It’s a philosophical question that’s worth asking in South Africa because it goes to the heart of whether power is being held to account in our country, and by whom.
Today, with your permission, I’d like to offer a slight variation of that age-old maxim by posing a question that’s relevant to all South Africans concerned about the state of our constitutional democracy.
Who will protect the public from the public protector herself?
The incumbent, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, is arguably the worst we’ve had since the “de-apartheidisation” of South Africa 24 years ago.
Granted, it wasn’t going to be easy taking over from the widely respected Thuli Madonsela, who set the bar quite high with her courageous and relentless pursuit of the truth. Madonsela clearly understood her mandate and was afraid of no one, not even the man who appointed her - former president Jacob Zuma.
With Mkhwebane, however, there are grave concerns about her role and understanding of her mandate and her own jurisdiction.
Ever since taking office just under two years ago, she has been stepping on legal and political landmines that she herself appears to have planted, sometimes with rather explosive consequences.
For instance, what was she thinking when she issued a report last June recommending that the Special Investigating Unit recover more than R1billion from Absa for an apartheid-era bailout from the South African Reserve Bank?
As we all now know, the North Gauteng High Court set aside Mkhwebane’s remedial action and ordered her to personally pay part of the legal costs involved.
Later, in an apparent rush of blood to her head, she also recommended the constitution be amended to change the mandate of the Reserve Bank to keep inflation in check.
This recommendation too was set aside, costing her office even more millions in legal costs.
And questions continue to be asked about her dubious handling of the Estina dairy farm report in which millions meant for poor farmers in the Free State were passed on to the notorious Gupta family.
Why did she let prominent politicians like former Free State premier Ace Magashule and former minerals resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane - both ardent loyalists of former president Zuma - off the hook in that report?
Mkhwebane is obviously a busy person, her office having received over 25000 complaints so far, of which, she says, 21000 have been finalised.
But with so much on her plate, can someone please tell me why she even bothered to take up the issue of Western Cape premier Helen Zille’s silly tweet about colonialism?
Surely there are bigger fish to fry. If this goes on, South Africans may soon have to apply for a protection order against the protector.
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.