About R130 000 has been raised as part of a crowdfunding kitty to help the beleaguered Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, fulfil her obligation to pay the R900 000 that she is personally liable for.
This follows a Constitutional Court ruling, which confirmed an earlier Pretoria High Court ruling that set aside Mkhwebane’s 2017 Absa-Bankorp report and ordered her to pay 15% of the legal costs.
Thabo Mtshweni, the chairperson of civil society organisation Democracy in Action – which spearheaded the crowdfunding campaign – announced the amount that had thus far been collected on Friday. He did so during a prayer service for Mkhwebane organised by the Victory Fellowship Church in KwaMhlanga, Mpumalanga.
In attendance at the service were Mkhwebane’s family, her colleagues – but not her deputy, Kevin Malunga – traditional leaders, civic organisations and political parties such as the African Transformation Movement (ATM), the African People’s Convention (APC) and ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini.
Last year, the Pretoria High Court hit Mkhwebane with a punitive costs order pertaining to her Absa-Bankorp report, setting aside her finding that Absa should repay R1.1 billion to the Reserve Bank.
Mkhwebane challenged this order in the Constitutional Court, but the court upheld the previous finding that her investigation was flawed and that she had acted in bad faith.
Participants in the prayer meeting portrayed Mkhwebane as a victim and decried the punitive costs order.
The entire session focused on the judiciary, Parliament and the executive. Participants also made donations, but the amount was undisclosed.
The prayer meeting followed a decision by the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services on Tuesday to refer the question of an inquiry into Mkhwebane’s suitability as Public Protector to the rules committee.
This committee will be asked to draft rules that will serve as a guideline for the removal of any head of a chapter 9 institution.
Mkhwebane told the prayer gathering that she was wrongfully perceived as a politician and being part of a faction.
“The Reserve Bank is highly politicised. You do not touch the banks worldwide,” she said.
“Everything we do is according to the law ... Even if they remove me, I will always fight for the truth. Backward never,” Mkhwebane said in a speech peppered with biblical verses.
She said her mother did not want her to take the job after seeing how her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, was treated.
“After I was appointed, the DA said I am a spy. They will have to produce their evidence in court,” Mkhwebane said, adding that only her family and her teenage daughter needed prayers because “Busisiwe has peace that surpasses understanding”.
Mtshweni warned that when Parliament started the process to remove Mkhwebane, his organisation would lobby citizens to boycott paying their taxes.
“Our government is focusing on a well-functioning office of the Public Protector while we have problems such as nyaope and unemployment. When they start the process to remove you, we will ask citizens not to pay taxes.”
Dlamini said the ANC Women’s League would support Mkhwebane. She called on the judiciary, Parliament and the executive to respect chapter 9 institutions.
“We would not want to hear that the Public Protector died peacefully in her sleep, died in a car crash or ate poisoned food. I have experienced what is happening to you … to be forced to pay from your pocket for doing government’s job. They stop your pension because they want to flatten you,” said Dlamini.
APC president Themba Godi said that only African people were being policed and called to account since 1994, adding: “Judges are not God, they are human beings. They have friends, they read newspapers and they must be held accountable.”
ATM president Vuyo Zungula said: “It must be the people who say they don’t want the Public Protector. Everywhere you go, people are appreciating her work, but power is not with the people. Power is in the money.”