Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES

The shot in the arm for rule of law, as administered by the Constitutional Court in the Jacob Zuma contempt proceedings, and in dismissing the appeal of the Public Protector in the CR17 campaign case that wasn’t, has served as a welcome palliative for the public to the pressures of the pandemic and the reintroduction of the isolation that comes with a level 4 lockdown.

It is necessary that the President resist any possible temptation to do a back-room political deal with Zuma, as the latter faces less than four months of actual incarceration. It is most pressing that the President forthwith suspend the Public Protector, who appears to live in a “fact free and law free” environment when she turns her hand to writing the many reports for which she is now infamous. She has been rightly excoriated by the courts for this propensity, with punitive costs awards aplenty against her.

The parliamentary proceedings pending against the Public Protector are likely to be long and drawn out; her Stalingrad strategy there is designed to stretch them beyond the expiry of her term of office. The Legal Practice Council won’t move to strike her off the roll of advocates until the pending perjury prosecution against her is finalised and her oversight body, the Justice Portfolio Committee in the National Assembly, has shown zero inclination to get her to answer the 13 questions posed to her by Accountability Now in January 2017, truthful answers to which are likely to reveal her mendacity and incompetence. Her unwillingness to be accountable is demonstrated by her refusal to investigate herself, a mischaracterisation by her of our attempt to exact accountability from her mere months after her appointment.

The courts are burdened with unnecessary and costly reviews of the handiwork of the Public Protector, the victims of her misguidedness are distracted from their work by the need to litigate against her, and the high cost to the country of having a person with her woeful track record in office all suggest it is urgent that the Public Protector be suspended. All impediments to doing so have been removed by the finalisation of the appeal in the President’s favour and by the commencement of the parliamentary process against her. Quite rightly, the Council for the Advancement of the SA constitution, pointing to public expectations, has called for the immediate suspension of the Public Protector by the President. It is the Right thing to do.

Paul Hoffman SC
Director, Accountability Now

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