Judgment sparks call for axing of Mkhwebane
The clamour for Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's removal from office gained momentum yesterday when yet another damning judgment – this time by Judge Ronel Tolmay, of the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) – found she either blatantly disregarded her constitutional duties or merely had a ‘concerning lack of understanding’ of them during her investigation into the Gupta-linked Vrede Dairy Project.
The court reviewed and set aside the report on the dairy farm released by Mkhwebane in 2018, describing it as ‘unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid’.
This follows separate applications brought by the DA and the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac) after her report was described as a whitewash. The court also found Mkhwebane had failed in her duties under the Public Protector Act and the Constitution.
But Mkhwebane is fighting back, and plans to take the matter directly to the Constitutional Court on appeal.
Mkhwebane said she was astonished and disagreed ‘fundamentally’ with the High Court ruling, notes a TimesLIVE report.
‘She is concerned over, among other things, that in setting aside the entire report, the ruling might be interpreted as though the court condones the maladministration attributed to the parties against whom adverse findings were made,’ Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said in a statement.
Mkhwebane wants to go straight to the Constitutional Court to challenge the ruling.
‘Rather than arguing the merits of her case in the media, Advocate Mkhwebane will express herself at the apex court should direct access be granted,’ Segalwe said.
The High Court ruled that Mkhwebane failed in her duties under both the Public Protector Act and the Constitution in investigating and reporting on the dairy farm project. The #GuptaLeaks that showed the Gupta family had significant control over the farm contract between Estina, a company linked to the family, and the Free State Agriculture Department, did not form part of the Public Protector’s investigation of the project.
The leaked e-mails revealed at least R30m was paid to the Guptas via the farm. The money funded the family’s lavish Sun City wedding in 2013.
The court added that Mkhwebane was ‘irrational’ to ignore the #GuptaLeaks e-mails in her investigation.
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