The problem is that when general policy failure happens, it is unjustifiable to conclude that the general policy failures are caused by affirmative action, writes Ralph Mathekga.
Showers late. Mostly sunny. Mild.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is seated in Parliament to face questions from the portfolio committee on justice. (Paul Herman, News24)
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The ominous signs were there. It started
off as an office fight over the DSTV remote control. Her preferred channel, the
one that is a product of state capture, had to prevail.
She abruptly moved staff around before she
could appraise their strengths and weaknesses. It was as if a politician had
just been appointed into a new office, bringing with her own advisors.
In addition to refusing to partake in a
proper handover process, she went on to start a quarrel over the usage of a car
by her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela. She triggered a war of words with
Madonsela, who eventually accused her of lying – an accusation more prescient
than the public would have imagined.
Bizarrely, she accepted an invitation to
give a public lecture before she could prove herself on any aspect of the work
of the public protector. She had not investigated any matter.
From the beginning, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the
public protector of our Republic, had the wrong priorities. Without showing she had
an interest in what she was employed to do – to protect the public against
corruption, abuse of power and maladministration – she asked the police to
Madonsela’s sin was to release a recording of
a state capture interview she conducted with then president Jacob Zuma where he
refused to answer questions. How the release of the recording by Madonsela to
protect the integrity of the public protector’s office, which was under attack
by Zuma, constituted a breach of law to warrant police intervention is a matter
Mkhwebane is yet to explain.
Madonsela had tried to prove Zuma was lying
when he told the public and the court he had never been given an opportunity to
answer the allegation that he was involved in state capture.
All the above were Mkhwebane’s
preliminaries of what was to come. We can’t say warning shots were not fired.
Notwithstanding the warning, the public response was that she should be allowed
to continue with her job. It was too early to judge her. Very fair indeed.
But the Bankorp-CIEX report laid bare
Mkhwebane’s incompetence and malicious behaviour for all to see. She challenged
the very constitution that established her own office by recommending that it
be amended to change the mandate of the Reserve Bank.
Instead of protecting the
value of the currency, as is currently the case, she said it should be given
some undefined socio-economic responsibilities.
To support her argument, she referred
anonymously to "leading scholars" without citing scholarly publications on the
subjects of monetary policy and banking systems. She never explained why a
complaint about the handling of Reserve Bank life boat given to Bankorp, later
inherited by Absa, had anything to do with the bank’s responsibility to protect
the value of the currency.
She also never said, after her proposal to
change the mandate of the Reserve Bank, who should protect the value of the
currency. But what was clear in her report was that she had been influenced by
people with vested interests.
She uncritically swallowed their
ideological garbage – a sign of sheer lack of independence on her part. It was
also an irrefutable case of dishonesty. Even worse was that she did not fully
disclose the details of her meeting with people who were extraneous to the
case. Nor did she give other parties like the Reserve Bank and Absa the right
to respond to information she got from meetings with the Presidency and state security
Following a public uproar and an appeal to
have her report set aside, she responded by saying she was merely making a
recommendation. A response judge John Murphy correctly described her as "disingenuous". The synonym for the word is "untruthful". Remember Masonsela’s
words about lying?
If this did not disqualify her to be a
public protector, surely nothing will. Her conduct had now gone passed the
warning shots. She was now substantively involved in hollowing out the moral
and constitutional authority of her office.
Her report on the Free State dairy farm
scandal would take the hollowing out of the office to deeper levels. Mkhwebane
inherited the investigation from Madonsela. But before Mkhwebane could conclude
it, allegations surfaced of Gupta links and widespread looting. It was widely
reported that money meant to uplift aspirant black farmers was looted in an
elaborate scheme that would have been impossible to implement by officials
without political approval.
But Mkhwebane’s report said nothing about politicians.
Instead, it asked the very same politicians to discipline the officials who
were invariably instructed by politicians to misappropriate public money for
nefarious ends. In response to public concern, she said she didn’t investigate
politicians because she had not received complaints related to them.
This was an insult to the collective
intelligence of South Africans. The Public Protector’s Act makes it plain that
she is entitled to institute an investigation even if there is no complaint.
She was called to explain herself in Parliament.
The grilling by MPs was dangerous. She will now investigate politicians not
because she, on her own, thought there is something worth investigating, but rather
because the people who employed her say so.
Now, where is her independence if she was
ever predisposed to such? It should be evident by now that having an
incompetent and dishonest person occupy such an important office opens it up to the wrong influences. It compromises the integrity of the office.
By allowing her to continue in office with
full knowledge of her incompetence, Parliament itself might be in breach of the Constitution.
- Mkhabela is a political analyst with the Department of Political Sciences at the University of South Africa.
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.
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