Be accountable like Mandela, Public Protector urges provincial executives

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Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane during the release of her report Nelson Mandela's funeral funds inquiry.  (Phill Magakoe/ The Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images, file)
Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane during the release of her report Nelson Mandela's funeral funds inquiry. (Phill Magakoe/ The Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images, file)

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has urged the executive arms of government to emulate former president Nelson Mandela by submitting themselves to accountability processes whenever their conduct is under the scrutiny of constitutional institutions.

Mkhwebane was referring to 1998 when Mandela was summoned to appear before Judge William de Villiers regarding his decision in 1997 to establish a commission of inquiry into the affairs of the South African Rugby Football Union, including allegations of racism, corruption and nepotism.

"Even when his own supporters saw his appearance in court as a humiliation, Mandela was not offended. Instead, he saw his attendance of the proceedings as a sign of respect for the administration of justice," she said while addressing Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane and his provincial cabinet on the eve of Nelson Mandela International Day in Bhisho.

The Public Protector met with the provincial executive on Wednesday as part of a stakeholder roadshow on her office's powers to enforce the executive code of ethics under the Executive Members’ Ethics Act.

Mkhwebane reflected on various instances where subjects of her investigation refused to submit themselves to accountability processes and instead opted to rather discredit her.

"I have found this to be problematic. One hopes that one day sanity will prevail and that people will in the end understand that we are all equal before the law as the Constitution tells us," she added.

The Public Protector previously warned organs of state that her remedial action was binding - not optional.

Mkhwebane once held a briefing in February to name and shame members of the executive who had defied her orders in a bid "to get them to do the right thing", News24 earlier reported.

ALSO READ: Public Protector names and shames ministers who defied her orders

She has come under fire following a recently released report that found against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan when he was the then-commissioner at SARS in 2009.

Gordhan filed court papers in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in an urgent bid to interdict Mkhwebane's remedial actions surrounding the so-called "rogue unit", News24 earlier reported.

She recently faced an urgent court application from President Cyril Ramaphosa asking the court to declare that he had complied with remedial actions set out by her as she had directed in her recently released report into the pension payout of Ivan Pillay, the Mail&Guardian reported.

ALSO READ: Ramaphosa files urgent court application against Public Protector - report

Mkhwebane took the opportunity to take Mabuyane and his team through some of the investigations her office has conducted in relation to alleged violations of the executive ethics code.

"These included complaints against former MEC Pemmy Majodina, erstwhile Western Cape premier Helen Zille, former ministers Malusi Gigaba, Des van Rooyen and Lynne Brown as well as Fikile Mbalula."

She also encouraged the provincial cabinet to ensure they disclose their members' interests within the period prescribed by the law.

Mkhwebane is expected to continue with her activities in the Eastern Cape before meeting with Gauteng Premier David Makhura and his cabinet as part of the roadshow towards the end of August.

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