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Mkhwebane probe important for SA

Suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Image: Tebogo Letsie

The courts have made scathing findings against the now suspended public protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, in a number of high-profile cases, but the decision on whether she should be removed from the helm of this crucial Chapter Nine institution ultimately rests with parliament.

Hence a committee was established by the National Assembly last year to examine advocate Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office. This inquiry into whether she should be impeached for misconduct, or incompetence, is now under way.

Regrettably, this means yet more taxpayers’ hard-earned money is being spent on the legal morass surrounding Mkhwebane, who is regarded as an ally of ex-president Jacob Zuma and the so-called Radical Economic Transformation faction in the ANC.  

Citizens struggling under the increasingly heavy burden of inflation, rising prices, load-shedding and high rates of unemployment can be forgiven for losing patience with the seemingly endless and costly commissions and inquiries that have arisen in response to the ghastly state capture era.

However, it is crucially important that due process is followed, the more so since the Mkhwebane impeachment question will set a precedent.

The last thing SA needs is for it to become all too easy to axe political opponents from the helm of constitutionally entrenched watchdog bodies.

This is why it is a great shame that President Cyril Ramaphosa only got round to suspending Mkhwebane when her office opted to probe the mysterious theft of millions from his Phala Phala farm, laying the president open to claims he was motivated by personal interest.

The Office of the Public Protector is meant to be independent of government and impartial, exercising its powers and performing its role free of influence or prejudice.

The bizarre allegations the committee has heard about the sway the SA Secret Service held over the public protector points to the opposite of this.

Luridly fascinating as these revelations may be, we look forward to the inquiry concluding and the restoration of public trust in the Office of the Public Protector.

For that to happen, SA requires a public protector who is competent and impartial; concerned not with factional interests but public good.



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