Ramaphosa raises 'grave concerns' about Public Protector's grasp of the law - report

Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Gallo Images/Getty Images

President Cyril Ramaphosa has reportedly raised "grave concerns" about Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's grasp of the law in court papers filed on Wednesday. 

Ramaphosa is not the first to question Mkhwebane's competence. 

Fin24 previously reported that calls have intensified for Mkhwebane to be fired with the DA seeking to revive a parliamentary process to remove her from office.  

The Congress of the People called for Mkhwebane's head, describing her as "incompetent".

Trade union federation Cosatu said Ramaphosa should set aside all Mkhwebane's reports until her competency and trustworthiness have been ascertained.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse also called for the Public Protector's reports to be set aside until her fitness for office has been reviewed.

Mkhwebane found Ramaphosa had violated the executive code of ethics by not declaring donations to his presidential campaign in 2017, News24 reported.

She also found the statesman had deliberately misled Parliament when he responded to a question about the R500 000 donation from former Bosasa boss Gavin Watson in the National Assembly.

'Factual inaccuracies'

Ramaphosa has since decided to take Mkhwebane's report into his campaign finances, which found he had violated the executive code of ethics, on an urgent judicial review. He said the report contained "numerous factual inaccuracies of a material nature" and was "fundamentally flawed". 

According to Business Day, in court papers filed on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said the Public Protector acted "outside of her authority" and "lacked jurisdiction" to investigate the funds which were paid into the CR17 campaign. He reportedly said those donations did not implicate the state, public administration or public affairs in any manner whatsoever. "They are donations made to a campaign."

READ: Ramaphosa takes Public Protector's 'fundamentally flawed' report on urgent court review

Ramaphosa said there were no factual foundation for any suspicion of a prima facie case of money-laundering and Mkhwebane used the law defining corruption to make her "wholly incompetent" finding of potential money-laundering about his campaign, Business Day reported.

"Corruption and money-laundering are two legally distinct concepts. By confusing these two statutes, the public protector has shown a grave misunderstanding of the law," he reportedly said, adding that it was "gravely concerning" that she appeared to be unable to distinguish between the two.

A number of Mkhwebane's reports have either been set aside or taken under review.

According to Business Day, a total of 30 Public Protector reports have been taken on review to date.

In addition, her fitness to hold office is being examined by Parliament's justice and correctional services portfolio committee.

'Incompetent'

After being in office for more than two years, Mkhwebane has faced criticism for some of her reports, and it has been said that she is "incompetent" and that her credibility has "plummeted".

Mkhwebane previously said that her office was going through "testing times" and that the institution was faced with attacks from every angle, including the "most unfair reporting in the media".

On July 22, The Constitutional Court agreed with the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria that her entire ABSA/Bankorp investigation was flawed, and that Mkhwebane had not been honest during her investigation.

In a devastating ruling, the court set aside her report, as well as the remedial action she had recommended, and ordered her to personally pay some of her opponents' legal costs.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan also filed court papers on July 10, in an urgent bid to interdict remedial actions in a report released by Mkhwebane on July 5.

ALSO READ: Gordhan files review of 'dishonest, reckless' Mkhwebane’s 'rogue unit' report

The papers were filed in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday and are in response to Mkhwebane's report on SARS and conduct by Gordhan, particularly surrounding the so-called "rogue unit".

In May, Gordhan filed a separate review application of a report by Mkhwebane that relates to the early retirement of former SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay.

In May, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled that Mkhwebane failed in her duties to investigate and report on the Vrede dairy project in the Free State.

Judge Ronel Tolmay ruled that Mkhwebane's report was unconstitutional and invalid, and set it aside on the grounds that she failed in her duties to investigate and report on the controversial project.

The High Court said the Public Protector acted irrationally by neglecting a complaint laid in May 2016 regarding the project.

According to Business Day, Ramaphosa's application for an interdict to suspend Mkhwebane's remedial action is scheduled to be heard on August 12.

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