High time for fresh probe into Public Protector's competence
The damning findings of the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) against Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane in the so-called Vrede dairy farm case, has again led to a chorus of calls for her to be removed from office. Among them is News24 assistant editor, Pieter du Toit, who says the court findings show that Mkhwebane is, 'at best, simply not up the job'.
'She went out of her way to alter the provisional report into the Vrede Dairy Project and the joint venture between Ace Magashule, Mosebenzi Zwane, the Free State provincial government and the Guptas. Not only did she leave out crucial findings and remedial action in her final report, markedly different from the provisional version compiled by her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, but she narrowed the scope of her investigation to leave out references to Magashule.'
Du Toit says the Public Protector 'makes material errors in law, she has no clue what the extent of her powers are, and she does not understand what her constitutionally enshrined role entails'.
In the Vrede ruling, Judge Ronel Tolmay found that Mkhwebane had failed to discharge her duty and mandate in investigating the controversial Gupta-linked project, and did not mince her words in criticising Mkhwebane's conduct.
'It's a devastating judgment, one that should surely lead to an urgent inquiry by Parliament's Justice Committee followed by a vote on her fitness for office,' Du Toit argues. He says the judgment, taken together with Judge Cynthia Pretorius' Absa-SARB judgment which also questioned her competence for and comprehension of the duties and obligations of her post, paints a picture of Mkhwebane as, 'at best incompetent and negligent, and at worst calculating and devious'.
'In the Nkandla judgment in March 2016 the highest court found Parliament and the National Assembly breached the Constitution by not properly scrutinising the findings of the then Public Protector. This time around it is a High Court judgment that found the Public Protector acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally. It's now up to legislators to investigate and, based on two High Court judgments, remove a Public Protector who either disregards her obligations, or doesn't understand them. Either way, she must go.'
© Juta and Company (Pty) Ltd 2016
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