Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane

Photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Mkhwebane claims courts are treating her differently to Thuli Madonsela

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane believes the courts are not offering her the same protection they did to her predecesor.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane

Photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Embattled Busisiwe Mkhwebane has complained about the ‘radical’ change in the way the courts deal with matters pertaining to the office of the Public Protector since she took over the position.

Mkhwebane was speaking at an event hosted at the University of Johannesburg and addressed issues she has faced since taking over as South Africa’s Public Protector.

The courts changing opinion of the Public Protector

To make her point, Mkhwebane spoke of the Nkandla judgement in the Consitutional Court where it was found that actions stipulated by the Public Protector are binding, no matter who they are against.

The Constitutional Court upheld the notion that remedial action as determined by the office of the Public Protector is binding until such time as it is overturned or set aside by a court of law.

In the matter of the State Capture report, the High Court found that the Public Protector could instruct the President to establish a commission of inquiry, which resulted in the Zondo Commission.

The court also refused to allow Zuma an attempt to interdict the decision, saying it did not want to set a precedent of allowing interference in the decisions of the Public Protector.

Claims it is to easy to challenge the findings of the Public Protector now

However, according to Mkwebane, this opinion has changed drastically since she took over the office from Thuli Madonsela in 2017.

She chastised the courts by saying that it felt like all someone need to do successfully challenge a decision by the Public Protector was to show up to proceedings.

Of course, it is hard to argue against the fact that things have changed with regards to the Public Protector over the last two years.

The legacy of Busiswe Mkhwebane

  • A showdown with Cyril Ramaphosa over the decision to force remedial action against Pravin Gordhan, which she lost
  • A damning judgement from ConCourt over her management of the Bankorp situation
  • Fraud charges and an application to strike her off the role of advocates from Accountability Now
  • A review of her findings in the Estina Dairy Farm project
  • FNB is also apparently investigating her for violating exchange control regulations for moving money between countries
  • And, she’s likely to face some form of Parliamentary rebuttal in September – with a possible no-confidence vote

From remedial actions being overturned in court, to Mkhwebane being ordered to pay legal fees out of her own pocket, to the waning public opinion of the office of the Public Protector, a lot has changed since Madonsela was named in Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world in 2014.

Mkhwebane is right that things are very different now but she may be faced with a few opposing opinions to hers on why that might be the case.