Public Protector appears in court, case postponed as NPA announces it's ready for trial

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  • Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane has become the first Public Protector to appear in court on criminal charges.
  • Mkhwebane made her first appearance in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Thursday on three charges of perjury.
  • She will be making representations to the NDPP to have the matter withdrawn.

While the State is ready to put advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane on trial for perjury, the Public Protector has launched her first line of defence and will be making representations in a bid to have the charges dropped.

This was revealed in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Thursday when Mkhwebane made her first appearance.

State prosecutor Connie Erasmus told the court that both the State and defence agreed to a postponement to resolve pre-trial issues.

Mkhwebane, who has become the first Public Protector to be criminally charged, sat in the dock as her legal representative advocate Dali Mpofu, SC, explained what pre-trial issues needed to be addressed.

Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane in the dock at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court.
Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane in the dock at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court.

Mpofu told the court they intend making representations to the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) to have the charges withdrawn. He said the defence regarded the charges as frivolous and contrived.

READ | Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to make first court appearance, facing perjury charges

He added that if the representations are unsuccessful, they may very well approach the High Court to have the NDPP's decision reviewed.

In a statement, National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said the investigation into the matter had been completed and that the State was ready to proceed with the trial.

Mkhwebane has been charged with three counts of perjury.

The perjury charges, laid against Mkhwebane by non-profit organisation Accountability Now in August 2019, stem from the findings of the Constitutional Court in the Absa/Bankorp review case.

In December last year, the Gauteng Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) announced the decision to criminally prosecute the Public Protector. 

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane appears in the
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane appears in the dock on 21 January 2021.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane speaks to her
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane speaks to her legal representative advocate Dali Mpofu in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on 21 January 2021.

On Thursday, the National Prosecuting Authority said its investigation was complete and the State was ready for trial.

READ | ConCourt upholds cost order against Mkhwebane, rules she was 'not honest' in Absa investigation

The State alleges that Mkhwebane lied under oath in November 2017 when she unlawfully and intentionally deposed to an answering affidavit under oath in a Gauteng High Court review application.

The review application followed a judgment on her report in which she directed the Special Investigating Unit to recover R1.125 billion in "misappropriated public funds", describing the funds as an "illegal gift" given to Bankorp by the SA Reserve Bank in the 1980s.

News24 previously reported that the ConCourt judgment upheld the February 2018 Gauteng High Court ruling that Mkhwebane pay 15% of the Reserve Bank's legal fees in the Absa/Bankorp review case.

It agreed with the lower court ruling that her entire Absa/Bankorp investigation was flawed and that she was not honest during her investigation.

The court also found that Mkhwebane had acted in bad faith and put forward a "number of falsehoods" during the litigation, News24 reported.

The matter has been postponed to 25 March.

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