The suspended Free State head of the Public Protector’s office says Busisiwe Mkhwebane had no right to suspend him on Wednesday.
Hamilton Samuel, who heads the office of the Public Protector in the Free State, was placed on suspension on Wednesday after he wrote an e-mail to Mkhwebane imploring her to step down after another bruising courtroom blow this week at the North Gauteng High Court.
The court had set aside her report in a scathing judgment into the debacle around President Cyril Ramaphosa and Bosasa’s R500 000 donation into his ANC presidency campaign three years ago.
Speaking to 702 on Thursday morning, Samuel said he would be meeting his lawyers on Thursday, with a view to challenge his suspension.
“The public protector cannot distinguish between herself as the public protector, and the office of the Public Protector South Africa as an institution, which is an office for all of us – she is just the head of the institution,” said Samuel.
Upon his return to work on Wednesday, Samuel was served with his precautionary suspension notice. He found his e-mail had been blocked from use.
He argued that he could only be suspended by Parliament, not Mkhwebane.
Samuel accused Mkhwebane of failing to lead the Chapter 9 institution properly and questioned her knowledge of the law and her application of it. He said the court ruling this week was further testimony that she was leading the institution astray, he told 702.
Oupa Segalwe, the spokesperson for the Public Protector, confirmed Samuel had been suspended for writing and distributing a ‘disparaging letter’ addressed to Mkhwebane.
“Mr. Samuel emailed the letter to the Public Protector and copied staff. The correspondence in question subsequently surfaced in the public domain. He then conducted extensive media interviews on the letter, during which interviews he continued to disparage the public protector.
“He wrote and emailed the letter using office resources, including a branded letterhead and his official email. In so doing, not only did he disrupt operations at the Public Protector and incite staff to turn against the public protector, he abused the employer’s facilities to pursue his personal vendetta against the public protector and to deal with matters that have nothing to do with his official responsibilities,” said Segalwe.
Segalwe said the suspension would allow for space for an investigation into Samuel’s conduct.
“This development comes at a time when Mr. Samuel is due to undergo a disciplinary hearing for an unrelated matter. A lawsuit was recently launched against the Public Protector by a member of the public who, in 2017, secured a conviction against Mr. Samuel for assault in the Public Protector’s Polokwane office.
“The court subsequently sentenced Mr. Samuel to jail term or a fine. He opted to pay the fine, thereby admitting guilt. The hearing relates to this assault case. Members of the public often turn to the Public Protector for help when they are already in a state of distress in respect of their grievances against the state.
“They therefore see the office as their refuge. To have them assaulted by no less than a senior manager and have a court of law affirm the assault with a conviction can under no circumstances be tolerated,” said Segalwe.
Segalwe said the office would not comment further on the matter.