Public protector under fire at Bay convention

ON THE SPOT: Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane addresses a convention at the Motherwell Methodist Church

Mkhwebane evades tough questions at church gathering

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was peppered with some tough questions during her visit to Port Elizabeth yesterday. Mkhwebane was grilled by some of the older men of the Motherwell Methodist Church about why she was not investigating President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family.

They pressed her on the state of capture report, compiled by her predecessor Thuli Madonsela, wanting to know why she was not investigating some of those implicated in the report further.

Zuma is challenging the remedial action recommendations of the report.

Mkhwebane addressed more than 200 members who had gathered at the church for a five-day convention of the Methodist Young Men’s Guild.

Siyabonga Kobese, 52, who travelled from Fort Beaufort to take part in the convention, asked her why she had done nothing to defend the integrity of her office amid allegations of her being a spy.

“There is a perception outside there that the integrity of the office of the public protector is compromised as there are spy allegations, but we have not seen you challenge that,” Kobese said.

“There is also the issue of the state capture report that you have defended – this makes us wonder if your office is really independent.”

A member of the men’s guild, who declined to give his name, questioned the public protector’s availability to people in rural areas and asked why she had not started investigating the Guptas.

“There is a big crime that continuously derails our country – Guptas capturing the country,” he said. “How far is that investigation going?”

“We understand that you don’t have funding, but the people in rural areas are the ones who desperately need the public protector.

“How are you going to solve this?”

The men prayed briefly and sang church songs.

While Mkhwebane evaded the questions about Zuma, she said the state of capture report was sub judice and could not be discussed.

“I know that people would like us to intervene on many things.

“However, with 350 staff members, who deal with all legislative established bodies, these are our dynamics and if we had the money, we would have offices all over, including the rural areas,” she said.

Grahamstown Methodist District Bishop Andile Mbethe said Mkhwebane was invited as a guest speaker in an attempt to revive Christianity in the community.

While some seized the opportunity to engage her on service delivery issues, others said an hour was simply not enough to cover all their issues.

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