The important office of the public protector has wide ranging powers but does not have the gift of omnipotence, a salient fact which seems to have escaped Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the current incumbent.
Mkhwebane’s pronouncement that the constitution should be amended to change the status and role of the Reserve Bank had the immediate effect of precipitating an almost instant 2% decline in the value of our currency.
With the South African economy already officially in a recession, the long-term consequences could be far more serious and experts were quick to warn that changing section 224 of the constitution, to remove the Bank’s independence – in reality removing the gatekeeper guarding our currency – could have disastrous knock-on effects. It could possibly lead to a similar meltdown which has turned Zimbabwe into a basket-case economy.
Mindful of South Africa’s current account deficit widening to 2.1% of GDP for the first quarter of 2017, it is little wonder that the bank should be seeking to bring urgent legal action to counter the resounding changes to its mandate to protect the value of the rand.
“The Reserve Bank has consulted its legal team and has been advised that the remedial action prescribed by the public protector falls outside her powers and is unlawful,” the bank said in a statement.
It is now for the courts to decide, but it has become abundantly clear that a series of actions by the ruling elite cannot justifiably be in the greater interests of either the state or its beleaguered citizens. Nor does it seem to matter a jot to the architects of what amounts to grandiose societal manipulations.
The independence of the public protector should be brought into question and this latest utterance strengthens, rather than dilutes, the substance of the State of Capture report. But seemingly no one cares.