Mkhwebane takes stand for first time, says woes began when she ‘touched the untouchables’

Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane yesterday (Wed) finally took the witness stand at the parliamentary Section 194 inquiry into her fitness to hold office. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane yesterday (Wed) finally took the witness stand at the parliamentary Section 194 inquiry into her fitness to hold office. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 16, 2023


Cape Town - Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane took to the witness stand for the first time at the parliamentary committee investigating her fitness to hold office and said her real troubles in the job began when she “touched the untouchables”.

Responding to her lead counsel advocate Dali Mpofu’s opening remarks, Mkhwebane said that in the six and a half years she had spent as Public Protector she had never known peace.

“I think the cause of all the troubles, which you have indicated Advocate Mpofu, in your opening was touching the untouchables.”

Mpofu had identified one of the “untouchables” as the case around the donation of R500 000 received from Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson towards President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign.

He said the other untouchable case was the Sars “rogue” investigative unit which involved “some of the more powerful personalities in South Africa, particularly minister Pravin Jamnadas Gordhan”.

Agreeing with this description, Mkhwebane said her investigations into these matters were behind the establishment of the inquiry.

She said it was these factors that had led to the formation of “the unholy alliance between the DA and the ANC” whose purpose was to advance the common objective of removing her from office “by hook or by crook, and if the courts are to be believed mostly by crook.”

She said that using their parliamentary majority, neither party would be deterred by “such niceties as fairness, reasonableness, or the lack of evidence”.

She said trying to convince them to look at the evidence without pursuing their “joint and predetermined outcome” would be an exercise in futility.

Defending herself against allegations that her court cases related to the committee and the matters that it is looking into were a strategy to delay proceedings, Mkhwebane told the committee this was the wrong perception.

On Tuesday during her latest court matter, the Western Cape High Court reserved judgment on Mkhwebane’s application to suspend the committee’s proceedings.

She also wanted the court to review and set aside the decisions by committee chairman Qubudile Dyantyi (ANC) and committee member Kevin Mileham (DA) not to recuse themselves.

In her 225-page affidavit to the committee Mkhwebane claims that the inquiry was nothing more than a political witch-hunt orchestrated by the DA and the ANC.

She said: “This whole process is also a vanity special project of the Democratic Alliance (DA), aimed at scoring political points as the first party to have ever caused the head of a chapter nine institution to face impeachment proceedings.”

She said the process had nothing to do with accountability or the Constitution but that it was a “racially motivated campaign borne out of the fear of real change which might actually benefit the poorest and most marginalised members of the public”.

She said these members of the public were mainly black and the process against her would only benefit those who would prefer an untransformed economic status quo, “who are, in the main, white and the backbone constituency of the DA”.

She said her evidence was directed more at the South African public to judge her record, her performance and the evidence for itself.

“It is after all, the public which the MPs are supposed to represent. It is also the public which relies on my office for its protection against the existence of state functionaries in all spheres.”

Mkhwebane said her current suspension was not a bona fide exercise.

“The suspension is a vengeful, retaliatory and illegal act by the current president for no other reason that the multiple investigations are seized with before and at the time of suspension, principally, the CR 17/Bosasa matter and the Phala Phala scandal.”

The committee is set to continue today (Thursday) with more testimony from Mkhwebane.

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