And she’s out! Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is the first high-ranking member of a Chapter 9 institution to be suspended.
Remember when we told you that President Cyril Ramaphosa wrote to Mkhwebane in March, asking if she thinks she should be suspended while her impeachment hearings were under way? Well, forget the pleasantries. She went to court to stop him and, last Thursday (just as we had published, no less), he suspended her. The next day the Western Cape High Court ruled against her bid to halt both the impeachment and Ramaphosa’s suspension.The drama!
Although many would ordinarily have welcomed these developments, the timing looked sus. The president announced Mkhwebane’s suspension a day after she launched an investigation into the “Farmgate” scandal, in which Ramaphosa is currently embroiled (more on this later). As Sunday Times columnist Barney Mthombothi noted: “Ramaphosa cannot be faulted for suspending Mkhwebane. The only criticism is that he should have done it sooner. Of course doing it now invites the understandable suspicion that he’s taken the decision to save his own skin.”
The president is well within his rights to suspend her because the Constitution allows him to do so at any time after the impeachment process begins.
That means he could have done this in March, when a huge majority of Parliament (230:40) voted to go ahead with the impeachment process given her dodgy track record. This includes:
- At least eight of her reports were overturned by courts, making her personally liable for some costs.
- Lying to the Constitutional Court to justify her findings into Ramaphosa’s 2017 ANC campaign finances 😳.
- A host of politically motivated reports aligned with the state capture lot, such as her botched South African Reserve Bank/Absa report, where she bizarrely recommended the Reserve Bank’s mandate be changed, or the Estina Dairy Farm matter, which whitewashed the behaviour of Gupta-linked faves like Ace Magashule.
- Two instances of perjury (lying under oath) – she’s being investigated by the NPA and will probably be disbarred if found guilty.
That’s just some of her dodgy behaviour, since she took over from Thuli Madonsela in 2016.
Mkhwebane likely won’t return: she’s suspended till the impeachment process begins and she probably will get axed permanently. Her deputy, Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka, will act in the role. But expect those aligned with her to make a big stink about her being ousted to protect Ramaphosa.