Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Gallo Images/Netwerk24/Felix Dlangamandla
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Gallo Images/Netwerk24/Felix Dlangamandla

As the roiling public protector spat unfolds, one’s thoughts might turn to England in the year 1170 when an irritated King Henry II, after being foiled yet again by "his" priest, Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, asked petulantly (and much more verbosely): "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?"

The king had "made" Becket in rather the same vein as Mafia soldiers become made men and expected that the bishop would remain unswervingly loyal and obedient.

It was not to be. Becket was clearly his own man, at least until Henry’s thugs in the form of four knights arrived in Canterbury and despatched him.

That move — whether sanctioned by the king or not — came back to haunt him. He was compelled to swear allegiance to the pope, an act which weakened him even further in the eyes of his many enemies.

In the rupture currently masquerading as the SA ruling party, loyalty counts for everything. It’s too bad the country has to suffer while those who would be king — or their kingmakers — jostle for a place at the table.

A wise comic — it might even have been Garfield the cat — once said: "If you want loyalty, get a dog." Make that "true loyalty".

Meanwhile, the sanctity and accountability of the public protector’s office has been trashed by the ongoing affair, raising the ancient question first asked by the Roman poet Juvenal: "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" Who watches the watchers?

Or in this case, who protects the public from the public protector?

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