Ray Hartley Editor: BusinessLIVE

The battle between former public protector Thuli Madonsela and her successor Busisiwe Mkhwebane is in danger of spiralling into an ugly public spectacle.

This being the post-fact era, you can choose one of two narratives.

Supporters of Madonsela say she was such a political threat to President Jacob Zuma and his friends in business that she had to be replaced with a puppet and demonised so that her State of Capture report would be buried.

That report outlined relationships between Zuma and the Gupta family but it did not reach a conclusion, saying that the president should appoint a commission of inquiry to complete the investigative work.

Madonsela’s decision to issue the report in her last week in office, rather than hand it over to her successor, strongly suggests that she had little faith that Mkhwebane would continue with the investigation.

This being the post-fact era, you can choose one of two narratives

The other narrative, which Mkhwebane’s supporters have rolled out, is that Madonsela was an irresponsible public protector who used consultants to do her work, and had an obsession with Zuma.

Mkhwebane, then, was simply righting the ship, refocusing the office on the true abusers of power — business, as in Absa — and cleaning up Madonsela’s mess.

Until recently these undercurrents have flowed about in the rivers of speculation which run through the media and the Internet.

But both Mkhwebane and Madonsela have begun to articulate their grievances more publicly, the opening shots of a war which will diminish the office of the public protector.

The most recent tussle is over an official car. Money for the car was deducted from Madonsela’s departure package, prompting her to say to The Citizen: “I’ve noted the false news about the car and Advocate Mkhwebane and I supposedly working together. It’s not true that I still have to pay the money for the car or that I abused any car.”

And everyone sinks deeper in the swamp.

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