Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has hit back at critics who are calling for her head and those who say they no longer have confidence in her.
Mkhwebane has been under fire for months now with some calling for her to be fired as questions mount over whether she was the right person for the job.
The Democratic Alliance – which did not support her as a candidate following the departure of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela – has been leading the charge against her, while the EFF which had also criticised at some stage now standing firmly behind her.
Recently Mkhwebane has also locked horns with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan following a report which found the minister on the wrong side of the law, including misleading Parliament on meeting the Gupta family and on his involvement in the establishment of the so-called Sars “rogue unit” while he was the commissioner there.
Earlier this month Mkhwebane announced that President Cyril Ramaphosa should take disciplinary action against Gordhan for violation of the Constitution and Executive Ethics Code.
“On the issue of lack of confidence, one would say the public or people are saying that, but what sector and what class of community is saying that they don’t have confidence in the Public Protector when we have 90% of our complaints being resolved which are bread and butter issues? Mkhwebane said.
“We are making a difference in people’s lives. And some of the elite sector which is complaining about the Public Protector, who have the resources to even control the media and even control a narrative, they still come to the Public Protector and lodge complaints. So, I wouldn’t say there is any lack of confidence in the office. If you don’t have confidence in the office why bring complaints to the Public Protector?” she added.
Mkhwebane was on a two-day roadshow in the Eastern Cape where she met with provincial legislature speaker, Helen Sauls-August, the executive of the province, including premier Oscar Mabuyane and various communities in King William’s Town.
Mkhwebane also responded to the review application by Gordhan.
“On the issue of PG [Pravin Gordhan] review, yes we have lodged our … in fact we are appealing. Normally when there is an interdict, like the [Helen] Zille two interdicts which we did not oppose because they were dealing with purely legal and factual issues. In the Zille case they said they were interdicting the Public Protector whilst reviewing the decision. Therefore we said we would abide by the court decision in that matter while waiting for the review date.
“But in this one [Gordhan matter], the difference between the two is the way the court papers are crafted and also the personal costs order against the Public Protector in her personal capacity. There is a Public Protector and there is Busisiwe Mkhwebane – unfortunately it’s only the Public Protector, it’s one person whether you would want to do anything,” she said.
Mkhwebane said by opposing the matter she wanted to reveal her side of the story.
“You want to put your side of the story to assist the justice system to know this is the view of the minister, this is the view of the Public Protector, what is the middle ground and decide on that particular issue. So it’s just purely doing that, assisting the court,” she said.
Mkhwebane said remedial actions of the Public Protector were binding unless until set aside by a court of law.
She said taking a matter on review did not suspend implementation unless an aggrieved party also interdicts the implementation, where it is the implementer of the remedial action that is being interdicted.
Mkhwebane said her office had started its roadshow in Limpopo and that their focus this year was inducting the executives who have been appointed in the sixth administration.
“So every year the Public Protector would go around provinces as you would know the Constitution demands the Public Protector to be accessible, so it’s one way of being accessible to all the provinces,” she said.
Regarding the roadshow to the Eastern Cape, Mabuyane said the meeting with Mkwhebane had reminded them about the Constitution and the expectations of them as public representatives.
“We have been taken through on the brief and mandate of the PP [Public Protector]…It’s a question of us ensuring that there are consequences when wrong things are done. Sometimes some of these things don’t need the Public Protector; people go to her office simple because at an appropriate time those who are responsible to act, they don’t act,” said Mabuyane.