Move fast to sort this mess out

A cloud hangs over Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, including her appeal against the judgment in the Estina Dairy farm case, the writer says.
A cloud hangs over Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, including her appeal against the judgment in the Estina Dairy farm case, the writer says.
Image: Alon Skuy

Yesterday's Constitutional Court ruling leaves public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane with difficult choices. She either tenders her resignation from the Chapter 9 institution or wait to be dragged through an impeachment process in parliament.

It is not clear yet what her next course of action will be, but given her initial public reaction following a ruling in which the highest court in the land painted a negative picture regarding her behaviour, it is unlikely that she will voluntarily fall on her sword.

Despite the ruling, she still insisted she acted in good faith.

But it is hard to see how, if she insists on staying on, she hopes to remain effective as a public protector.

All her actions - especially politically sensitive matters - from now on are likely to be viewed with suspicion especially, where she is accused by some of favouring one of the factions in the governing ANC.

There are several other cases relating to her investigations that are still to be considered by the courts.

These include her appeal against the judgment in the Estina Dairy farm case where she is accused of having shielded senior ANC and government leaders in Free State, including former premier and current ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.

Mkhwebane denies any wrongdoing and has asked the Supreme Court of Appeal to set aside a lower court's ruling that her report on Estina was unconstitutional.

She is also embroiled in a legal battle with public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan as a result of her two reports on the Reserve Bank which has adverse findings on the minister.

But most prominently is her impending court fight with President Cyril Ramaphosa over her investigation into the R500,000 donation into his 2017 ANC presidential campaign.

With all these matters in court, there will be a cloud hanging over Mkhwebane with some in society questioning her motives.

It is an unfortunate situation, one that could cripple an office that has become such an important feature of our democracy.

It is for this reason that we call on both the courts and parliament to speed up processes relating to these matters. Delays in resolving these issues will hinder an important constitutional body.

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