FILE PHOTO: Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane listens during a briefing at Parliament in Cape Town
Parliament – The Democratic Alliance on Tuesday said Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was exceeding her powers with the directive that Absa must pay back a bailout of R1.125 billion by the SA Reserve Bank (SARB) to Bankorp.

DA justice spokeswoman Glynnis Breytenbach said the opposition needed to express “serious disquiet” about the implications of Mkhwebane’s accompanying instruction to Parliament’s Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development to amend the Constitution in relation to the powers of the SARB.

“Clearly, her recommendation goes beyond what she is legally empowered to do and is indicative of her long-term plan to render the Public Protectors office ineffective.

“The effect of the ‘remedial action’ would be to instruct the justice committee to promote the action, which in itself appears sinister and is a cause for great concern,” she said.

Breytenbach said the DA would engage with the head of Parliament’s legal services to seek confirmation that the instruction was illegal and to determine whether the legislature would oppose it.

Absa has said it was not obliged to return the money, while the Reserve Bank has obtained legal opinion indicating that the remedial action falls outside of the powers of the chapter nine institution. It has said it will bring urgent review action to have Mkhwebane’s findings set aside.

Breytenbach said the DA was also exploring all means at its disposal to address the problems it had with Mkhwebane’s findings. She pointed out that only the National Assembly had the power to amend the Constitution.

“The remedial actions announced yesterday are very disturbing and they mean that the new Public Protector has either failed to understand her role and powers as Public Protector, or she simply is prepared to break the law to drive political agendas.”