Thandi Modise must act on Public Protector

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane

National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise should immediately institute proceedings for the removal of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane “in the interests of all South Africans and our Constitution” according to the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac).

In a strongly worded statement issued by Casac’s governing council, the organisation said it was clear there were “fundamental, underlying issues” behind the standoff between Mkhwebane and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan that “went to the heart of South Africa’s constitutional democracy.”

“We believe that it [the spat] represents a struggle for control of the democratic state and for the resources that it has at its disposal. Under Jacob Zuma’s rule, those resources were systematically channelled towards illegitimate, private interests – as the Zondo Commission is revealing, chapter and verse, on a daily basis.

“In other words, our view is that it is part of a desperate and despicable fight-back by those who have the most to lose by the reforms initiated by President Ramaphosa, and who benefited most from the disreputable period of institutional degradation widely known now as state capture,” said Casac.

Casac pointed to the fact that the courts had on three occasions – the Absa, South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) and Vrede Dairy matters – overturned her findings and ruled that she had acted in an irrational and unconstitutional manner.

“In the Absa matter the courts found that she had exceeded her powers;in the Sarb matter she was slammed for her ‘superficial reasoning and erroneous findings’ and breaching the separation of powers by trying to usurp the authority of Parliament while in the Vrede matter the judges said her report “points either to ineptitude or gross negligence in the execution of her duties.”

While noting that Gordhan was not above the law, the body said “unrelenting pursuit” of the minister on issues that have been “decisively dealt with before” was an abuse of her powers.

It charged that contrary to her oath of office and her own public protestations, she was not “exercising her powers without fear or favour, but in service of certain factional and other vested interests.”

The statement went on to say that the office of the Public Protector was being abused as part of a political campaign to derail the Ramaphosa administration’s anti-corruption efforts.

Since Parliament was the only authority constitutionally empowered to investigate the Public Protector, it was incumbent on Modise to institute proceedings immediately so that “this harmful issue can be resolved as quickly as possible.”

It says she must act in accordance with Section 194 of the Constitution which empowers Parliament to remove the head of a Chaper 9 institution on the grounds “of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence”.

“This is yet another fork in the road for modern South Africa. Our constitutional integrity is once again at stake and we must not under-estimate the threat that is being posed,” said Casac.

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