Busisiwe Mkhwebane

Johannesburg - Newly appointed Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is “not shaken at all.”

“With God on my side,” she says, “I know I will serve this country well. I thank God for trusting in me and choosing me to work in such a powerful office.”

She’s not “shaken” by stepping into the big shoes left by her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, and a raft of controversial cases that involve powerful politicians.

Speaking to The Sunday Independent on Saturday, Mkhwebane, who is very religious, pointed out that she was mindful of the fact the public protector’s office deals with some of the most controversial cases.

“I hope and pray that God will grant me strength and the power to carry this responsibility. I know it’s a very huge responsibility,” she says.

Asked how she managed to outsmart several other powerful candidates interviewed for the job, Mkhwebane says she prepared well for her interview for a whole week.

This involved keeping up to date with all the matters in the public protector’s office.

Mkhwebane, a lawyer by profession, previously worked for the public protector, between 1999 and 2005, with the first-ever public protector, Selby Baqwa, and his successor, Lawrence Mushwana.

At the time, the office did not deal with controversial investigations like it does now.

According to her, the only contentious investigation at the time was the Arms Deal saga, even though she was not involved in the actual investigations.

She says she will be meeting with Madonsela soon for the final handover process as Madonsela’s non-renewable seven-year term ends this week.

Madonsela is currently busy with the state capture investigation, stemming from widespread allegations that the controversial Gupta family influences appointments in the cabinet, state-owned enterprises and that Gupta-linked companied are unfairly benefiting from government tenders.

“Possibly, she will finalise it (the investigation) before the official handover,” Mkhwebane says. “The most important thing for her, is to serve her country.”

This week, Zuma met with Madonsela as part of Madonsela’s state capture investigation. If the state capture investigation is not concluded before the official handover, it will become Mkhwebane’s first major investigation and she will have to tackle it when she takes over.

Mkhwebane, who says she feels humbled by her appointment, also promises to do her job diligently.

“I’m very knowledgeable. I’m confident that I will do a good job. I will do my best and make sure that all the cases we are dealing with are properly investigated and well researched.”

Mkhwebane was born in the farming town of Bethal, in Mpumalanga, and she completed her matric at Mkhephuli Secondary School in 1988.

Her qualifications include a B Proc and an LLB, both obtained from the University of Limpopo from 1989 to 1994.

She furthered her studies at the University of Johannesburg, where she obtained her Corporate Law and Tax Law diplomas from 1997 to 2002.

She then obtained her Master of Business Leadership (MBL) degree at the University of South Africa (Unisa) in 2010.

She has two children, aged 29 and 16, who told her they had mixed feelings when President Jacob Zuma officially appointed her to the position this week.

“They were excited, but at the same time they were scared thinking about whether I will be able to do the job.

“They know that the Office of the Public Protector deals with very controversial investigations.

“They were also scared that I would have to undergo the same criticism and be called names like my predecessor for investigating many controversial cases.

“Although they wanted me to get the position, when I was finally appointed they realised that now it would be their mother who would have to deal with all the criticism that comes with working in the public protector’s office.”

Mkhwebane will officially take over from Madonsela on October 17.

Madonsela has tackled some of the most powerful figures, including SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

The Sunday Independent