While many people want her removed from office, embattled Public Protector Busi Mkhwebane could continue to use her office and courts to launch attacks against high-profile individuals – and a legal expert believes it might simply be easier to appeal to her religious side.
The public protector has recently suffered a string of legal defeats and scathing judgments and has this week been implicated in payments linked to the infamous Gupta family.
Accountability Now director Paul Hoffman yesterday said Mkhwebane’s approach of putting on a brave face amid piling adversity against her – due to several of her legal bungles – indicated her readiness for future legal skirmishes, which could lead to long delays in her ultimate removal.
With National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise having referred complaints against Mkhwebane – including that of Democratic Alliance (DA) chief whip John Steenhuisen – to the justice portfolio committee, the public protector saga is set to drag on because of the absence of rules in parliament dealing with the public protector.
Portfolio committee chairperson Gratitude Magwanishe said concerns pertaining to Mkhwebane would only be tabled and heard by the justice committee on September 3.
Hoffman said it was not whether parliament could deal with complaints against Mkhwebane that seemed to be a glitch, “but the fact that no rules exist in parliament to discipline the public protector”.
“If parliament decides to investigate her fitness and her conduct, she will make a point that, in the absence of rules or procedures, they are unable to deal with her,” said Hoffman. “The process of parliament putting rules in place may take several months.
“And if parliament decides to take on Mkhwebane without the required rules, then wait to see a dragging litigation process and appeals, which may go up to the Constitutional Court.”
If all failed, the quicker and only other option available to remove the public protector from office, was to get her struck off the roll – something that will make it impossible for her to occupy the current position, or practice as a lawyer.
“Someone should just tell her that what she is doing is not what God wants her to do,” Hoffman said.
Amid the continued rejection by courts of her findings, Mkhwebane has been dogged by the latest allegations contained in the nonprofit body Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, with claims that she was “flagged” by international banking institution HSBC as having financial links to the infamous Gupta family.
“Advocate Mkhwebane sees all of these events as part of an orchestrated campaign and concerted efforts in political circles, civil society and the media to discredit her, merely because she has been able to muster enough courage to hold those seen as ‘untouchable’ to account,” her spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said in a statement in response to the claims.
“She will not be discouraged. Instead, these attacks give her strength to discharge her functions with renewed vigour, without fear, favour or prejudice.”
Segalwe could not say what course of action the public protector intended taking in response to the latest allegations.