Phindi Kema has hired a high-profile lawyer and threatened to take Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to court because of her failure to release the findings of her investigation of the controversial 1997 sale of the Gauteng government’s horse racing assets.
The assets, which include the Totalisator Agency Board, the Highveld Racing Authority and the three horse racing clubs in the province, were sold for R1 and now form part of Phumelela Gaming and Leisure. The deal was purportedly intended to make horse racing competitive in a developing gambling market.
Madonsela began investigating the sale of the assets in January 2012 but is yet to release her findings. She has blamed the delay on a crippling lack of resources.
Phindi Kema claims that the Gauteng government acted inappropriately when it transferred the publicly owned assets into private ownership in 1997. Madonsela found that there was a prima facie case of misconduct and launched an investigation – but three years later Kema has lost patience.
She has hired Jamaican-born British barrister Courtenay Griffiths, who represented former Liberian president Charles Taylor during his war crimes trial, to pressure Madonsela into releasing her findings or face court action.
She said Madonsela had failed to release the report despite “promising to do so on several occasions”.
“I am dismayed at your failure to reply to my letter, especially when contrasted with the speed with which you have published many high-profile reports,” Griffiths wrote to Madonsela last month.
“Kema is anxious to avoid further litigation in this matter. However, she will not rule out such an option if it proves to be necessary in order to achieve a speedier resolution of this matter.”
Asked why she laid the complaint 12 years after the sale of the assets, Kema said she found out about the deal only in 2010 and approached the public protector two years later after gathering evidence.
Madonsela this week apologised for the delay but said: “The truth is that cases will take long to investigate because we are severely under-resourced.”
Madonsela said she had completed the investigation and would release the report in “one or two months” after it had been discussed by the parties involved.
She said her office had received about 20000 complaints in the past financial year and her investigators were struggling to get through their case load.
She denied that she prioritised high-profile cases. “In fact, 13 out of 16 investigation reports that we issued in the year to the end of March related to complaints by ordinary people,” said Madonsela.