South Africa

Mkhwebane: I am not involved in ANC factional battles

Loyiso Sidimba

Limpopo: Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has defended herself from accusations that she took sides in the ANC’s factional battles.

Addressing a general meeting of the Black Lawyers Association in Limpopo on Saturday, Mkhwebane said she had made adverse findings across the purported factional divide where evidence of wrongdoing existed.

”We are unfairly criticised of being in cahoots with so-called factions of the governing party. It is not within our personal knowledge as to which ANC politician belongs to which faction or whether those factions do exist,” she said.

Mkhwebane said, like many other consumers of news, staff in her office only learn from the media which politician belonged to which faction.

According to Mkhwebane, since she took office in October 2016, she has made adverse findings across the purported factional divide where evidence of wrongdoing existed.

She mentioned President Cyril Ramaphosa, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and his transport counterpart Fikile Mbalula as well as former ministers Lynne Brown, Des van Rooyen and Malusi Gigaba among the high profile politicians she has made adverse findings against.

Mkhwebane said she had also made unfavourable findings against suspended ANC secretary-general and ex-Free State premier Ace Magashule and former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

“In fact, Brown and Van Rooyen were eventually relieved of their positions as ministers by Ramaphosa purely on the strength of our findings. This much was confirmed to us in two separate letters from the Presidency,” she maintained.

Mkhwebane continued: “We get accused of being ‘hired guns’ and players in the political arena by the very same executive and their supporters when we are merely doing our work. It gets worse when the same executives are media and civil society darlings. This gives them a free rein to carry on unabated, with impunity.”

She also dismissed the notion that when her reports are successfully taken on review it meant she was incompetent.

”We do not choose to go to court. We are taken to court precisely because the Constitutional Court told people that if they are unhappy with our findings, they should challenge them in court,” Mkhwebane explained.

She said the apex court’s Nkandla judgment in 2016 paved the way from the old practice of merely ignoring the public protector’s findings and rendering her office toothless.

”Regarding alleged incompetence, the assessment of the performance of any other organisation is linked to its purpose for existence ... Sadly, when it comes to the public protector, people lose all sense of reason. They don’t establish if we investigate, report on and remedy alleged and suspected improper conduct in state affairs as envisaged in section 182 (of the Constitution),” said Mkhwebane.

She complained that her detractors just ask how many cases have she has won or lost in court.

”It all boils down to those 14 cases of ours which have been set aside and the eight that we have successfully defended. Fourteen cases out of nearly 67 000,” Mkhwebane added.

The Public Protector is facing a parliamentary inquiry into her fitness to hold office that could lead to her removal and become the first head of a chapter nine institution to be axed from office if the ad hoc committee recommends such a move.

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