South Africa’s Ombudsman Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s finding that Police Minister Bheki Cele failed to provide adequate protection to two whistleblowers was misdirected, the high court ruled on Thursday.The court, sitting in Pretoria, said the witness protection programme was the responsibility of another government agency – and not the police ministry.
Due to this, Mkhwebane’s 2018 report accusing Cele of “gross negligence, improper conduct and maladministration” in the police’s alleged failure to protect two KwaZulu Natal Province witnesses was not valid.
In her report, Mkhwebane, an appointee of former President Jacob Zuma, recommended that President Cyril Ramaphosa should reprimand the minister for the alleged charges she forward to the president.
The public protector’s report was prompted by attempts to kill two men who came forward with information about corruption involving several million dollars in KwaZulu-Natal Province’s uMzimkhulu Municipality.
However, the high court ruling on Thursday dismissed the charges against Cele, saying Mkhwebane had misdirected herself, “as it is the duty of the National Prosecuting Authority to arrange witness protection — and not the police.”
The Ombudsman has yet to react to the ruling.