An issue that won’t die down is that of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Over the past few weeks, she has managed to place herself and her office at the centre of breaking news, even though none of the news is very flattering.
She has been at odds to explain her lack of bias towards the president and his Cabinet.
There are a number of issues that need to be taken into account when assessing her actions. The most important is the place of her office in relation to government. She has the powers to hold the executive to account – and those are no ordinary powers. In the past, her office has played a role in the forever-changing political landscape in SA, albeit under the guidance of then public protector Thuli Madonsela.
Why is it necessary to examine her powers? Because she doesn’t fully appreciate those powers.
She has gone on record saying “God placed me in that office and only God can remove me”. She has had an equivalent of a meltdown on Twitter and continues to deny alleged links with the Guptas, former president Jacob Zuma or the faction that wants President Cyril Ramaphosa gone.
The most intriguing of her tweets relates to how people are persecuting her for “only” two rulings that have gone against her in the courts. That is one elementary mistake a person of her stature should never make. It’s no use churning out hundreds of reports that don’t go anywhere and then claim “only” two cases have been decided against her.
An advocate should know it’s not just a numbers game – it is how deep the flaws in her reports were: 200 flimsy cases against one that rules her investigations and findings unconstitutional is very damaging.
She claims “people must comply with her remedial action because as long as she’s in that office, she’s still the public protector.” That is shallow thinking. Were it not for the parliamentary break due to elections, chances are she would be facing an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.
It then beggars belief that on the back of a ruling that has been deemed “unconstitutional”, she has gone straight ahead, all guns blazing, to defend her other findings.
What has become clear is that, like a raging bull in a china shop, she has decided to issue as many reports as possible – in the process, damaging the reputations of whoever happens to be in her crosshairs.
The reports against President Ramaphosa first appeared as leaks, not allowing those implicated an opportunity to study the report and decide whether to take it on review or not. What is amazing is the speed at which her office worked to release the report into allegations against Deputy President David Mabuza. Unlike Gordhan and Ramaphosa, there is no need for a damaging lingering wait. Her office even refused the president an opportunity to extend the days in which he can respond.
The public protector needs to wake up and realise no one is unfairly gunning for her. Her predecessor, Madonsela, was called a CIA spy and other, worse, things. Playing victim to the public gallery can only earn you so much sympathy.
In the end, the tough questions will come: how does an advocate miss that her report is unconstitutional? Or even worse, as in the Absa matter, release a report riddled with inaccuracies?