The African National Congress on Wednesday came to the defence of public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane following steps by parliament’s oversight committee on justice and correctional services to hold an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.
ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said the governing party noted the developments with “grave concern” and described the intended inquiry as nothing but an opportunistic witch-hunt by opposition parties.
Ironically, the move to establish the probe into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office, as requested by the Democratic Alliance (DA), was supported by a majority of ANC MPs in the parliamentry committee.
“The ANC views this intended inquiry in a very dim light, believing it to be an opportunist exercise requested by the opposition for political expediency,” said Kodwa in a statement.
“Disagreement or discomfort with the investigations and outcomes of investigations of the Public Protector does not render the incumbent unfit for office, it simply means the aggrieved party does not agree and should therefore seek other remedies, including judicial review of the Public Protector’s rulings, as provided for in our legislation.”
On Tuesday, the portfolio committee said in a statement the matter was put to a vote after its chairperson, Mathole Motshekga, recommended that the committee should instead consider establishing an ad-hoc committee to probe the public protector’s fitness to hold office, but this was rejected by ANC MPs.
Kodwa said Mkhwebane was appointed to her current position last year after an exhaustive and thoroughgoing process by parliament, which declared her a “fit and proper person to hold such office”.
He said Mkhwebane dedicated her work to “serving the masses of our people rather than solely conducting Hollywood-style investigations”.
“Further, she has dared to question the mandate of the Reserve Bank and called upon Absa, successor to apartheid-era bank Bankorp, to repay monies lent to them by the Reserve Bank. She has clearly rattled cages and unsettled entrenched interests,” said Kodwa.
Despite receiving widespread criticisms over her controversial Absa/Bankorp report – in which Mkhwebane had ordered parliament to change the SA Reserve Bank’s mandate – and allegations that she met with the Presidency and the State Security Agency to attack and undermine the authority of the central bank, Kodwa said she had not been found guilty of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence.
“Advocate Mkhwebane falls into none of these categories. Instead she has been at the receiving end of a concerted campaign to discredit her since her appointment almost a year ago. The proposed inquiry is merely a witch-hunt designed by the opposition to intimidate her into silence and bend her to their warped views on what constitutes the work of the Public Protector,” he said.