Busisiwe Mkhwebane: A watered-down report? Picture: Sunday Times
Busisiwe Mkhwebane: A watered-down report? Picture: Sunday Times

Did the public protector shield ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane from a probe into a dodgy dairy project in the Free State?

The Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac) insists that advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane protected the politicians and deliberately watered down a report on the Vrede farm project provisionally prepared by her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela.

It will seek a court order to set aside the report.

Is there an end in sight to the challenges to reports issued by the public protector, who has been in office for only 18 months?

Mkhwebane has already been called to explain herself in parliament.

In March she lost an application for leave to appeal against a judgment and a subsequent order that she personally pay 15% of the costs of an application by the SA Reserve Bank.

In this case Casac and the DA applied to the high court in February for the report to be set aside.

Since then, Casac says, it has obtained the record of decision. This revealed that a national treasury report‚ which had not previously been made public‚ pointed to the role of then Free State premier Magashule and then MEC for agriculture Zwane in facilitating the project.

Casac adds that the public protector’s final report makes no reference to a provisional report having been prepared, as is the custom in such investigations. And the record shows that it was Madonsela who prepared a provisional report.

The thrust of Mkhwebane’s public response is that provisional reports have no legal status. She was under "no legal obligation to implement any purported unsigned provisional report that she would have found in office on assumption of duty", her office said this week.

Mkhwebane said a reading of the provisional report would show that the involvement of the politicians was never part of the investigation and neither did it form part of the report.

Her response may not bring the public clarity, but Casac’s high court petition certainly will.