Mkhwebane vs Ramaphosa: Will Protector fold after court setbacks?
Johannesburg - Days after being slammed for issuing a Section 7(9) notice to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane has issued another notice to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Mkhwebane on Wednesday issued the notice in order to get Ramaphosa to provide answers regarding a R500 000 donation by the graft and money laundering tainted Bosasa (African Global Operations) ahead of the 2017 Nasrec elective conference of the African National Congress (ANC).
When he was first questioned about it last year, Ramaphosa said it was a payment for work done by a company owned by his son Andile. Later he wrote to the then Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete and said the R500 000 payment from Bosasa was actually a donation to his ANC presidential campaign, but he had been unaware of that when he first provided answers to the house.
Out of that, the leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) Mmusi Maimane lodged a complaint with Mkhwebane and asked her to probe whether Ramaphosa lied or deliberately misled the house on the matter.
Now it remains to be seen how Mkhwebane would handle the Ramaphosa matters without being distracted by the risk of having to personally pay the legal costs should she rule against Ramaphosa and he takes it on judicial review and wins. Mkhwebane is also facing accusations that she is pursuing Ramaphosa (together with Gordhan) for a narrow political agenda and trying to prove that she is competent and credible after the courts set aside her Estina dairy and ABSA/Bankop reports.
The executive director of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC), Lawson Naidoo, said Mkhwebane was doing a lot of damage to the country with her reports and she must be removed from office before she does more damage.
“I think she has already issued incorrect reports and I would not be surprised to issue another one (regarding the Ramaphosa matter),” Naidoo said when asked about the probability that Mkhwebane may stutter and be challenged in court later.
But in her defence, Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said that one report has been set aside before does not mean the subsequent reports will suffer the same fate. Segalwe said the complaint against the President was lodged in terms of the Executive Members' Ethics Act and the allegation is that he breached the executive code of ethics.
“Further, only the Public Protector has powers to investigate alleged violations of the Code. Accordingly, whether or not Parliament dealt with the matter is immaterial. What is critical here is whether the President, in amending his initial response to Parliament regarded the Bosasa matter, deliberately misled or lied to Parliament as alleged and, if so, whether that conduct amounts to a breach of the Code,” Segalwe said on behalf of Mkhwebane.
“The Public Protector does not lose sleep over the unsubstantiated claims that she is targeting President Ramaphosa and Minister Gordhan. First, she does not go around fishing for complaints against the two. People lodge complaints and she entertains such complaints in line with the constitutional provision that this office must be accessible to all persons and communities,” Segalwe said on behalf of Mkhwebane.
Segalwe added that since taking office, Adv. Mkhwebane has dealt with just under 50 000 investigations and only two implicated Gordhan and one concerned the President.
But Naidoo was adamant that Mkhwebane was not up to the task of being a Public Protector and she must go now and not wait until he is challenged by Ramaphosa.
“The National Assembly must not wait until that happens, I think there is already enough evidence that she is not fit for the job… She is causing a lot of damage to the country and she is causing a lot of damage to the reputation of people and she is very selective in the way she investigates issues,” Naidoo insisted.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, was not available for comment throughout the day. Her personal assistant said she was locked in marathon meetings throughout the day.