Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said she "would be happy" if the investigation into the Gupta-linked Vrede dairy farm didn't contain any adverse findings, former Public Protector manager Reginald Ndou has testified.
Ndou also told the Section 194 Committee inquiring into Mkhwebane's fitness for office on Thursday that she had issued an instruction that the Gupta Leaks shouldn't be used in the investigation.
Ndou said he had received a phone call from Mkhwebane, who said that the lead investigator in the case, Erika Cilliers, was doing the Democratic Alliance's (DA's) bidding and that Mkhwebane would be happy if there were no adverse findings in the matter.
Ndou's affidavit to the committee reads: "After I left this meeting, the PP called me from her cellphone to talk about the investigation and its transfer to Head Office. It was a short call, but she made remarks to the following effect:
"That Adv Cilliers was doing the bidding of the Democratic Alliance ("the DA") in this investigation, and that one could see she was working for the DA.
"That the PP would personally be happy if there were no adverse findings in this report. This is where the call ended.
"At the time I was driving home from the office. It was on the very day that the file had been brought to Head Office and we had not yet extensively considered or discussed the evidence.
Given that I had just started considering the file, I was taken aback by the PP's words. This is the kind of utterance that one does not forget.
He said he hadn't understood this to be an instruction, but rather a "desire".
Initially, there was an instruction to use the Gupta Leaks – a massive tranche of emails that uncovered the Guptas' and their associates' grip on the South African state.
However, only one line on the Gupta Leaks made it into a draft report. Concerned, Ndou raised this with Mkhwebane in an email. Ndou said being "dismissive" of the Gupta Leaks could be grounds for a review and that the organisation would need very good reasons why it didn't look into it.
He couldn't recall whether he had received a response. At a subsequent meeting, he again raised the issue.
"I also recall raising the issue of the Guptaleak [sic] emails again at a subsequent Task Team meeting, and the PP specifically saying that these emails were not part of the investigation. During a break in the meeting, I was later advised by Mr Nemasisi and the then secretary to the Task Team, Mr Tebele, to let the issue go, as they had tried to raise the matter at previous meetings and were also shot down by the PP," reads his affidavit.
Only the one-line mention of the Gupta Leaks made it into the final report.
After evidence leader advocate Nazreen Bawa finished questioning Ndou, she advised the committee that a dismissed charged of sexual harassment against Ndou was irrelevant to the committee's work, and that if the committee wanted to question him on it, it should be behind closed doors.
The committee discussed the way forward behind closed doors. After more than two and a half hours, the committee resumed, in the open, with Mkhwebane's counsel Dali Mpofu questioning Ndou.