‘One has to play the chess:’ Ex-COO accuses Mkhwebane of ‘playing political games’

Image credit: Twitter/Public Protector SA

A former chief operating officer (COO) in the Office of the Public Protector has accused Busisiwe Mkhwebane of “playing political games.”

Basani Baloyi is engaged in a labour dispute with the Public Protector after her contract was not renewed, Mail & Guardian reports.

In her affidavit, she cites a WhatsApp message Mkhwebane sent her in which she says, “One has to play the chess.”

CR17 and rogue unit investigations

According to Baloyi, the message was related to Mkhwebane’s investigations into the so-called SARS rogue unit against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and the CR17 campaign funding against President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Mkhwebane wrote, “COO, I worked with few people to deal with the sabotage of the PG [Pravin Gordhan] camp. The notice is almost ready for rogue [unit], will issue this week and report will also be issued in the manner I will determine.

“The notice for the president is also ready, will call him this week to discuss the notice. It is not about you but one has to play the chess.”

Baloyi has reportedly attached a screenshot of this WhatsApp message, which Mkhwebane sent her on 26 May.

In her affidavit, she says, “I understood the reference to playing chess … to mean that the public protector was playing a political game.”

‘Dealing through media’

However, Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe denied there was anything in the message that suggests Mkhwebane was “playing a political game.”

He said, “The text in question was sent at the time when the subject of the investigation was dealing with the Public Protector through the media. The Public Protector’s text was therefore referring to countering that.”

Baloyi wants to be reinstated to her position. She claims she was purged because Mkhwebane and her CEO, Vussy Mahlangu, saw her as an “obstacle” to “using their powers for their own personal advancement.”

Segalwe has denied this, claiming Baloyi’s allegations are “baseless and malicious.” He said Baloyi had been on probation and was not confirmed because of her “performance and conduct.”

In their respective reviews of Mkhwebane’s reports, both Ramaphosa and Gordhan have questioned her motive in the way she conducted her investigations.

Mkhwebane could also soon face a parliamentary probe, which the Democratic Alliance (DA) initiated, into her fitness to hold office.

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