How many of you studied Latin at school and remember the famous quote: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes”? It roughly translates into: “Who will guard the guards themselves?” or “Who will watch the watchmen?”
It’s a philosophical question that’s worth asking in South Africa because it goes to the heart of whether power is being held to account in our country, and by whom.
Today I’d like to offer a slight variation of that age-old maxim by posing a question that’s relevant to all South Africans concerned about the state of our constitutional democracy. Who will protect the public from the public protector?
The incumbent, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, is arguably the worst we’ve had since the “de-apartheidisation” of South Africa 24 years ago.
Granted, it wasn’t going to be easy taking over from the widely-respected Thuli Madonsela, who set the bar quite high with her courageous and relentless pursuit of the truth.
Ever since taking office just under two years ago, Mkhwebane has been stepping on legal and political landmines that she appears to have planted, sometimes with rather explosive consequences.
For instance, what was she thinking when she issued a report last June recommending that the Special Investigating Unit recover more than R1billion from Absa for an apartheid-era bailout from the SA Reserve Bank?
As we all now know, the North Gauteng High Court set aside Mkwebane’s remedial action and ordered her to pay part of the legal costs involved.
And questions continue to be asked about her dubious handling of the Estina dairy farm report, in which millions meant for poor farmers in the Free State were passed on to the notorious Gupta family.
Mkwebane is obviously a busy person, but with so much on her plate, can someone please tell me why she even bothered to take up the issue of Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s silly tweet about colonialism? Surely there are bigger fish to fry?
If this goes on, South Africans may soon have to apply for a protection order against the protector.
The Sunday Independent