Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has opened a case of contempt against the speaker of Dr JS Moroka Local Municipality in Mpumalanga, Dipuo Pearlygate Mahlangu.
The case against Mahlangu was opened at Brooklyn Police Station in Pretoria on 21 September after she failed to honour subpoenas to appear in person before the Office of the Public Protector.
The public protector, like other Chapter Nine Institutions, has the power to subpoena witnesses to answer questions or provide evidence on the office’s investigations.
“In terms of section 7(4) (a) of the Public Protector Act, read with section 7(5) of the same legislation, the public protector has the power to direct any person to submit an affidavit or affirmation or to appear before her to give
evidence or produce any document in their possession or under their control, which has a bearing on a matter under investigation. The public protector may also examine such a person,” Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said in a statement.
Segalwe said Mahlangu was served with subpoena notices this year on 9 June, July 2021 and 3 September to appear in
person before the public protector on 23 June, 27 July and 9 September, respectively. But She failed to avail herself on all three occasions.
She was due to give evidence and produce documents in relation to an investigation into allegations of the irregular appointment of the municipality’s acting municipal manager and claims of maladministration levelled against him.
Segalwe said Mahlangu had undertaken to provide a written report and documents on the information she presented during an earlier meeting she had with the public protector on 18 May this year.
“No apology was received in respect of the first hearing. With regard to the second hearing, a WhatsApp text was received from her office, claiming she had been admitted to hospital. However, no medical certificate was provided,” Segalwe said.
“Neither was the name of the hospital specified. On the last attempt, an aide of Ms Mahlangu’s contacted the public protector, informing the office that the speaker could not attend as she had been summoned to Nelspruit by the African National Congress.”
Mkhwebane stressed that state functionaries need to understand that they are not entitled to opt-in or out of her office’s investigations at will.
“The Constitution of the republic enjoins other organs of state to support and assist the public protector to ensure the institution’s independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness.
“There are serious consequences for failure to cooperate and comply without just cause,” she said.
Compiled by Thapelo Lekabe