Monday, October 15, 2018


Dear Readers,

          Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane, South Africa’s Public Protector recently announced that in the years 2016/17 and 2017/18 they finalised 21 176 out of 25 288 complaints.
Well, if mine is anything to go by these figures must be extremely suspect.  After more than a year her Cape Town office had not yet decided whether or not the law allowed them to investigate my complaint against the Cape Town City Council.
For nearly three years now I have been investigating why the Council goes on spent millions on ineffective schemes to try and keep the sand dunes in place, above a municipal rubbish dump at Witsands near Cape Point. The dump was closed more than 30 years ago.
26 June 2017: I emailed my two page complaint about this shocking waste of money to the Cape Town office of the Public Protector.
29 June 2017: The receipt of this was acknowledged in a letter signed on behalf of a senior manager in which I was told that once they had established “whether the law allows us to investigate your complaint” they would contact me again.
6 November 2017: Ayanda Mngqinya asked me to provide proof of my allegations against the Council and two days later I sent her a five page email in which I expanded on my original complaint. This included links to six of my posts on the subject in which there were numerous pictures, which showed conclusively how the use of nets to try and keep the sand in place had failed dismally. They had either been blown over or buried by the very strong winds that are endemic to the area. I quoted Councillor Johannes van der Merwe, the Member of the Mayor’s Executive team at the time, who was in charge of the Environment, as well as other people involve in the project. Van der Merwe claimed that what they had been doing was an extremely cost effective way of managing the landfill site. I pointed out that on 30 March 2016 the Cape Argus carried a story based on my blog that effectively verified what I had written. I mentioned that in another post addressed to the Mayor Patricia de Lille I had emphasised the fact that the Public Protector had described the conditions in the township of Masiphumelele, which is not far from Witsands, as the “most disgusting I have seen in my life.” And I appealed to her to get the Council to stop wasting money at Witsands. I also pointed out that although my posts had all been very critical of what the Council had been doing, I never had single complaint about the accuracy of what I had written.
22 January 2018: I sent an email to Ayanda Mngquinya asking her what progress there had been with my complaint as the money wasting by the Council was starting all over again at Witsands. I attached photographs that showed how nets had been blown over just days after they had been erected.

11 April 2018: Ayanda replied saying she was “currently unavailable” and that I should directed all queries to Mrs Judith Steyn. This I did.
16 April 2018: Nkagiseng Motaung replied under the heading PROGRESS REPORT. “Kindly take note that your complaint was received by the Public Protector Western Cape Regional Office and I am the investigator assigned to your matter.” She went on to say that she will be “assessing my matter” and will revert back to me with the “outcome of the assessment.” So it was clear from what she told me that at this stage, 10 months after her office received my complaint, nobody had yet decided whether it was something they were entitled to investigate.
12 June 2018: I sent an email to Advocate Stoffel Fourie, who I was told was in charge of the Cape Town Public Protector’s office, even though he is apparently based at Bhisho in the Eastern Cape. Before I was given his email address my phone calls to the office in Cape Town, the head office in Pretoria as well as the one in Bhisho went unanswered. His email address wasn’t much help either, because all I got was two read reports in reply to my emails, and nothing more.
23 July 2018: Although my complaint was now more than a year old this unbelievably inefficient organisation was still trying to work out if it was qualified to deal with my case. Nkagiseng Motaung told me in an email that they required some more information to “assess whether the law allows your complaint to be investigated.” She wanted to know the following (My comments are in brackets):
1.    Issues that you wish the office of the Public Protector to investigate (As if I hadn’t told them already).
2.    Outcome sought by yourself should your matter be investigated (This must have been painfully obvious from what I had already sent).
3.    Proof that you formally raised your complaint with the City of Cape Town Ombudsman, your reference number as well as proof of outcome (This I hadn’t done because I didn’t think it was necessary as the Mayor and a member of her Mayoral Committee must have been aware of what I had written)
4.    Proof that you formally raised your complaint with the Office of the Speaker in as far as the conduct of the Councillor and Council is concerned and the proof of outcome (Same answer as Item 3).
5.    Proof of any other institution/s you raised your complaint with as well as the out come thereof (Same Answer as 4).
6.    Any other relevant information and/or documentation including correspondence between yourself and the official you communicated with. (I wasn’t prepared to send all this because I felt I had already sent more than enough information for any investigator to get started)
It ended with “Please take note we will now proceed to pend your file to the 3rd of August 2018 in anticipation of the above requested documents, as we cannot commence the investigation due to insufficient information. As soon as the above has been received, we will then proceed to asses the matter further and advice (sic) accordingly.” In this email this ace investigator also changed my sex by addressing me as Ms. J. Abbott, although all my emails had ended “Regards, Jon Abbott.”
24 July 2018: I replied to Nkagiseng Motaung saying that her office was an “absolute disgrace” because more than a year after I submitted full details of my complaint I was now being asked what outcome I wanted “should your matter be investigated.” I added that it was like reporting a murder to the police and being asked what outcome I wanted. “If something appeared wrong it was up to the Protector’s office to investigate it and not expect the complainant to provide all the proof,” I told her. “How could some poorly educated person possibly provide any of the information you are now asking for?”
10 September 2018: I got an email with a letter attached signed “PP Sune`Griessel (Mrs), Provincial Representative (Western Cape). It began with: “For further enquiries: Mrs N. Motaung, 31 August 2018.” The gist of the five paragraph letter was that as the Public Protector was “an office of last resort” I had not taken “all reasonable steps to exhaust all remedies available” to me
          “Due to the insufficient information regarding your complaint, we are unable to assess the matter further. We will now proceed to close our file and thank you for engaging with the office of the Public Protector.”
          I’m a retired former Sunday Times investigative journalist. So if I can’t present the Public Protector’s office with sufficient information to get it started, what hope has the average person?
          My experience shows how very unlikely it is that 83% of complaints to this branch of Government were finalist in the last couple of years as Busisiwe claims.
          Jon, a very disgusted Consumer Watchdog, who hopes she does a much better job than this.
See also: Monumental waste

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