Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has disputed reports that she has “ordered” parliament to amend the constitution.
She said in a radio interview on Tuesday: “If you read the report together with its remedial action, it says the chairperson of the committee must initiate a process that may result in the amendment. I am not prescriptive of what they must do. They could come back and say they will not be amending the constitution.”
Mkhwebane reiterated that people should the report in full before passing value judgments on her remedial actions on Sarb.
The public protector also dismissed Sarb’s media statement that her remedial actions allegedly “fall outside her powers and are unlawful” and that they would be bringing an urgent application to set aside her reviews.
“Remember the public protector has a social justice element; as an ombudsman we have to take those issues into cognisance. On the social aspect of things, people are being impacted on. Nothing is stopping the public protector to investigate any conduct and any legislative provision,” she said.
Speaking to various media houses this morning, the public protector made it clear that, in her view, Sarb is too focused on stabilising the currency to the detriment of poor South Africans. She said she relied on section 182 of the constitution, not any clause from the Public Protector Act, when directing the legislature to realign Sarb’s mandate with government’s developmental agenda.
Also on Tuesday morning, in a long Facebook post, former SA Reserve Bank (Sarb) governor Tito Mboweni reminded South Africans that the CIEX matter had twice been dealt with in the past – by a Judge Willem Heath special investigating unit as well as a panel of experts.
“On the basis of that report, and its recommendations, the matter was concluded. Yes, I must admit, that a different panel might have come to a different conclusion as these matters normally are the case,” he wrote.
Mkhwebane said despite the public protector act being silent on the issue, she used her discretion to redress the CIEX matter.
“The legal basis is that in the investigation of maladministration and abuse of state resources and power, we have to redress whoever we are assisting. We also check what prejudice did the complainant suffer. In this particular instance … is to call for policy and legislative changes,” she said.
Mkhwebane’s findings found resonance with Mboweni who, despite being in London and having “not seen the report of the PP”, said there was no reason for the hysteria accompanying the report.
“I don’t think that the PP’s report was meant to fuel political issues in this year of schizophrenic political tensions. She was just doing her job within the available capabilities. Stay calm. No heroics needed,” Mboweni wrote.
He hinted, though, that upon reading the report his views might change.
“Political considerations have to be considered, yes, but they must not be above all else. That is why political authorities entrust this responsibility (central banking) to an independent institution, the central bank.”