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Public Protector 'Cancels' Staffer's Trip: I Don't Care How She Gets Back

Colleagues say they had to donate money for her plane ticket back to Johannesburg -- even though the initial one was already paid for.

23/12/2016 06:00 SAST | Updated 17/01/2017 17:09 SAST

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane allegedly issued a directive that left a staff member stranded in Durban when her accommodation and flight back to Johannesburg were cancelled.

Former journalist Belinda Moses, a member of the public protector's office's communications team, had accommodation booked for a week so she could work at the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association (Aoma) general assembly in Durban, but it is believed that Mkhwebane was not happy with her presence there.

"She said she must come back and her accommodation plus flight must be cancelled. When she was asked how she would get back home the public protector said she did not care," former chief of staff Bonginkosi Dhlamini told The Huffington Post South Africa.

Following the incident, there was a scramble in the office to ensure Moses returned home.

"Due to Mkhwebane's heartless actions, we had to contribute money towards her ticket. I contributed R500 and the former CEO also made a contribution to ensure Belinda is able to come back to Johannesburg," he said.

Due to Mkhwebane's heartless actions, we had to contribute money towards her ticket. I contributed R500 and the former CEO also made a contribution to ensure Belinda is able to come back to Johannesburg.

Another source who asked not to be named corroborated the information. The person said Moses was in Durban for the weekend prior to the assembly for a private engagement and was supposed to join up with her colleagues on Monday morning at their hotel.

However she got a call from a senior manager from Johannesburg informing her that the acting chief of staff Linda Molelekoa had sent an email saying the services of Moses be withdrawn because "she was on leave".

"Belinda had taken Thursday and Friday off to attend a function in Durban and was due to report back for duty on Monday to work on the assembly. They tried to explain that to Mkhwebane but she referred everything to her chief of staff who would not listen to reason. They left her stranded there in Durban," said the source.

Moses is said to have been working on the project extensively and had travelled to other parts of the continent doing work on Aoma. She was also part of the committee organising the event and developing the media strategy. It was for that reason that it did not make sense for her to be on leave during the event.

"People tried to explain that she was back at work but that was not entertained. People had to put together R2,500 for her plane ticket to come back to Johannesburg. The accommodation and plane ticket were wasteful expenditure because they had already been paid for," said the source.

According to City Press, the Aoma conference almost did not happen after Mkhwebane threatened not to host if her predecessor Thuli Madonsela was invited. The newspaper reported that Mkhwebane had told the Aoma secretariat that South Africa would not host the event if Madonsela attended, despite the organisation's decision to honour Madonsela for her work when she was the public protector.

The award was received by Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga, who then forwarded it to Madonsela.

Mkhwebane, however, denied the allegations that she wanted to cancel the event.

The HuffPost SA has reliably learned that since the Durban fiasco, Moses has not been allowed to do any real work in the office. She was told that her contract would not be renewed and she left the organisation on Thursday. Moses declined to comment on the matter.

"People tried to explain that she was back at work but that was not entertained. People had to put together R2,500 for her plane ticket to come back to Johannesburg. The accommodation and plane ticket were wasteful expenditure because they had already been paid for

The public protector's office failed to respond to questions sent more than 32 hours before publication. It is the second time that the office has failed to respond to questions submitted by the HuffPost SA. The other incident was when the former chief of staff Dhlamini was marched out of the building, over claims he was a threat to Mkhwebane's security.

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