It is now widely recognised that Busisiwe Mkhwebane is the very opposite of a public protector. She is a Zuma state capture appointee, hired to protect state looters from the public who naturally seek accountability for corruption and state capture. Of course, the Public Protector’s role should be to protect the public from a corrupt state, not the other way around.
A process is now underway to potentially impeach Mkhwebane. This will be a historic and revealing exercise. This situation has strong parallels with the motions of no confidence in then President Zuma when ANC members of parliament were forced to choose between party and country.
As with the ANC’s current dilemma of whether to support Zuma in his refusal to appear before the Zondo Commission, the question is: will ANC factionalism require SA to be sacrificed yet again on the altar of political expediency.
Some background. The DA tabled yet another motion of impeachment against Mkhwebane in February 2020 and submitted reams of supporting evidence, after Parliament passed new rules pertaining to the removal of office bearers in institutions supporting constitutional democracy.
These new rules call for an independent panel to conduct a preliminary assessment as to Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office. Last week, this panel found that there is sufficient prima facie evidence of both incompetence and misconduct, and therefore that Parliament should begin removal proceedings against her (as per section 194 of the Constitution).
On Tuesday next week, 16 March 2021, parliament will convene to “consider” the independent panel’s report. This is an opportunity for those ANC MPs who claim to have South Africa’s best interest at heart to support a formal impeachment process.
It will be revealing to see how ANC members of parliament respond to the issue of her impeachment, since the party is so divided on this matter. ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, himself deeply implicated in state capture and corruption, has called on ANC MPs to oppose any motion to impeach Mkhwebane.
A date has not yet been set, but when the time comes to vote on Mkhwebane’s future, the motion will require a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Again, ANC MPs who have South Africa’s best interest at heart will need to support this motion, even while their RET faction colleagues on the ANC benches vote to protect Mkhwebane.
More likely, though, the ANC will draw out proceedings as far as possible, to avoid having to confront this issue head on, much like they drew out the Nkandla proceedings for years. Mkhwebane is already five years into her seven-year term, so they may get away with it. In which case voters should punish the ANC at the polls.
If a motion of impeachment does come to pass, and enough ANC MPs support it, this would be a classic example of political realignment that the DA has long called for. It is indeed the only route out of SA’s deadlock.
The issue of Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office also exposes another key aspect of our body politic – that of the commentariat’s general inability or unwillingness to give the DA credit where credit is due.
When Mkhwebane’s name was first put forward as a possible candidate for the role of Public Protector, the DA stood alone in arguing that she was not fit to hold this office. Yet our predictions have turned out to be correct.
During her tenure as Public Protector, the Courts have made damning findings against Mkhwebane, which seriously question her fitness to hold office:
- The Constitutional Court foundthat she acted in bad faith and was not honest with the High Court regarding her investigation process in the Reserve Bank matter.
- Her appeal to overturn Judge Ronel Tolmay’s scathing judgment of her poor handling of the Estina Dairy Farm matter and the report thereof, was dismissed by the North Gauteng High Court.
Her independence and credibility have also been called into question on several occasions:
- She celebrated her 50th birthday party with individuals implicated in state capture– the very people she should be investigating.
- She chose to absolve then Minister of State Security, David Mahlobo, despite unequivocal evidence that he lied to Parliament. Recent testimony by Sydney Mufamadi at the Zondo Commission bears out the DA’s point on this matter.
- She laid criminal charges against former Public Protector, Adv. Thuli Madonsela, for releasing a transcript of an interview she had with former President Jacob Zuma.
With the slew of evidence against her independence and credibility, it is now common cause that Mkhwebane is a state capture appointee and must be replaced.
Political commentators are quick to pounce on the tiniest error the DA makes, whether fake news or not. Yet, I’m not aware of a single commentator who has given the DA credit for doing our homework properly up front and sounding the alarm on Mkhwebane.
This situation is echoed in our Stop Zuma campaign back in 2009 which met with almost universal hostility in the media. None of these detractors has publicly acknowledged their error, and that the DA was right to sound the alarm on Zuma back in 2009. Just as none has given us credit for sounding the alarm on state capture back in 2012.
The DA will continue to act in South Africa’s best interest, without fear or favour. For South Africa’s sake, we hope that reformist ANC MPs and political commentators will do the same.
In the local government elections later this year, a vote for the DA will be a vote to put South Africa first.