Mkhwebane is running out of road

We’re finally getting somewhere with beleaguered Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s impeachment process. 

Quick background: Parliament is embroiled in a (years-long) process to work out how to impeach Mkhwebane. Its caution is necessary – the office of the public protector must be protected against any dodgy attacks by the government. Imagine if the ANC under Jacob Zuma could have impeached former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela! As is her right, Mkhwebane has fought tooth and nail against the process. She’s scored some wins in court on procedural grounds – like the right to legal representation. However, to her dismay, the Constitutional Court ruled earlier this year that the process could go ahead.

So on Friday she filed new papers to the ConCourt telling the land’s top judges that they got it wrong (wow).  Taking a page straight from Former President Jacob Zuma’s Stalingrad book, Mkhwebane has warned she’ll use “protracted” litigation to stop the impeachment.

This all comes on the back of another case that illustrates why she’s being impeached in the first place: her long-running legal tussle with President Cyril Ramaphosa over his campaign payments to become ANC president. Her report was so legally dodgy (she literally changed the wording of the Executive Ethics Code to support her finding!) that it was overturned all the way to the ConCourt. She tried to get the court to rescind (overturn) its ruling against her. Well, she’s run out of legal road on this one: the ConCourt unanimously dismissed her latest rescission application on Wednesday (two days before she launched her latest legal salvo against the separate impeachment matter).

We don’t necessarily think that Ramaphosa’s infamous CR17 payments campaign was without fault. But Mkhwebane’s dubious reports all seem to be in service of the faction that’s aligned to Zuma and the state capture project. Those reports have been aimed at, among others, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan and the SA Reserve Bank. (She’s currently battling the bank on a separate perjury matter because clearly girlfriend loves fighting it out in court.) 

Parliament is hoping to conclude the impeachment process in September. If it finds against her, this will essentially pave the way for her suspension.

Our Public Protector is an independent ombudsman for government services. It should be the spot where you can complain about any government department. But those in the position historically whitewashed the government’s mistakes, until Madonsela put it on the map by taking the “independent” bit seriously. We’re hoping to see that restored when Mkhwebane finally gets the boot or her seven-year term expires in October 2023. 

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 17 March  2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.