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By Editorial staff


Public protector gets a bloody nose

Public Protector's office faces costly court order, highlighting internal turmoil and ongoing legal battles.

It is ironic that the office of the public protector (PP) – which accused the axed Busisiwe Mkhwebane of running up huge legal bills in various cases – has now itself been smacked with a punitive costs order by a high court judge, sucking up more taxpayer money.

Judge Colleen Collis ruled yesterday the office should itself stick to the rules and not delay the court proceedings in which Mkhwebane is claiming she should be paid a R10 million gratuity due to her on leaving office.

ALSO READ: Mkhwebane’s gratuity battle: Public Protector’s Office stands firm

That substantial issue has still to be dealt with by the court… but it’s not a good look for the current public protector, Kholeka Gcaleka, to be exuding an air of malice against Mkhwebane.

Collis ordered Gcaleka to produce the documents upon which the decision to deny Mkhwebane the gratuity was based. One would have thought that these would have been at the very heart of the PP’s defence to Mkhwebane’s claims – so why they were not produced at the start is troubling.

The battle over the gratuity, however, should not excuse Mkhwebane’s conduct in a string of court cases – for which she was upbraided by judicial officers on numerous occasions for incompetence or ignorance of the law. In pursuing her own agenda, closely linked to that of former president Jacob Zuma and those orbiting him in the state capture solar system, she cost the office of the PP the staggering amount of more than R160 million in legal fees.

ALSO READ: ‘Disheartened’ Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s battle for R10 million goes to court (VIDEO)

Gcaleka has vehemently opposed Mkhwebane’s claims of financial hardship as grounds for urgent relief, citing her substantial income as a member of parliament.

She argued that Mkhwebane’s removal from office due to misconduct and incompetence disqualified her from claiming the gratuity.

The case will be an important benchmark when it comes to the behaviour of government officials.