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Public Protector in birthday blunder

It is important that .Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane' not only remains nonpartisan, but is seen to be such, the writer says.
It is important that .Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane' not only remains nonpartisan, but is seen to be such, the writer says.
Image: Phill Magakoe / Gallo Images

No matter how thirsty he may be, a man of the cloth may not drink water out of a beer bottle if consuming alcohol is prohibited in his church.

Even though his conscience may be clear, knowing that he has broken no church rule as he would be drinking water and not liquor, those who see him holding up the beer bottle may believe otherwise. His integrity would be questioned and trust in the church among its followers would be shaken.

This is true of anyone holding a position of leadership and responsibility in any organisation, especially those that are accountable to the public.

We have no business telling anyone who they should or should not be friends with, but public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's 50th birthday party has left us wishing that the organisers thought carefully about their choice of invited guests.

Mkhwebane holds a very powerful and important office in our country, one that has proven to be crucial for the health of our young democracy. It is therefore important that she not only remains nonpartisan, but is seen to be such.

We therefore believe that it was poor for the organisers of her birthday bash to have guests from only one faction of the ruling ANC, other known backers of former president Jacob Zuma and representative of the EFF.

Given the current political climate where some believe that Mkhwebane is in cahoots with one faction or another, and where she has had numerous findings against the president and his government, we believe that her office should not do anything that may give an impression of partiality, imagined or real.

It may very well be that the likes of ANC MP Bongani Bongo were at the party because he and the public protector have known each other for many years, but many watching from a distance may see in this a public protector who is too cosy with some of the people she may soon have to investigate.

Holders of office in institutions that are supposed to be independent, from the judiciary to chapter 9 institutions, should do all in their power to avoid anything that may lead to accusations of being partial or biased towards certain interest groups.

It is not enough to merely argue that you have broken no rules.

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