Public Protector Mkhwebane displeased with justice committee

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (File, Netwerk24)
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (File, Netwerk24)

Johannesburg - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has set the record straight on a Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services decision to summon her to appear before it in connection with her work

The committee said at the weekend that it had decided to urgently call Mkhwebane to appear before it to explain comments she made about not having the capacity or financial resources to investigate information relating to the Gupta Leaks.

ALSO READ: Public Protector quietly releases Vrede dairy report, finds 'gross negligence'

But, in a statement, Mkhwebane said she only received official correspondence summoning her to appear from the committee on Monday.

"This is despite the fact that a media statement on the matter was issued by the committee at the weekend already," her office said.

She said she was deeply disturbed that she has to use the media to express her displeasure.

Committee chairperson Dr Mathole Motshekga said, at the time that it announced its decision, that the committee was "extremely concerned" about her comments and needed "clarity on what exactly she is trying to convey".

"We have further noted with grave concern allegations of her office suppressing some evidence. This type of allegations only tarnishes the good image of the office of the Public Protector," Motshekga had said.

However, the office of the Public Protector has responded that a Chapter 9 institution was established to support constitutional democracy and it was required to be independent and to perform its functions without fear, favour or prejudice.

"The committee has a constitutional obligation to assist and protect the office of the Public Protector so as to ensure the office's independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness.

"Despite the fact that it is not clear to her as to which public utterances will be the subject of the meeting in Parliament on Wednesday, Mkhwebane has confirmed her attendance."

Mkhwebane found in her report that there were procurement irregularities, "gross negligence" and maladministration related to the controversial Vrede dairy project in the Free State.

The Public Protector recommended as remedial action that Free State Premier Ace Magashule should "initiate and institute disciplinary action against all implicated officials involved in the Vrede dairy project".

DA federal chair James Selfe said on Monday that the remedial action was a clear conflict of interest as Magashule was implicated in the matter. Some of the revelations in the leaked Gupta emails were also not investigated.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane called for Mkhwebane's report to go on review.

In response, Mkhwebane, said the Public Protector's office will be defending this "vexatious litigation".

"It erodes public confidence and slowly chips away at the integrity of democratic institutions when we don't engage those institutions constructively, but rather use our social capital to bully and bulldoze others into parroting our world views.

"We will defend the brand of the office of the Public Protector, we will defend the integrity of our work and we will defend the dignity of the hardworking people that make this institution work."

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