’s predecessor brought her own team of aides when she took office,” the public protector’s statement said.

Mkhwebane took office earlier this year after Madonsela’s term ended. Her term so far has been marred by allegations that she is working too closely with government and that she has a rift with Madonsela. 

Mkhwebane has denied these allegations. 

 
Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

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