The embattled Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has spoken up; she said she has been on the defensive against unwarranted attacks since taking office in October 2016. While addressing the student chapter of the Black Lawyers Association at the University of South Africa today, Mkhwebane said She believed she was under attack for daring to “touch those who are seen by some as paragons of virtue. Now there is a threat to remove me from office under the pretext that I am incompetent. The argument is that some of my reports have been set aside by the courts.”
Earlier this month, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled Mkhwebane should pay cost in a case relating to her investigation into the multimillion-rand Estina dairy farm scandal; She has also been labelled “dishonest” by the Constitutional Court.
Mkhwebane however noted that if a Public Protector was removed because a court had set aside its report, then judges should be removed from the bench because an appellate court had set their ruling aside. She said “But, as a woman leader, what do you do when faced with such challenges? “A responsibility like the one I am entrusted with requires one to develop a very thick skin. I am not going to allow any distractions. I am focused on taking the services of this office to the grassroots.”
On Tuesday, the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services had unanimously decided to refer the matter of an inquiry into Mkhwebane’s suitability as Public Protector to the rules committee. This committee will be asked to draft rules that would serve as a guideline for the removal of any Chapter 9 institution’s head, such as the Public Protector.
The ANC’s whip on the committee, said: “Currently, Section 194 of the Constitution provides for the removal of the Public Protector on the grounds of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence. It said “The Constitution also states that should a committee in the National Assembly find such an adverse finding against the Public Protector, then the incumbent would be removed from the Chapter 9 institution.”
The ANC study group on justice motioned that the decision to remove Mkhwebane is welcomed by them; they have however received insults and disappointment notes from the public through twitter.