Guest Column

Criticism of Mkhwebane highlights a harsh truth

2019-07-26 11:28
Advocate Busisiwe Mkhebane, the Public Protector, at her office in Pretoria. (Photo: TEBOGO LETSIE)

Advocate Busisiwe Mkhebane, the Public Protector, at her office in Pretoria. (Photo: TEBOGO LETSIE)

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The popular readings of the Mkhwebane situation fail to remember the Marxist lesson that in a capitalist society hegemonic views represent the interests of the ruling class. And in South Africa the ruling class is unmistakably white, writes Mcebo Dlamini.

The purpose of lynching was not only to punish a slave who has erred or only for the satisfaction of white people. Lynching also played an important role in instilling terror and fear in other slaves. It was a demonstration to other slaves on what could happen to them if they did not follow the instructions of the master.

The strategy has outlived the Willie Lynch period because it's still used by many groups around the world to suppress dissenting voices. I suspect that this strategy might also be at play in the continuing debate and controversies around the Public Protector Advocate Busi Mkhwebane who has been occupying the headlines for weeks now.

A number of political analysts have had much to say on this issue but what seems to be problematic with most of the opinions that are propounded is that they seem to be devoid of history. As if what is happening is novel and there are no people who have written and perhaps predicted that in a country that is still laden with vestiges of colonialism something like this would happen. That those who have economic power control the narrative and determine the terms under which society understands transgressions and punishes those who transgress.

The popular readings of the Mkhwebane situation fail to remember the Marxist lesson that in a capitalist society views that will become hegemonic are views that represent the interests of the ruling class. And as I always say, in South Africa the ruling class is unmistakably white and we must never at any point forget that.

In 2017 Mkhwebane released a report that recommended that Absa bank must pay R1.1bn from the apartheid deal it had with the SA Reserve Bank. This finding was one of the first post-1994 findings that sought to make white people and the institutions they run accountable and liable for what they did during apartheid. This is to say there have been very few investigations that have recommended remedial action for the transgressions and irregularities that took place during the apartheid era.

The trend in this country is that those who committed crimes and took advantage of apartheid have gotten away with impunity. If this was not the case the inequalities that exist today where whites are in control of the economy and blacks are in squalor would have long been reversed.

Anyways, Absa did not receive this decision very well; they therefore made an application to the High Court where they argued that the Public Protector acted in bad faith and "egregiously fell short of what is required" of her office. Absa continued to state that her report on the matter was flawed. The Constitutional Court found that indeed the report was flawed, that "she put forward a number of falsehoods including misrepresenting under oath". The court then ordered her to pay personally for the legal costs which amount to around R900 000.

This is not shocking. Marx and Engels in their theory do quite often mention the fact that in a capitalist economy the law becomes nothing but an instrument that in many ways favours those who control the means of production. But the big lesson here is that when one steps on the toes of those who control the means of production (in the case of South Africa white people) there is bound to be consequences and Mkhwebane is currently facing those consequences.

Maybe it is coincidence and maybe it is not, but this judgment is handed just when the Public Protector has ruffled the feathers of Minister Pravin Jamnandas Gordhan. In a report on an investigation into the establishment of the "rogue unit", Mkhwebane found that the setting up of the unit, approved by Gordhan when he was finance minister, was in violation of the Constitution. Her remedial action was to give the president of country 30 days to discipline him. Of course the discipline has not taken place. The report on the “rogue unit” is also currently challenged through the courts. Gordhan is a stakeholder in many of the multi-corportions and has had relations with many people who control big business and consequently enjoys their support while the Public Protector is slammed and her capacity questioned.

Without wanting to draw parallels between how allegations of corruption that concern white people are dealt with differently from allegations that concern blacks one cannot help but see the stark differences. Not so long ago Jacob Zuma was found to have misused public funds by the Public Protector and to have been instrumental in what became popular as the state capture. A commission was formed. The then Public Protector was heralded as the defender of the people. Of course maybe she was but the other truth is that the cases she pursued concerned irregularities that mostly concerned black people.

Mkhwebane decides to do the opposite and her capabilities are questioned to an extent of even questioning her capacity to be on the advocates' roll. This is quite problematic because to me it gives the impression that blacks are the only people who are capable of being corrupt. Hell, even when white people are found guilty it is called irregularities or collusion and never corruption. This trend ought to be stopped, this narrative ought to be challenged.

For me the question of Busi Mkhwebane is not just a question of processes, procedures and constitutionality. To me it illuminates the truth that is already there. It says that there is a group of people in this country whose actions are not supposed to be questioned and challenged for if they are challenged there will be consequences. Mkhwebane seems to be facing those consequences. Perhaps her report was flawed but is it not true that whites benefited arbitrarily from apartheid and they still continue to benefit?

Is it not true that there is always a whip looming when blacks err and that whip is found wanting when it is white people? The case studies of are numerous but the big and most important question is what do we do as black people about this sad state of affairs?

- Dlamini is a former SRC president and student activist. He writes in his personal capacity.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    busisiwe mkhwebane  |  pravin gordhan  |  public protector


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