Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane believes a personal costs order issued against her by the Constitutional Court sets a dangerous precedent, according to a report by the Sunday Times.
The apex court last month ruled that Mkhwebane should pay 15% of the South African Reserve Bank’s legal fees in the Absa/Bankorp matter.
The ConCourt found that Mkhwebane had put forward a "number of falsehoods" during litigation by the SARB against her June 2017 report, which recommended that Absa Bank pay back R1.2bn of an apartheid-era bailout and that the SARB scope be widened to include economic growth.
Mkhwebane told the Sunday Times that she "shouldn't have to pay for mere legal errors", adding that the cost order would weaken her office. According to her, the office of the Public Protector performed "quasi-judicial" functions, with its incumbent occupying a position similar to that of a judge.
She argued that the personal costs order set a dangerous precedent because it could encourage corrupt politicians to go to the courts in the hope that she could be made to pay their legal fees if they succeeded in overturning her reports.
The High Court in Pretoria in February 2018 set aside Mkhwebane's report on Absa/Bankorp, in what was a crushing defeat for the Public Protector's office. the Public Protector’s office was ordered to pay 85% of the SA Reserve Bank legal costs, while she was found personally responsible for 15% of the fees, leading to the appeal in the Constitutional Court.
Mkhwebane could end up paying hundreds of thousands of rands, Fin24 previously reported.