Embattled Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has been courting controversy since her appointment in 2016. File picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Embattled Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has been courting controversy since her appointment in 2016.

But not many remember how she was plucked from relatively nowhere to take the helm - following a rigorous process for a suitable candidate to succeed then outgoing public protector Thuli Madonsela.

This was back in July 2016, when MPs were racing against time to appoint a suitable successor.

At the time, a senior IFP MP had rescued Mkhwebane from the shortlist of candidates after other parties initially omitted her from the top of their lists for consideration.

The ANC had initially favoured Judge Siraj Desai of the Western Cape High Court, but objection from other parties cost him the job.

The DA questioned why Mkhwebane had left her job at Home Affairs as chief director, to be an analyst in the State Security Agency, stating that the Home Affairs job paid her a better salary.

The DA’s Glynnis Breytenbach had also accused Mkhwebane of being a spy, an allegation which she vehemently denied.

Mkhwebane had managed to scrape through after the IFP’s Themba Msimang urged fellow MPs to shortlist her as she had done well in the interviews.

The other shortlisted candidates were Desai, South Gauteng High Court Judge Sharise Weiner, Willie Hofmeyr, who is now the head of the Asset Forfeiture Unit, and Pensions Fund adjudicator advocate Muvhango Lukhaimane.

Former magistrate and human rights lawyer Professor Bongani Majola also lost out to Mkhwebane.

EFF leader Julius Malema told Mkhwebane after she was appointed that she should stick to her job and not be close to politicians. This was after it was revealed that she was close to former president Jacob Zuma.

“If she is close to Zuma, she must run away from those things and concentrate on the Office of the Public Protector and serve our people,” Malema said at the time.

Then chairperson of the ad hoc committee, Makhosi Khoza, told Mkhwebane to stand up to politicians and remain independent.

Khoza also said Mkhwebane should do her job without fear or favour.

Other MPs across the floor also warned Mkhwebane of being involved with politicians and reminded her that her job was to defend the country and fight any form of corruption in the public sector.

However, during deliberations, MPs supported the decision to name her the public protector.

The process had been gruelling and some of the people who had fallen off of the list were known figures, and occupying key positions in the public service. Mkhwebane had come across as an unknown person whom some MPs had met for the first time in the Chamber in July 2016.

It was a long session, with 14 candidates to be interviewed at one go - the first time this had happened - and other MPs had never even heard of the name Mkhwebane, with Judge Desai being the favourite at the time.

Two-and-a-half years later, Mkhwebane is now at the centre of a political storm in the country, with mounting legal actions against her.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is taking her report on the Bosasa matter on judicial review.

And Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan is challenging her report on the establishment of the rogue unit at Sars.

There have been bruising battles on the other fronts as well where she has lost some of the cases.

Mkhwebane may have been unknown two years ago, but today she finds herself at the centre of events in the country, with the courts left to adjudicate on her matters.

Political Bureau