I will finish my term - Busisiwe Mkhwebane

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Busisiwe Mkhwebane Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is adamant that she will finish her seven-year term, which comes to an end in 2023, despite a parliamentary committee that is set to look into her fitness to hold office.

Addressing University of SA Spring Law Conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Mkhwebane said that the process underway in parliament formulating guidelines on removal of head of Chapter 9 institutions was merely targeted at her.

The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services has taken a decision to refer the process to remove Mkhwebane, and other heads of Chapter 9 institutions, to the speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise as there are no clear rules on how that process should be governed.

“I’m not worried about that. I believe I will finish my term of office,” said Mkhwebane.“I will not allow any distractions. My eyes remain fixed on taking the services of this institution to the grassroots.”

Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office was questioned after several courts reviewed and set aside a number of her reports. She said that the ruling, which cemented the remedial actions in her reports as binding, was both a gift and a curse as it has given people power to head to court to review the said reports then use those judgments as ammunition against her.

According to Mkhwebane, people are using the few review applications against her office to judge her competence.

“Worse, review applications have been weaponised and stigmatised. Whereas, ordinarily, a review [like an appeal] is an option available to the aggrieved to try another forum in search for a different outcome and should not be seen as an indictment on the decision-maker in the disputed outcome, in our case, mere applications for review have become a yardstick to measure competence,” she said.

Mkhwebane argued that when a court judge’s ruling is successfully appealed, people do not question the judge’s competence.

“There are judges who sent people to long prison terms only for the courts to come back many years later to set the affected inmates free on the grounds that they were wrongly convicted.

“Nothing ever happens to such judges. It is said that they have decisional independence and that any action would threaten this independence. But the public protector too has decisional independence and yet I get punitive personal cost orders,” Mkhwebane said.

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