‘Focus on the public and not you’: Mkhwebane’s parting words to PP office

Fired public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says she leaves the office "a very proud person".

Fired public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says she leaves the office “a very proud person”, telling her former staff to focus on the public and not themselves. 

Mkhwebane was fired by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday, a month before her tenure of office was due to end. Her seven-year term was supposed to expire in mid-October.

Speaking to Newzroom Afrika, Mkhwebane said she did her best as Public Protector. 

Under her leadership, the Public Protector’s office received three clean audits. These were for 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22.

“From my side, I have done my part. As leader of that institution, I had three clean audits. I improved the performance of that office from below 20% in October 2016 to above 79% on our core mandate. 

“I am a very proud person. I would say to the public protector staff, please, your focus should be on the public and not about you. But make sure you help the public and protect them from the abuse of the state,” she said.

Predetermined removal

Mkhwebane said she was not surprised about her removal, maintaining it was illegal and unlawful.

“The process was a predetermined outcome. This is so vindictive to the point where I am left with less than six weeks in office and it has been implemented,” she said.

Parliament denied the removal was predetermined, saying the Section 194 Committee exercised and executed its task, as per the National Assembly rules read together with the Constitution. 

“The committee had no predetermined outcome on the inquiry which is evidenced by the extensive fact-finding exercise that it undertook,” said parliament. 

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“Ever since the committee’s hearings began on 11 July 2022 with opening statements by the evidence leaders and Mkhwebane’s legal representatives, Mkhwebane made it clear she was participating in the proceedings under protest and viewed it as a politically motivated campaign against her.

“Had the committee had a predetermined outcome it would not have been necessary for it to call so many witnesses and conduct a protracted process to establish the facts. The committee made it clear that it would not place blind reliance on the numerous adverse court findings against Mkhwebane or the report of the Independent Panel but would seek to establish facts.

“This thorough report of the committee illustrates the extent to which the Committee engaged with evidence in reaching its recommendation. Contrary to the narrative there was a predetermined outcome, the committee absolved Mkhwebane of some of the sub-charges and provides detailed reasoning where it found her to have misconducted herself or to have acted incompetently,” it added. 

Golden handshake

Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said parliament was in the best place to answer whether Mkhwebane would lose her benefits or receive a “golden handshake” following her removal from office.

Magwenya said Ramaphosa had already “fulfilled his constitutional obligation”.

Asked whether Ramaphosa found it difficult to officially fire Mkhwebane considering that she is the first public protector to be impeached, Magwenya said it was not “an issue of emotions”.

“This is a process that’s well guided by the Constitution in terms of steps that have to be undertaken to effect the removal of the Public Protector from office. It’s not a matter that the president or anybody can conduct themselves arbitrarily… the Constitution lays out very clear that have to be undertaken and the president has strictly followed those guidelines and stipulations.”

Additional reporting by Molefe Seeletsa

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Busisiwe Mkhwebane Parliament public protector

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