The Public Protector of South Africa, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has remained defiant in the face of staunch criticism, claiming that her position of power and influence is sanctioned by God.
It’s been an admittedly turbulent year for the Public
Protector’s office. Numerous reports and orders of remedial action, concerning
highly politicised controversies, have been challenged in court – some of those
have been successfully overturned.
Calls for Mkhwebane to leave office
Recently, the Pretoria High Court set aside one such report
concerning the Guptas’ infamous Vrede dairy farm project which was allegedly
used to siphon-off state funds in yet another example of State Capture. The
Court added that, by ignoring vital evidence, Mkhwebane had failed in her duties
under the Public Protector Act. The Court further explained that the Public
Protector had acted unconstitutionally.
Investigations into the South African Revenue Service’s
(SARS) ‘rouge unit’ have also plagued Mkhwebane’s office. The controversial
reopening of inquiries, which had been dropped by her predecessor, Thuli
Madonsela, has thrown further doubt on the Public Protector’s competence and,
more worryingly, points to political subversion within her independent office.
Mkhwebane is also currently embroiled in a fierce public battle with Public Enterprises Minister, Pravin Gordhan, for his executive decisions undertaken during his tenure at SARS. The report, which has urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to take decisive action against Gordhan, is currently being challenged in the court system.
The President himself, however, is currently the subject of an investigation relating to a suspicious donation on behalf of Bosasa – the embattled company which has been a central figure in the on-going Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. Mkhwebane has revealed that these investigations are in an ‘advanced stage’.
These controversies and court rulings have emboldened calls for Mkhwebane’s removal from office. Civic societies and opposition parties alike have raised concerns regarding the Public Protector’s partiality, alleging that Mkhwebane is perpetuating a particular political agenda, one which is strategically allied to former president Jacob Zuma.
Public Protector says her appointment is a matter of Providence
PP: I know some of you may not be Christian but I strongly believe I was placed in this position by the God that I serve and I believe that only He can remove me if He is of the view that I have failed.
— Public Protector SA (@PublicProtector) June 7, 2019
Mkhwebane has rubbished the claims and, in a recent social
media frenzy, announced that her appointment and removal is governed by a
higher power. Last week, the Public Protector said:
“I know some of you may not be Christian but I strongly believe I was placed in this position by the God that I serve and I believe that only He can remove me if He is of the view that I have failed.”
In reality, Mkhwebane’s position can be tested within
judicial system. As head of a Chapter 9 institution, Mkhwebane’s role is
afforded to her by the president of South Africa.
Mkhwebane’s resilience, spurred on by erroneous divine
belief, follows closely in the footsteps of other public officials. Former
president Zuma infamously announced that the African National Congress (ANC) would
‘rule until Jesus returned’.
More recently, former SABC COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, while
battling to hold onto his position, issued a similar declaration, stating:
“I’m an intellectual strategist. I’m an intellectual born person. No one can take that away from me except God, no one can stop me to go up and up, because I have brain in me.”
Motsoeneng eventually exited the SABC, disgraced and attempted his hand at politics by contesting the general elections – that, too, ended dismally.
Mkhwebane’s utterances and general approach have left a bitter taste in the mouths of South Africans, who rely on the Public Protector to be the voice of logic and reason, especially at a time when the future of the country hangs on a thread thinned by political factionalism.