Cyril Ramaphosa, Busi Mkhwebane should not fight dirty

02 July 2019 - 09:32
By the editorial
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Image: Antonio Muchave Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Tensions between the executive and the Office of the Public Protector are to be expected now and again, if the latter is doing its job the way it should be done.

It is not the job of the public protector to be cosy with politicians at all time as his or her main responsibility is to guard against the abuse and misuse of power by those in public office.

Under normal circumstances, therefore, the ongoing tussle between public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and President Cyril Ramaphosa should be seen as a manifestation of this necessary tension that ought to exist.

But unfortunately, the underlying circumstances give credence to claims that the disagreements have moved far beyond legal interpretations of statutes and into the realm of open political conflict.

This perception, if allowed to persist, will eventually undermine and destroy the credibility of one of the two offices, if not both of them.

Supporters of the president view Mkhwebane with suspicion, with some even openly accusing her of acting in favour of the ANC faction loyal to former president Jacob Zuma.

They therefore question the manner in which she is conducting her investigation into the R500,000 donation by the controversial Bosasa company into Ramaphosa's 2017 ANC presidential campaign.

They also accuse her of targeting public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, one of Ramaphosa's strongest allies in cabinet and a sworn enemy to Zuma.

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Mkhwebane's backers, the most vocal of whom tend to be known Zuma loyalists, argue that she is being bullied by a Ramaphosa faction hellbent on protecting the president from any criticism. They further claim that Gordhan is being "protected" because of his proximity to the head of state.

While differences are to be expected given the seriousness of the matters Mkhwebane's office is investigating, it is high time both sides toned down their rhetoric, lest they end up destroying the public trust in two important institutions of our democracy.

The two offices are much bigger than the two individuals involved, hence it is important for the protector's office to do its work unhindered and for those who are not happy with her work to challenge her in court or have parliament investigate her fitness to hold office.