AfriForum: Public Protector unfit for position; should resign

AfriForum today called on Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the Public Protector, to resign. The civil rights organisation views her as unfit for office considering recent damning developments involving her.

The Hawks are currently investigating Mkhwebane for perjury and SARS last week launched an investigation into the income tax affairs of Mkhwebane, dating back to 2011. Pressure on Mkhwebane was added this week when Thandi Modise, Speaker of the National Assembly, approved a motion to initiate proceedings for her removal. In July 2019 the Constitutional Court found in the Absa/Bankorp case that the Public Protector’s “entire model of investigation was flawed”, that she had been dishonest about her engagements during the investigation and that she had “put forward a number of falsehoods” in the course of litigation. Some judges even held that Mkhwebane had acted in bad faith, was dishonest, biased, had put together several falsehoods, lacked understanding of her constitutional duties and had lied under oath.

The Public Protector’s position grants her the power to investigate any conduct in state affairs or in the public administration in any sphere of government that is suspected or alleged to be improper or to result in any impropriety or prejudice. “South Africa needs an objective, respected and competent Public Protector, especially in 2020, when South Africa’s democratic institutions will be thoroughly tested in the face of, among other things, expropriation without compensation, as well as with National Health Insurance (NHI) on the horizon,” says Ernst van Zyl, campaign coordinator at AfriForum.

“When the 2020 SARS investigation, the parliamentary motion for her removal and the plethora of damning statements from high authorities against her in 2019 are considered, one cannot help but question whether Mkhwebane’s conduct does not in fact resemble the exact antithesis of her duties as Public Protector. The Constitutional Court’s scathing judgement surely paints the picture that Mkhwebane is doing considerable damage to the reputation and status of her position. On a foundational level, she should be a paragon of reliability, credibility, and integrity. The aforementioned examples led AfriForum to conclude that she does not possess the required qualities that her integral position requires,” Van Zyl concludes.

However, because the Public Protector is appointed by the President on the recommendation of the National Assembly, there is a lot of room for biased, strategic appointments that favour the ruling ANC. Therefore, AfriForum calls on Parliament to consider the appointment of a new public protector objectively.

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