Public Protector also on the Interferon trail


The apparently illegal acquisition of a Cuban drug by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) will be investigated by the Public Protector.

The investigation was prompted by Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentarian Kobus Marais following non- and evasive answers offered by senior officers, including Surgeon General Lieutenant General Zola Dabula at Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD).

Marais was informed of the Chapter Nine institution’s decision to look deeper into the Heberon acquisition issue this week.

Correspondence on the matter from a senior investigator, in the form of an advocate, with Marais states: “On perusal of your complaint the irregular procurement by the SANDF in the purchase of Interferon from Cuba was identified for investigation”. The correspondence does not give any timeline for the investigation stating only that “progress will be reported as the case progresses”.

The man who initiated the involvement of the Public Protector told defenceWeb he was “pleased” about the investigation as another development in what has been called “smuggling” by an organ of government to bring an unregistered drug into the country.

The Office of the Public Protector is currently headed by Kholeka Gcaleka, in the absence of Busisiwe Mkhwebane, whose impeachment is under consideration by Parliament.

The Pretoria-headquartered Public Protector is one of six institutions created in terms of Chapter Nine of the South African Constitution to guard democracy. Others are the SA Human Rights Commission, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission), the Commission for Gender Equality, the Auditor-General and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). Interpretations vary on whether the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) is a Chapter Nine institution or not.

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula earlier this month named a three-person task team to “investigate the veracity of allegations” around the acquisition of Interferon B from the Caribbean Island nation. The team, comprising Intelligence director general Zola Ngcakani, former director general in The Presidency Cassius Lubisi and former National Intelligence Agency (NIA) director general Billy Masethla, has six months to complete its work, including a report for the Minister.