Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Thato Mahlangu

The public protector’s 2018 report, which found police minister Bheki Cele to have ‘failed’ to protect two whistle-blowers, was declared invalid by the Gauteng North High Court last Wednesday. Cele had taken the report under judicial review.

The court also cleared Cele of wrongdoing when it found that his department is not responsible for ensuring that whistle-blowers or witnesses are given personal protection.

Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report had claimed that Cele failed to provide personal protection to whistle-blowers Lesley Stuta and Thabiso Zulu. Both Stuta and Zulu told the public protector that they needed protection as they feared for their lives

The pair had been informants, exposing corruption, believed to amount to millions of rands, in the Umzimkulu local municipality, in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

Exposing corruption at all costs

Zulu is very vocal about the death of Sindiso Magaqa, who was his friend and former ANC national youth league secretary. He claims that Magaqa was killed by hitman in the KZN in efforts to silence him after he spoke out about the Umzimkhulu municipality corruption.

According to the City Press, Zulu testified in the Moerane commission and spoke about the political killings in the province. The commission was tasked with looking into political killings which were happening in the KZN.

In the report, Mkhwebane had recommended that President Cyril Ramaphosa reprimand the minister as part of the remedial action.

“This would ensure that that kind of conduct does not recur,” said the public protector’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe.

Mkhwebane ‘misinterprets’ the law

Lirandzu Themba, who speaks for the minister, said Cele has always voiced his serious reservations on the findings and the proposed remedial actions.

“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.”

Themba said the court found the public protector to have misdirected herself in saying the South African Police Service should provide personal protection to Stuta and Zulu.

Police not responsible for protecting whistle-blowers

The court ordered the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to provide Zulu with witness protection and not personal protection as Mkhwebane had stated in her report.

The order also makes it clear that it is not the police department’s duty to protect witnesses.

Themba said Cele has called on the Office of the Public Protector to exercise due diligence in its findings, especially pertaining to structures of the government.

“It has always been clear that while protection of witnesses is paramount, it remains the sole responsibility of the National Prosecution Authority as stated in the Witness Protection Act. The public protector should have known this.” Cele said.