‘Attack on public protector designed to remove her’

Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. File photo
Picture: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Antonio Muchave

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has decried an attack on her integrity‚ saying it was designed to pave the way for her removal from office.

Her lawyer‚ Advocate Paul Kennedy‚ implored the Pretoria High Court yesterday not to be part of this ploy and to take a dim view of it.

He took particular issue with the SA Reserve Bank’s “most unbecoming and seriously disturbing approach”‚ saying the personal attack on Mkhwebane’s integrity was unwarranted.

The bank has gone for the jugular in its attack on the handling of her investigation into the Absa/Bankorp “lifeboat”‚ arguing that in fact‚ she had no jurisdiction in the matter in the first place.

Kennedy said this “unwarranted and most unfortunate‚ inappropriate attack” was not only an attack on her personally but an attack on the office that she occupied‚ which would have serious consequences on the public’s confidence in the office.

Kennedy said what was particularly serious and disturbing was that an institution of state that was required to be impartial‚ the SA Reserve Bank‚ was acting in such a partisan manner.

He said in a real world, mistakes did happen and Mkhwebane did not deliberately mislead the court.

The bank is seeking a declaratory order that Mkhwebane abused her office and breached the principles of independence and impartiality in her handling of her probe into the saga.

Absa‚ the Treasury and the Reserve Bank want the court to set aside a report Mkhwebane released in June‚ in which she ordered Absa to repay R1.125-billion in loans provided to forerunner Bankorp by the Reserve Bank during the apartheid era.

Advocate David Unterhalter SC‚ for the Reserve Bank‚ argued that the transactions had happened between 1985 and 1995‚ more than the two years prescribed by the Public Protector Act to initiate an investigation.

Based on this rule‚ the matter was outside her ambit.

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