The High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday vindicated Police Minister Bheki Cele after Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s 2018 report found gross negligence, improper conduct, and maladministration.
In August 2018, Mkhwebane found Cele had failed to provide witness protection for two whistle-blowers from KwaZulu-Natal, leaving them open to assassination attempts.
Cele took the matter under judicial review, insisting the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was responsible for providing protection to witnesses.
In her scathing 2018 report, Mkhwebane said there were undue delays on the part of the police in protecting Thabiso Zulu and Les Stuta, who were living in fear for their lives.
The pair were said to have blown the whistle on multi-million-rand corruption in the Umzimkhulu Local Municipality, south of KZN.
Mkhwebane even suggested that President Cyril Ramaphosa should reprimand Cele for what she called “a lapse in judgement”, but the minister said he was now vindicated by the court judgment.
“The public protector’s office needs to conduct its work thoroughly and diligently. It has always been clear that the protection of witness is the responsibility of the NPA and not that of the South African Police Service,” said Cele’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba.
The minister said he remained sympathetic to witnesses who wanted to see justice and believed they should be protected at all times.