The executive director of South African anti-corruption NGO Corruption Watch says the office of the Public Protector, which became instrumental in fighting graft scandals under the leadership of Thuli Madonsela, has lost its credibility under her succesor, Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
“The credibility of the office has plummeted and with it goes the body that has been the stand-out public agency in confronting corruption and maladministration through the years,” David Lewis told Bloomberg.
“It’s a bit of a tragedy,” he added.
“Instead of having a supportive, robust public protector, we now have one that is erratic at best and apparently is ill-equipped to deal with the demands of the job, but also in certain circumstances seems to be towing a very direct political line,” Lewis said.
Her office, however, denied that things at the corruption ombudsman have changed under Mkhwebane.
“All other Public Protectors have also been criticised heavily by the public, by politicians, and by the courts,” spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said. “It comes with the territory”.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen in February last year requested a probe into Mkhweane’s suitability to hold office following the release of her report on the Absa Bank/Bankorp scandal, in which she recommended that parliament consider changing the constitution and the powers of the SA Reserve Bank (Sarb).
The DA has also taken issue with how Mkhwebane investigated the Gupta-linked Vrede dairy farm.
Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services, however, voted no to holding the probe, which could have resulted in fast-tracking Mkhwebane’s removal from her constitutionally mandated position.
The party said it considered the committee’s decision a disgrace.
The DA are not alone in questioning Mkhwebane’s capability.
The EFF has called for her resignation and expressed regret for backing her initially.
She has also clashed with Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago after she called for a change to the bank’s mandate. Mkhwebane’s “clearly unlawful conduct exposes her own lack of competency,” Kganyago said.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni slammed a report Mkhwebane released on the head of the National Treasury’s failure to declare a traffic conviction as “irrational”.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)