It’s been an embarrassing day for Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who has been handed a defeat in court by a DA application. The political party have been successful in getting her report on the Vrede Dairy Farm scandal declared “unconstitutional” and “invalid”. The judgement on costs has been reserved.
What is the Vrede Dairy Farm project?
The Gupta-backed scam was nothing more than a money-laundering rouse for the Indian billionaires. They syphoned funds from the Free State government into a farming project, but the operation was a sham. The #GuptaLeaks trove of emails showed that the brothers were in cahoots with Ace Magashule and ex-MEC Mosebenzi Zwane.
Busisiwe Mkhwebane was charged with getting to the bottom of this scandal, but her report was – according to her detractors – “lacking in detail” while covering up for state-captured figures. Her investigation into the Vrede Dairy Farm did not mention the Guptas, nor did it recommend charges against Magashule and his cronies.
What will happen next for Busisiwe Mkhwebane
The DA is now calling for the removal of Mkhwebane once Parliament reconvenes later this week. Her position could come into question, as Cyril Ramaphosa is reportedly ramping up efforts to rid the ANC of its underperforming officials.
Meanwhile, the office of the public protector has acknowledged the judgement, but they are yet to study its findings in their entirety. Somewhat undermined by the judiciary, Mkhwebane’s credibility has taken another blow. Her time in office has been blighted by scandal, and this latest own-goal is up there with the Bankorp debacle.
Busisiwe Mkhwebane: From Vrede Dairy Farm to Bankorp
In order to hold apartheid-era corruption to account and recover stolen government funds, Mkhwebane made a reckless announcement in 2017. She wanted to edit the constitution as part of her remedial action.
Once the idea went public, the rand itself nose-dived. In trying to claim back R1.25 billion, her less-than-comprehensive thought process threatened to cost South Africa so much more. Disaster was averted when she backtracked.
The North Gauteng High Court’s ruling does not make life easy for Mkhwebane going forward. The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services may also be compelled to summon her for a hearing, as they did last year: Quite simply, it’s not the impression any public protector wants to project to the people.