Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: SUPPLIED
Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: SUPPLIED

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is expected to make her first appearance in the Pretoria magistrates court on Thursday, on charges of perjury.

A summons was issued in December for her  to appear in court and face three counts of perjury.

The charges stem from a complaint laid against her by Paul Hoffman, director of nongovernmental organisation Accountability Now in 2019, and was investigated by the Hawks.

Hoffman submitted an affidavit to the police in August 2019 in which he recommended that charges of perjury and defeating the ends of justice be brought against Mkhwebane. That was as a result of the Constitutional Court judgment, which questioned her conduct in her investigation of an apartheid-era loan by the SA Reserve Bank to Bankorp, which is now part of Absa. The top court labelled her dishonest, among other things.

In 2019, the court said she should be held personally liable for almost R1m of fees incurred by the Reserve Bank in the review of her findings in the Bankorp matter. In a scathing ruling, the Constitutional Court found that she had told a “number of falsehoods” in the course of the litigation.

The perjury charges are a further setback for Mkhwebane, who has been on the receiving end of many adverse court findings and personal costs orders, and is facing a possible parliamentary inquiry into her fitness to hold office.

Late in 2020, a panel headed by retired Constitutional Court justice Bess Nkabinde was appointed and is assessing whether there is a prima facie case to justify an inquiry into her fitness to hold office. Mkhwebane tried to put a stop to that process in court but was unsuccessful.

Her four-year-long tenure has been marked by controversy and a relentless pursuit of President Cyril Ramaphosa and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan. Her report on Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign and accusations of money-laundering was also found wanting.

Her choice of targets led to accusations that she was using the office to fight factional battles in the ANC. Her time in office is due to end in 2023, after replacing Advocate Thuli Madonsela in 2016.

On Monday, the public protector’s office announced that Mkhwebane had gone on sabbatical leave from January 15 until March 31 to “get some rest”. 

The office said the leave was provided for in the terms of conditions of the public protector position, and that the speaker of the National Assembly had been made aware and given Mkhwebane the go-ahead.

Mkhwebane’s deputy, Kholeka Gcaleka, is acting public protector until she returns.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za

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