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Spy boss Fraser decried 'my lack of support' for Mkhwebane: former security head

Suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is facing an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.
Suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is facing an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

A former head of security at the office of the public protector has revealed he received a call from former spy boss Arthur Fraser telling him he was not providing enough support for Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

This call, Baldwin Neshunzhi said, was baffling as he had not received any complaints about his work from either Mkhwebane nor anyone else in the office.

Neshunzhi was on Thursday giving evidence at the parliamentary hearing on embattled public protector Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office.

The call by Fraser came after Neshunzhi was asked, as head of security, to investigate two matters — the office’s leave system and a purported leak of documents from the president. On this, he did not uncover anything untoward. There was unhappiness with these outcomes, he said.

Neshunzhi testified that he was then sent for training by the state security agency after his investigations could not uncover anything. It was later found that there was no leak on the president’s documents and that information in the public domain had come from the presidency through a media statement.

Neshunzhi said he initially did not find anything wrong with Fraser’s call as he thought he was to alert him of a security risk involving the office. He was, however, taken aback when Fraser, who was head of state security, spoke to him about internal operational matters at the office of the public protector.

“So I did not feel at odds, I thought he was just performing his functions,” Neshunzhi said.

“Of course when he told me that I was not providing sufficient support to the [public protector] I got concerned because I did not know in which way I was not proving that support.”

His investigation into the purported leak of the document’s from the president was what broke the boughs back.

“I subsequently received a telephone call from Mr Fraser, and was informed that I was not providing the support to the [public protector] as I was hired to do. He advised that the [public protector] was complaining about my lack of support.

“At the time I did not know how precisely I was said to have failed in my job as this was not directly relayed to me by [Mkhwebane]. I did not know how I failed to support [her]. As far as I was aware, there was no security issue and when the [public protector] went on roadshows, I ensured this all the arrangements were completed and fulfilled my responsibilities,” he said.

The call by Fraser became a point of interest in the parliamentary inquiry with MPs attempting to uncover the level of relationship Mkhwebane had with intelligence operatives.

Former spy chief Arthur Fraser
Former spy chief Arthur Fraser
Image: Gallo Images/ Netwerk24 / Jaco Marais

It has been revealed in the inquiry that intelligence operatives would frequent the office, attend interview processes at times and even provide wording for the amendment of the constitution which her CIEX-Bankorp inquiry used as part of the recommendations.

Neshunzhi confirmed that intelligence operatives would visit the office but questioned the use of the word ‘frequent’.

“I’m not sure about the frequency of their visits because I didn’t see them and I was not informed if they usually meet the PP. However they could, some may come to alert me about certain developments which needed to be taken into consideration. 

“The visits that I can point out would be regarding the assistance from state security with regard to the case-management system and perhaps auditing of our ICT environment because that was paramount given the fact that our infrastructure was ageing and we would require audits of our IT system from time to time,” he said.

He said he could not say Mkhwebane maintained close ties with the state Security Agency as the number of visits he was aware of were twice a year.

“It could be twice a year [the number of times SSA visited offices]. They would visit the office for various reasons for training awareness around various legislation,” he said.

“I did not observe the strong ties with state security. If any state security would want to come, any personnel, she would normally direct them to me as head of security but regarding whether she kept the ties with the state security I’ve got no comment on that. I did not observe that.”



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