FINGERED: Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s alleged links to the intelligence community were once again thrust into the spotlight as her woes over the handling of the apartheid bailout for Absa deepened.

Yesterday, Mkhwebane had to again defend herself after it emerged that she had secret meetings with officials from the Presidency and the State Security Agency (SSA) days before releasing a final report into the CIEX on Absa.

This prompted the DA, which initially had misgivings about Mkhwebane’s appointment given her history with the SSA, to call for a process to remove her to begin immediately.

The DA’s justice and correctional services spokesperson, Glynnis Breytenbach, said she would write to Parliament’s Speaker Baleka Mbete to request that a relevant portfolio committee haul Mkhwebane over the coals.

“And “thereafter, the National Assembly must adopt a resolution calling for her removal, which requires a two-thirds majority”.

Advocate Johannes Jurgens de Jager, counsel for the SA Reserve Bank (SARB), filed papers asking the high court to review Mkhwebane’s decision to ask the Special Investigating Unit to conduct a probe into the CIEX report and recovery of R1.125billion from Absa.

SARB also wants the high court to review Mkhwe- bane’s remedial action aimed at amending the constitution to deprive the Reserve Bank of its constitutionally entrenched power to protect the value of the currency.

De Jager lodged a scathing attack on Mkhwebane, accusing her of bias, saying her discussing aspects of the report with the Presidency had destroyed the independence of her office.

“June 7, 2017 was 12 days before the public protector issued the report. The record, therefore, reveals that 12 days before the public protector issued her final report she had a meeting with the president’s legal advisers,” De Jager said.

Of concern to SARB was that the meeting with the Presidency on June 7, 2017 took place after the Reserve Bank had responded to the public protector’s preliminary report.

“Mkhwebane was not supposed to discuss her remedial action with President Jacob Zuma’s office, as it had nothing to do with the Presidency.

“There is no legitimate basis on which this ought to have been discussed with the Presidency.”

De Jager said Mkhwabane was informed by the constitution to conduct her investigations independently and impartially.

It was not the first time the spotlight fell on Mkhwabane’s past in the intelligence community. Last year, the DA said it would not support her candidature as the protector, saying she was a spy working for the SSA during her stint as immigration officer in China.

At the time, she reportedly said: “I never worked for the SSA. I only joined the SSA on July 4, 2016.”

Mkhwebane has defended her disputed June 7 meeting with the Presidency, maintaining that “there was nothing sinister about that meeting”.

SARB had previously accused Mkhwebane of not understanding her mandate.

Constitutional expert advocate Ben Winks stressed that it was “not prudent” for Mkhwebane to meet the Presidency and the SSA, saying her office should not only be independent in fact, but should also appear to be independent to the public.

“A similar issue arose when National Prosecuting Authority head Shaun Abrahams was summoned to Luthuli House before announcing that then finance minister Pravin Gordhan would be charged with corruption.

“The perception of interference compromised the integrity of the NPA,” Winks said. - Additional reporting by Khaya Koko