Pressure grows for Modise to probe Mkhwebane
Johannesburg - Pressure is mounting on National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise to immediately set up a committee to probe the fitness of Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane to hold office.
This comes amid an increasing number of adverse judgments against Mkhwebane.
On Thursday, the DA and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) reiterated their calls to Parliament after the North Gauteng High Court’s Judge Roney Tolmay ruled in their favour in their personal costs application against Mkhwebane.
The court ordered Mkhwebane, in her official capacity, to pay 85% of the costs of the DA and Casac on an attorney and client scale, which also includes the costs of two counsel.
She was also ordered to personally pay 7.5% each to the DA and Casac on an attorney and client scale, including the costs of two counsel.
In May, Judge Tolmay ruled that Mkhwebane was grossly negligent in her investigation into the Estina Dairy Farm Project, saying she failed to interview the affected people who were supposed to benefit from the multimillion-rand empowerment project which was styled as improving the lives of black and emerging farmers.
The judge also took exception with Mkhwebane for her failure to interview former Free State premier Ace Magashule and former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane for allegedly being the masterminds behind the failed Estina project.
According to the evidence before the court, the major beneficiaries had been the Gupta family who had close links with Magashule and Zwane.
The failure by Mkhwebane to interview the two irked Judge Tolmay and in her judgment on Thursday she reiterated that Mkhwebane was grossly negligent and did not deserve immunity from a personal cost order.
“The failures and dereliction of duty by the Public Protector in the Estina matter are manifold. They speak to her failure to execute her duties in terms of the Constitution and the Public Protector Act.
“In my view, her conduct in this matter is far worse and more lamentable than that set out in the Reserve Bank matter. At least her failures in the Reserve Bank impacted on institutions that have the resources to fend for themselves.
“In this instance (Estina dairy farm) her dereliction of duty impacted on the rights of the poor and vulnerable in society, the very people for whom her office was essentially created.
“They were deprived of their one chance to create a better life for themselves. The intended beneficiaries of the Estina project were disenfranchised by the very people who were supposed to uplift them. Yet the public protector turned a blind eye, did not consult with them and did not investigate the numerous irregularities that allegedly occurred properly and objectively,” Judge Tolmay said.
The DA’s chief whip John Steenhuisen said the ruling was an indictment on Mkhwebane’s competence. “These bruising defeats are stacking up on a weekly basis, and the longer she stays at the helm of this institution, the more damage it will do,” he said.
But Mkhwebane appeared unfazed and has vowed to appeal the ruling.