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Mkhwebane’s move to red berets might haunt ANC in next year’s poll – experts

Former Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane recently joined the EFF. l PHANDO JIKELO/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

Former Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane recently joined the EFF. l PHANDO JIKELO/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

Published Oct 22, 2023


The ANC has been warned that the former Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s move to join the EFF could haunt the governing party ahead of the general elections next year.

Political analysts said Mkhwebane’s move could be building on the Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF) strategy to remove the African National Congress (ANC) from power.

This was after Mkhwebane was announced as a member of the EFF this week.

During her announcement, Mkhwebane said she was joining the red berets because she resonated with their cardinal pillars and wished to continue to protect South Africans and the poor.

The announcement came after she was removed from her office last month by President Cyril Ramaphosa following a parliamentary inquiry that found her guilty of misconduct and incompetence.

Although Mkhwebane believes her removal was politically motivated, she said her decision to join the EFF was not due to any dissatisfaction stemming from her dismissal.

However, political analyst Professor Siphamandla Zondi said this would build on the EFF strategy to remove the ruling party from power by eating into its natural power base.

“The ANC must always be worried by any effort by the opposition to build their support in its natural power bases. It can ill-afford to lose any support. Since the ANC invested so much energy to the removal of Mkhwebane from office at all costs, it will be the focus on an EFF Mkhwebane.

“This will build on the EFF strategy to remove the ANC from power by eating into its natural power base. To this end, the EFF has attracted artists, celebrities, and prominent figures associated with the ANC,” Zondi said.

He said Mkhwebane would fit in well in the EFF – being used for either political communication or electoral campaigns. He said this is because the two positions required recognisable faces and people with some following.

Another political analyst, Kim Heller, echoed Zondi’s sentiments and added that the ANC should be concerned by the move of such a popular and highly qualified person.

“The ANC should be concerned by the move of highly professional, highly qualified and highly popular people such as Advocate Mkhwebane. As the EFF continues to swell with talented and committed leadership role models, the ANC of today is an intellectual vacuum with astonishingly poor leadership in play.

“People like Adv Mkhwebane may have been vilified by the media but remains extremely popular and well loved by ordinary South Africans who are aware of the injustice of her impeachment,” she said.

Heller said the red berets have added to its impressive intellectual and professional skills bank in recruiting Mkhwebane.

She added that Mkhwebane had a solid and long proven track record of fighting for social justice and ordinary citizens which extended beyond her work as the country’s fourth public protector.

Heller added that her work in the domain of human rights, both locally and internationally, would serve the EFF well.

“Mkhwebane, a strong advocate for social justice, is aligned with the people-focused cardinal pillars of the EFF. It is a good match and in many respects, the EFF now has created a hospitable and appropriate home for the Public Protector of South Africa. She said she would continue to serve the public well,” Heller said.

For Professor Sipho Seepe, there was no doubt that Mkhwebane would bring experience and skills that were likely to benefit the EFF. Seepe said this was because Mkhwebane held several positions in government.

“As a former public protector, she has an understanding of issues relating to accountability which are at the heart of our body politic.

“It is also important to indicate that there is nothing amiss about her joining a political party. In doing so, she is giving expression of the constitutionally guaranteed political right,” said Seepe.

He further said: “The ANC is beyond worrying about anything for as long as it can be guaranteed the position of being in government. What is clear, however, is that its participation in the political persecution of Mkhwebane would cost it votes.

“Ordinary people are not easily fooled by the shenanigans that unfold in Parliament. They are aware that the whole persecution had more to do with protecting President Ramaphosa than her competency or otherwise.”

But Professor Sethulego Matebesi said: “As a senior and experienced public figure, the EFF will want to reap mileage out of her profile. But her political acumen is not something that the ANC will worry about.

“There were too many controversies around her performance that I believe that she will not have the pulling power to attract new members to the EFF,” he said.