Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


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

High Court postpones proceedings in the contentious gratuity dispute between Mkhwebane and the Public Protector's Office.


The Office of the Public Protector South Africa (PPSA) has dug its heels in over the ongoing gratuity dispute with former public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane while experts argue there is no end in sight, following a court postponement.

The PPSA disclosed that its legal representatives have conveyed their stance to Mkhwebane concerning the gratuity payment, however, due to the matter being subject to ongoing litigation, the PPSA declined to provide further comments at this time.

This reaffirmation from the PPSA sets the stage for a continuing standoff over Mkhwebane’s demand for a R10 million gratuity payout.

Dispute remains unresolved

The High Court in Pretoria, recognising the complexity of the case, deferred the proceedings to tomorrow, to facilitate discussions between the involved parties, yet the dispute remains unresolved.

Mkhwebane, who was impeached just before the conclusion of her seven-year tenure, argued that her successor, Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka, was withholding her rightful payment.

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Mkhwebane’s entitlement to gratuity contentious

However, legal experts counter this claim, contending Mkhwebane’s entitlement to the gratuity was contentious, particularly given her impeachment and alleged misconduct during her tenure.

Legal analyst Mpho Sehume emphasised the inherent uncertainty surrounding legal outcomes and the importance of considering the specific facts of Mkhwebane’s case and the interpretation of relevant laws by the presiding judge(s).

Sehume said in the context of Mkhwebane’s case, it is important to “meticulously examine the circumstances surrounding her tenure as public protector, including the grounds for her impeachment and any allegations of misconduct.

“These factors, will play a crucial role in shaping the legal arguments presented by both parties and influencing the court’s decision,” Sehume said.

“And while people are making this a more personal matter, we need to recognise the significance of legal interpretation by the presiding judge(s) in determining the outcome of the case.”

ALSO READ: Mkhwebane’s relationship with candidates creates apprehension of bias – advisor

Denial of gratuity unlawful

Advocate Dali Mpofu, leading Mkhwebane’s legal team, asserted that the denial of her gratuity was unlawful. He emphasised that if the case is deemed not urgent, Mkhwebane should be entitled to costs.

In response, Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, representing the public protector’s office, insisted that the issue of costs should be intertwined with urgency, underscoring the complexity of the legal arguments surrounding the case.

“Otherwise costs must be reserved to be decided by whoever decides the main application. There is no way we can separate costs from urgency because the first question is why the applicant enrolled?” he said.

Address letter to judge by today

Judge Colleen Collis asked the parties to address a letter to her by today, “indicating what issues you would want the court to adjudicate further and what consensus, if any, you’ve reached around the ring court and how the matter is to progress.

“We are standing the matter down until Thursday for hearing. The parties recording they had undertaken to address a letter to the court by tomorrow [Wednesday] midday to lineate the issues the court will determine on Thursday. The costs are reserved until then.”

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Despite attempts by Mkhwebane’s legal representatives to engage with the public protector’s office, silence has reportedly met their enquiries, further complicating the resolution of the matter.