Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says she doesn’t have an issue with President Cyril Ramaphosa delegating any official from the Presidency, such as Deputy President David Mabuza, to suspend her pending the conclusion of the parliamentary impeachment process against her.
Mkhwebane last week lodged an urgent court bid to interdict Parliament from proceeding with the impeachment process.
In her application before the Western Cape High Court, she also wants an order preventing Ramaphosa from suspending her from office, arguing that he is conflicted in her office’s ongoing investigations.
The investigations are reportedly related to the controversial South African Air Force flight to Zimbabwe in 2020 on which senior ANC officials received a lift, allegations of judicial capture and claims that Ramaphosa knew about the abuse of state funds during the ANC’s elective conferences.
Due to these ongoing probes, Mkhwebane said she wouldn’t have an issue if Ramaphosa delegated any other official in the Presidency to suspend her, as long as it’s not him personally issuing the suspension.
“He can delegate to any person… he agreed that he’s conflicted [and] even now he’s conflicted,” she said.
Mkhwebane made these remarks on Monday evening in a wide-ranging interview with eNCA’s Power to Truth with JJ Tabane.
‘What damage am I doing?’
According to the public protector, she doesn’t believe that her suspension would serve any purpose because she said she wouldn’t interfere with any witnesses or evidence related to the Section 194 committee dealing with her impeachment.
The committee is named after the section of the Constitution that deals with the removal of Chapter 9 Institution heads.
“What damage am I doing? When you suspend and remove a person, you do that if you feel that they will interfere with the evidence and the witnesses.
“What evidence am I going to interfere with because we’re continuing to do our work,” Mkhwebane said.
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Mkhwebane said she was not pursuing legal action because she was refusing to account to or be disciplined by Parliament during the impeachment process.
She said she had an issue with the rules of the Section 194 committee because she believes they are unfair and were specifically designed to target her personally.
‘Why rush to remove me?’
Mkhwebane also questioned the timing of the calls by the Democratic Alliance (DA) and other parties for Ramaphosa to suspend her.
She denied that she was adopting a Stalingrad defence to stall the impeachment process from going ahead, because she was left with one year before her term of office ends in 2023.
“Why rush to remove me and suspend me? Why not continue with the [impeachment] process while I’m still in the office because we’re continuing to work.
“Removing me won’t solve the water problems, health issues and service delivery issues [in the country]. You are rushing to remove this woman as if things will come right; I’m not refusing to be disciplined,” Mkhwebane said.
‘DA wants me out at all costs’
The public protector also claimed that the DA, which brought the motion for her impeachment in Parliament, wanted her out of office by all means.
“The DA wants me out at all costs, by all means.”
Mkhwebane said she believes that she was being targeted for going after “the powerful and untouchables” in her investigation into the Bankorp-CIEX matter.
In the 2017 report, which has been set aside, Mkhwebane found Bankorp – which was later taken over by Absa Bank – had been “illegally gifted” a R1.125 billion bailout by the SA Reserve Bank in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“I think the problems started there because even after issuing that particular report, there were a lot of attacks, even on my safety. There was malicious damage to my house, I think during that particular time,” Mkhwebane said.
She added: “That’s where all things broke loose. I think I investigated and issued that report against the powerful [and] the untouchables.”