‘PP will not be removed’
Mounting support for Busi Mkhwebane as DA probe bid is rejected, ANC confusion in committee hearing
PUBLIC protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has under difficult circumstances finalised more than 10 000 cases in her first year in office of which half were upheld in favour of “ordinary people” who had complained to her office.
Her supporters, especially in the ANC, says her success rate shows the virulent attacks on her by the opposition were politically motivated.
Figures in the public protector’s annual report for 201617 presented to Parliament recently show her office managed to finalise 10 787 cases out of a total workload of 16 397. Close to 50% of the cases finalised were upheld which, according to Mkhwebane, translated to more than 5 000 people being assisted in getting justice.
Mkhwebane said her office published only 17 reports as the “overwhelming majority” of her investigations, described as “bread and butter issues”, fell outside the scope of formal and published investigation reports.
Mkhwebane’s fiscal discipline in her first year of office came under the spotlight. The office of the public protector ended the financial year with a deficit of more than R18m. An auditorgeneral report on her predecessor’s first financial year in office revealed that Thuli Madonsela incurred a net loss of R6.3m during the year ended March 31, 2010.
Mkhwebane’s CIEX report on Bankorp’s lifeboat scandal and her related remedial action to change the mandate of the Reserve Bank to focus on the socioeconomic wellbeing of citizens provoked the ire of the DA and the business and banking sector. The ANC was itself cleft into two camps, either supporting or denouncing the report.
Her supporters say this is the reason why Mkhwebane’s every move has been subject to faultfinding scrutiny in a bid to have her relieved of her duties.
The latest attempt came from the DA which is pushing for President Jacob Zuma to suspend her pending the finalisation of an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.
Mkhwebane’s deputy, Kevin Malunga, is also under fire for allegedly halting an investigation into two municipalities. A complaint was laid against him by the DA to parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete, who later referred it to the justice portfolio committee for processing.
Mkhwebane’s CIEX report, which was initially investigated by her predecessor, and Madonsela’s State of Capture report both remain the subject of a judicial review. While the ANC at Luthuli House has dismissed the DA’s pursuit of Mkhwebane as a “witch hunt” and chief whip Jackson Mthembu described the inquiry into her fitness to hold office as frivolous, DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach continues to pile pressure on her.
Breytenbach said of her first year in office: “Advocate Mkhwebane has demonstrated numerous times that she is not fit to hold the office of the public protector and the DA has opposed her appointment from the start.”
The chairperson of parliament’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services Mathole Motshekga also landed himself in hot water for apparently disagreeing with the ANC’s views on Mkhwebane’s inquiry.
He later backtracked saying he was not “siding” with any parties and acted as an “impartial” chairperson when he said the ad hoc committee (that appointed Mkhwebane) was the relevant structure to decide her fate.
Constitutional law expert Prof Shadrack Gutto said an inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office should be based on merit and not on partisan political ends. “It is not something which should be brought in a narrow political battle, but about the citizen, the Constitution and the law of the country.”
But ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said there was not going to be an inquiry. “Any call to request an inquiry is nothing else but a witch hunt. It’s an attack on an institution which is important to our democracy, a Chapter 9 institution. “There are reasons and grounds on which you can remove the public protector. You do not remove her because you are unhappy about her remedial actions.”
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini yesterday condemned the DA on its “politically motivated” move to have Mkhwebane removed from office.
“The call made by the DA is a very frivolous but political call. They were opposed to her appointment, before she was even appointed, They called her a spy. They even called her Zuma’s spy.
“So they never liked her and her case was made worse because up to now she has not fought their enemies. I think her mistake, according to them, was to fight against Absa and recommend that there should be a review of the Constitution about the Reserve Bank. The public protector is protected by the Constitution, they knew that even when Thuli Madonsela was still there. So we don’t think we should ignore the hypocrisy of targeting her.”
FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald described Mkhwebane’s term in office as a “big disappointment”.
“The FF Plus will support the DA’s request. Her findings on the Reserve Bank was proof of her incompetency. She’s a disappointment and we will be supporting her removal,” he said.
CONNECTING: Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane during her 67 Minutes For Mandela contribution at Moepathutse Orphanage in Stinkwater.