Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane
The Public Protector would not oppose a court challenge against her binding proposal calling for a change to the mandate of the SA Reserve Bank (Sarb), her office said yesterday. Busisiwe Mkhwebane recommended last month that the central bank’s mandate of maintaining price and currency stability be changed to focus on economic growth. That set off a political row that has hit the rand and government bonds and prompted court challenges from Sarb governor Lesetja Kganyago, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba and Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete. They argue that Mkhwebane had gone beyond the scope of her mandate.

The Public Protector’s spokesperson, Cleopatra Mosana, said on Thursday that Mkhwebane had filed a notice opposing the challenges to her recommendation. Mkhwebane said she was empowered by the Constitution to intervene in such affairs.

LEGAL ADVICE

Yesterday, however, her office said Mkhwebane would no longer be putting up a defence of her recommendation in court.

“Having considered the legal advice from the Senior Counsel, which advice she accepted, the Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has decided not to oppose the Sarb’s review application,” Mkhwebane’s office said.

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The rand was unmoved by the news. Analysts say it is unclear what prompted Mkhwebane’s recommendation. It will now be up to the courts to decide whether her mandate extends to the central bank. The ANC has stated that it is opposed to altering the mandate of the central bank. But its ally, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, has backed calls for changes, saying the bank is not acting in the interests of the country’s poor majority.

Mkhwebane made the proposal to change the bank’s mandate when she delivered her findings on an apartheid-era bailout of Bankorp, which was subsequently bought by Absa, now a unit of Barclays Africa Group.