Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea


Gcaleka tells court Mkhwebane left PPSA ‘in financial dire straits’

Legal clash between current and former Public Protectors continues, while the court orders transparency and accountability.

The Public Protector South Africa’s (PPSA) office was hit with punitive costs for a delay as the battle between the current PP, Kholeka Gcaleka, and her ousted predecessor Busisiwe Mkhwebane continues.

In the latest development in the legal saga involving the PP’s office and Mkhwebane, Judge Colleen Collis ordered transparency and accountability in the handling of Mkhwebane’s disputed gratuity.

ALSO READ: Mkhwebane’s gratuity battle: Public Protector’s Office stands firm

The High Court in Pretoria has been the battleground for the legal clash, with Collis demanding clarity on the reasons behind the decision to deny Mkhwebane’s R10 million gratuity.

Delays in providing documents

The court has admonished the PPSA for delays in furnishing the necessary documents to support its decision regarding Mkhwebane’s entitlement to the gratuity.

Responding to Mkhwebane’s urgent challenge over the nonpayment of the gratuity, Collis ordered PPSA to urgently provide Mkhwebane with a record of the decision.

In a tweet on X, Mkhwebane expressed her satisfaction with the judge’s decision and said Gcaleka, who was represented by advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi to oppose the payment of the gratuity, was ordered to pay Mkhwebane’s punitive costs.

“Also, the court found that she made factually incorrect allegations under oath which constitutes the criminal offence of perjury. This matter will be acted upon urgently,” she added.

Failure to comply with this directive could have severe consequences for the PP’s office, after it was ordered to pay Mkhwebane’s legal costs on a punitive scale.

The ruling comes amid a flurry of arguments and counterarguments between legal representatives. Mkhwebane’s counsel, Dali Mpofu, raised concerns about the premature nature of the PPSA’s response, labelling it as “reckless” and “an abuse of court”.

“The outcome of these proceedings holds serious consequences for both the parties of the court, on the side of the applicant. If this relief is refused, it is against this backdrop, totality of the evidence that needs to be placed before this court,” said Collis.

ALSO READ: ‘Disheartened’ Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s battle for R10 million goes to court (VIDEO)

Collis also noted Mkhwebane’s urgent gratuity nonpayment challenge was “not ripe for hearing”, as she removed it from the urgent court roll.

“To my mind, the blameworthiness for the present application not being ripe for hearing is solely to be placed before the door of the respondents who gave opposition to this application to date [the PPSA],” Collis said.

“They are the litigants who ought to have filed the record and the reasons for the decision when they were called upon to do so, and it is their actions that have resulted in this application not being ripe for hearing.”

Despite attempts by the PPSA’s counsel, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, to challenge the urgency of the matter, Collis upheld Mkhwebane’s right to urgent relief, considering the financial implications at stake.

The legal tussle sheds light on deeper issues surrounding financial mismanagement and alleged misconduct within the public protector’s office.

In an answering affidavit, which Collis labelled “premature”, Gcaleka raised concerns about the exorbitant legal costs incurred during Mkhwebane’s tenure, pointing to a staggering figure of over R160 million, including legal fees and costs orders.

Office in ‘financial dire straits’

Gcaleka said Mkhwebane left the PPSA “in financial dire straits” after she was removed for misconduct and incompetence, following a Section 194 inquiry supposed to cost R4 million but which saw Mkhwebane’s lawyers paid more than R32 million.

“Millions upon millions wasted by the public protector and her team on frivolous and irrelevant arguments and witnesses called, as well as the never-ending demand for postponements,” she said.

“It all amounts to a staggering R160 million, if you add all the costs orders and the legal costs – money we won’t get back.”

Gcaleka has vehemently opposed Mkhwebane’s claims of financial hardship as grounds for urgent relief, citing her income as an MP.

She argued that Mkhwebane’s removal from office due to misconduct and incompetence disqualified her from receiving the gratuity she seeks.

The crux of the dispute lies in conflicting interpretations of legal entitlements and obligations.

Mkhwebane contends that her removal from office does not negate her right to the gratuity.