Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane opened a case of crimen injuria against Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula for tweeting on Sunday that she was a “hired gun”.
Mkhwebane’s office confirmed that a case was opened on Monday.
Mbalula’s tweet came after ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule told the Sunday Times that the party’s “principled” MPs would not vote with the opposition for any motion that would lead to the sacking of Mkhwebane.
“Mr Mbalula and other ministers, who have made contemptuous remarks about the Public Protector, were previously reported to the president. The request was for the president, in his capacity as head of the executive, to rein them in. It’s not clear if anything ever came of the request,” spokesperson for the Public Protector Oupa Segalwe said.
He said Mbalula’s conduct was unbecoming of a member of the executive.
Infighting in the ANC is heating up ahead of a parliamentary vote to institute an inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office.
Removing her requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament, or 267 votes, while the motion to hold an inquiry into her fitness to hold office needs 50% plus one, or 201 MPs’ votes.
The ANC has 249 National Assembly seats, while the DA has 89 and the rest are shared by a number of smaller opposition parties.
The ANC appears divided on the matter. Some party leaders expressed support for her, while others want her removed.
Meanwhile, Mbalula continued his political Twitter offensive against members of the ANC lobby who support Magashule, mainly on the debate over campaign funds.
In reply to a picture tweeted by former presidential hopeful, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, about a dinner with other presidential hopefuls in 2017 to illustrate unity in the party, Mbalula asked her how much she paid for her campaign.
He also alleged that supporters of former president Jacob Zuma funded that dinner.
Some of the tweets appear to have been deleted. Mbalula, who was at the forefront of the lobby that helped Zuma get into power in 2007, now appears to be certain of his support for President Cyril Ramaphosa – because Zuma “did more damage to the ANC than anyone”, according to his tweets.
He also said debating the funding of Ramaphosa’s campaign with Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans spokesperson Carl Niehaus and disgraced convicted Nelson Mandela Bay councillor Andile Lungisa was unimaginable.
Mkhwebane investigated the CR17 funding campaign and found against Ramaphosa. The report has been overturned and is subject to a Constitutional Court battle.
Mbalula also replied to Twitter user @cuzini, who told him to “enjoy your blue light while it last [sic] political prostitute”, that he’s got “files on your criminals go f…ck yourself am ready for you”.
Over the weekend, Mbalula also appears to have been offended by sports presenter Robert Marawa’s tweet about protests in Paraguay against corruption, hinting that South Africans should do the same. Mbalula is known for being very active on Twitter and for making political pronouncements, but he seems to have gone into overdrive over the past few days.